Our Fragile Dreams: Selected Poems (2004-2017) chronicles important moments in the life of author Johnny Perrem. With topics ranging from the birth of his grandchildren, the loss of his siblings, and his own inevitable death, Perrem’s book is a deeply personal memoir cast in poetry.
While many of the themes in Perrem’s poetry are universally experienced feelings (fear, uncertainty, love, loss, death, depression, etc.), they are presented as singular events focused on the microcosm of his own family and social sphere, leaving readers searching for a connection to the pieces that never manifests. Many poems are addressed to specific people regarding certain timelines or events (“Axel where have you gone?/ Your place with us was immense”; “Who are you my father?/ No answer/ That was the answer!”). This renders readers spectators of others’ experiences, rather than participants on Perrem’s journey.
The author’s tributes to his parents and siblings (“He is a humble man/[…] Wise and gentle/ I love my brother Michael”) are warm and heartfelt, as are those for his children and grandchildren. He often speaks of his ill health, wondering what death might be like, what his legacy will be, and how to manage the fear of uncertainty. Many times these entries evoke the feeling of reading a diary or journal, rather than a book of poetry.
The formatting of the poems can sometimes be puzzling: Several offerings end abruptly in the middle of the page only to be continued on the following page. Additionally, metaphors tend to meander aimlessly and change course often, leaving readers unsure of the image or feeling they were meant impart.
Our Fragile Dreams is a fast and pleasant read. While unlikely to find a broader audience outside of the author’s personal circle, the collection is sure to be a treasured time capsule of a life well-lived for those who have known and loved the author well.
Also available in hardcover.