Matthew Edward Schatmeyer’s new book, Ballooning in Stars, is a collection of poems that are consistently gentle and introspective.
Schatmeyer’s voice is quiet, calm and steady, as in “Chrysalis,” where he employs the familiar notion of growth and change as imaged in the metamorphosis of a caterpillar: “Butterflies/ change themselves./ They crawl to nibble leaves./ They don’t appear lovely,/ they look like spiny worms/ The are still butterflies/ Inside…” Similarly, with “In Stars,” the author looks inward and finds a bright source of life: ‘’Inside ourselves/ reside energies/ that will last Forever./ To build/ to change/ tomorrow./ In stars… / inside.”
There’s a Zen-like quality to some of the work, as in “Starlight,” where Schatmeyer writes; “From a billion years past,/ another sun’s spark/ filters down at last./ I am not afraid/ to be happy/ anymore…”
Notable as well is his occasional odd or slanted view on life: “Let yourself be touched./ Place your own hand/ over your own heart/ and you can’t feel its beat./ You can see it above your inside heel. Not so odd, by God… / takes others to feel!’ There’s an almost haiku-like feel to the lines.
Unfortunately, that slant or freshness of word and image doesn’t pop up often enough. The poems here seldom rise above the level of greeting card sentiment. There’s a thin line between words or phrases that are well worn and comfortable and those that are worn out, depleted or clichéd. That line is often crossed in the wrong direction in this collection: “The brilliant sunshine of your smile…”; “I shuffled my life/ like a deck of cards…”; “Any given day/ is a gift from God[…]”
While those who appreciate light verse might find some rewards here, more concrete detail, less reliance on the handy word or phrase, and harder work on the complexities and shadings of our everyday lives would improve the effectiveness of these poems.