The first poem in H. Ann Ackroyd’s anthology of short stories in free-form verse is a tale from two cultural viewpoints of British colonialism in Africa until the uprising by “black majority rebels.” Although not the epic poem it claims to be, “Colonial Adventure” is a narrative in verse. It contains 46 chapters, ranging from a few lines to a couple of pages broken up with photos and illustrations. The subsequent six, shorter-length narrative poems concern a Haitian woman trying to help her country while fearing its power over her; an aging British actor; a young boy abandoned by his foreign mother; a Zoroastrian merchant, victim of western racism; a Muslim girl with a terrifying agenda; and a monologue by an African dictator.
It is clear that the author has traveled extensively and has a grasp of global culture. Nevertheless, one wonders: why poetry? There are many reasons for writing in poetry–as myriad as there are attempts to define poetry. But most can agree that the main characteristic of poetry is impact. Using tools like metaphor, symbolism, rhythm, rhyme and meter, poetry packs a punch far more succinctly than prose.
Colonial Adventure, while a sometimes-moving story expressing the horrors of racial conflict, contains distractingly inconsistent punctuation; erratic and non-rhythmic line breaks, and questionable chapter distinctions. Metaphors are rare, and the symbolism so overt as to be unnecessary.
The six smaller narrative poems would make better short stories than poems. This way, the author would be at leisure to add relevant details and develop characters, without having to address poetic details like line breaks, metaphor, simile and rhythm.
In sum, although Ackroyd has a great many cultural experiences from which to draw, the author would require instruction on commonly used poetic devices, as well as a skilled editor, to better communicate those experiences.
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