The poems in Portraits of His Love present author-speaker Reverend Mattie Morman Hampton as an ambassador for Christian love and values. Her collection delivers light religious verse, interspersed with some family photographs and numerous dedications to important people from her life.
Hampton’s poems espouse broad Christian ideals and largely pay tribute to particular individuals, including members of her family and church community. For example, in “The Model Pastor,” dedicated to “Reverend Dr. Winfred J. Pippen,” she writes: “He’s a pastor of pastors/ And of ministers too; A teacher of teachers/ His wisdom he doth endue.” In “Magnanimity,” dedicated to a friend, she also celebrates a specific individual: “He’s a quiet, dedicated gentleman,/ Always ready to lend a hand//…He has made his work an art.”
While clearly heartfelt, the poems lack the sophistication of more accomplished fare, relying almost exclusively on familiar language. For example, in “His Gifts,” Hampton writes: “God gives little raindrops/ To make the flowers grow./ He gives April showers/ To rinse away the snow.” Rain falling on flowers as a metaphor for renewal and rebirth is overused in poetry, lessening the emotional impact for readers.
Equally problematic is the author’s use of abstract words. In “Forever Young,” Hampton writes, “Forever beautiful,/ With the light of happiness in her eyes,/ Reflecting all the iridescent colors/ Of paradise.” She offers no contextualizing or sensory details to particularize the poem’s narrative or engage readers’ senses. Words such as “beautiful,” “happiness,” and “paradise” are conceptual rather than concrete and do not create powerful pictures in readers’ minds.
Because of these issues and the fact that so many of the poems are tributes to others, the collection reads more as a personal scrapbook than as work written with a wider audience in mind. While Portraits of His Love no doubt holds strong, sentimental appeal for its author and her close friends and relatives, it is unlikely to appeal to a larger audience.