Arcadia is a short collection of mostly rhyming poems, accompanied by charming illustrations by Felix Fu. Most of the poems are personal and sometimes written in an intimate voice addressed to “you.” Other poems concern themselves with societal issues or nature.
A strength of the book is its use of metaphor, as in the poem “Alcatraz,” which begins “I am in the Alcatraz of my room,/ Where loneliness is endless/ and dreams bound off all the walls/ and back.” The poem doesn’t extend the metaphor, and diffuses it by using other images later in the poem, such as beaches, crosswalks, and Disneyland. Still, referring to the infamous Alcatraz is an effective way to convey the motif of imprisonment.
Unfortunately, the poems’ flaws outweigh such positives. Although the voice is sincere, most of the topics are overly general, such as “Wind,” “Under a cloud,” or “Love beyond thy grave.” Additionally, the rhymes lack freshness and originality, as in “A visitor called,” which begins: “I remembered your smile,/ How pleasant, how sweet./ I noticed the sandals you wore on your feet.”
In this poem, the drawing of the lamb on the facing page and the reference to the “promised land” at the end makes it clear that the visitor is Jesus Christ. However, the poem fails to deliver any interesting details about the speaker or the “something [he] did” when very small” to make Jesus come to “call.”
Most of the poems have similar issues. “America’s disgrace,” for example, discusses a “Bag lady” and “doorway man” without offering any intriguing specifics to bring these homeless people to life. The stanza that reads, “That you are a real person/ lost, lonely and uncertain/ of your direction and goals,” comes off particularly, and ironically, flat.
The book has charm because of its pleasing, uncluttered design and the gentle illustrations. However, most readers won’t find much spark or originality within these pages.