Ron M. Raye’s poetry collection, Island Under the Sea, offers lyric ruminations arranged in seven sections. The poems vary dramatically in the vividness of their imagery and effectiveness of their tone.
The poet is capable of wonderfully sensuous imagery and prosody, such as “My fingers tied to yours,/ While kissing you over a bowl of/ fisherman’s broth” and “Night sauntering on, shadows thin/ And all the while black rain keeps falling…” Here, the speaker presents scenes using fresh, precise diction that readers can witness through their senses.
Frequently, however, the same speaker uses vague and expository language that fails to create a picture in the reader’s mind. For instance: “What we have achieved here/Has caused more harm than good,” and “in this relationship it seems/That neither of us will take the first step/ Of ironing out our differences.” This style takes on a psychology textbook quality rooted in summary rather than sensory details.
Throughout this collection, there are moments of grandiosity and melodrama that push readers away: “Life threw me its first arrow of bitterness/ in that room” and “My God, the moral decay of this age.” There are also abrupt shifts to a crasser ethos, as in “The lightning burped,” and “In another life I was a retard.” And, often, the work falls back on clichés: “like an arrow through the heart,” and “reel me in like a fish caught in a net.”
Yet the author is also able to draw readers close periodically with lush, immersive scenes such as this one: “This old island/ […] floated among the tropical flowers of the night,/ […] submerged and disappeared like a submarine during/ the war.”
While the collection has many highlights, the inconsistent tone and use of imagery hampers its appeal overall. If the author were to rework his poems to focus on sensory description and to replace clichés with more inventive language, his volume would have greater potential to attract a wide audience.