The poems in Organic Soul aim broadly to model inspirational self-reflection for the reader based on the speaker’s observations of the natural world. As the author writes in his Introduction, “I attempt to move past describing climate that only dampens or brightens our lives to how it actually defines feelings and moods.”
The book, however, is largely comprised of overly familiar language and imagery, rather than the more provocative images and deeper insights promised in the Introduction. For example, a representative poem, “Simple Country Life,” uses conventional descriptions to present an idea most readers have heard many times before: “Living in the fair countryside immune/ Far away from the city’s smog and noise/ Smelling sweet fragrance when wild flowers bloom/ Is something very few of us enjoys [sic].”
The majority of poems in this volume are English sonnets, an ambitious form to master. Kenyon struggles to make original rhymes using the ABAB structure. For instance, “Life’s a party held for your good measure/ For spoiled rotten brats who lives [sic] with ease/ Still hoping to steal more family treasure/Picking fruits from a basket as you please.” The pairings of measure/treasure and ease/please are widely used in rhymed verse, making the poem less fresh and memorable, more general than specific.
The culminating couplets of the English sonnet sequence can also lead to antiquated diction and awkward syntax when poets force a rhyme. This forced-rhyme phenomenon is a frequent pattern in Kenyon’s poems, as in “Forever Lost,” where he concludes, “Such as when light transfers day into night/ Lacking faith no love in our hearts ignite [sic].”
Kenyon might do well to explore the possibilities of free verse and the particularities of his “Vermont experience,” which he mentions in the introduction to this book. While this more formal exercise will hold appeal for the author’s friends and family, it isn’t likely to satisfy serious readers of contemporary poetry.
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