Broken Wings and Shattered Dreams

D.J. Armstrong

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 116 Price: (paperback) $19.99 ISBN: 9781499019575 Reviewed: August, 2014 Author Website: Visit »

The poetry collection Broken Wings and Shattered Dreams is divided into six chapters of varying length, all loosely collected around a theme: for example, Chapter 2, “Unanswered Questions,” considers racial and social equality issues. Many of the poems in Chapter 4, “Pieces of History,” describe life lived on the margins of American culture, where abuse, prison, homelessness, and death loom.

When reading this collection, one gets the sense of a writer struggling with the deep, unresolved pain of a difficult life. The speaker in the poems sounds by turns confused, helpless, accusing, concerned, alienated, and hopeful. In “Caylee,” for example, the narrator writes of her confusion over her mother’s physical abuse: “Mama, can you tell me why you were mad/I didn’t mean to be so bad.” Later, the feeling turns accusatory: “Someday, you’ll pay, I know you will.”

Such emotional range would be better communicated, however, by more vivid imagery and evocative word choice. In addition, meaning often gets lost as the author bends syntax and grammar to fit a somewhat forced rhyme scheme. (“So close I was at your door/The gift of life you gave me once more.”)

The collection is further hampered by significant grammatical errors, mostly homonym mistakes such as “site” for “sight,” “except” for “accept,” and so on.

One brief poem that stands out is “Listen to the Whisper,” which reads, “Seashells/ Whisper the truth/ Rough waves we must travel/ The rougher the ride, the rougher we look/At rest.” The sparse, precise metaphor and line breaks here pull readers into this world and illuminate a direction the author may choose in future writing.

Overall, the poetry, which is often sing-songy (“No place to call my home/The whole earth is where I roam”), is typical of a novice writer learning the craft. While the ideas conveyed might appeal to those who identify with the speaker’s angst, those seeking a challenging collection of contemporary verse aren’t likely to be satisfied with this volume.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

Author's Current Residence
Pensacola, Florida
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