Plain Talk Poetry, by Susan H. McIntyre, is a sizable collection of poems divided into 11 sections with headings such as “Compassion,” “Love & Beauty,” and “Faith.” McIntyre is a cancer survivor with “multiple medical issues.”
The book doesn’t reveal any medical details, and the handful of poems that deal with illness end positively, such as “The Storm,” which resolves spiritually: “My soul feels healed, / Though body not cured. / With my eyes on Him / I am peaceful again.”
McIntyre, as indicated by the book’s title, is proud of the poems’ everyday language. Though the words are simple, she has put thought into structures. All poems are comprised of three or four-line stanzas. They are also linked by the gentle, appreciative attitude of human optimism, as in “The Pioneer Woman,” which describes a bronze statue of a woman with children, “Not a monument to war, / But to strength, hope, / Courage and love.”
While such sensibility can be appealing, the poetry is hampered by its bland language. There is too much telling and not enough showing, as in “Tell Them”: “We have walked together / In marriage filled with love.” Nowhere in the poem does McIntyre show readers what love looks like for this couple. Readers are not invited deep inside this marriage and brought into an experience.
McIntyre notes in her Acknowledgments that her poetry is designed to be accessible to everyday people. “None of my family reads complex poetry, nor do my friends,” she writes. To that end, she has succeeded: her work is clearly written and has a worthy message.
But poetry doesn’t have to be “complex” in order to embody the vitality or originality that draws in readers not personally acquainted with the author. In fact, poetry generally requires more than this type of “plain talk” to provoke thought and emotion in its readers. On that note, McIntyre might want to re-think her approach.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.