Proud Gods and Commodores: Volume II

James McMillan

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 326 Price: (paperback) $24.99 ISBN: 9781669871248 Reviewed: May, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

James McMillan’s offering is an imaginative compilation of poems, sagas, essays, and stories.

The poems range from three-line, capture-the-moment, messages (“Raspy cocoa collapses on my/ tongue”) to descriptions of experiences and meditations on cultural offerings. Among these, his tribute to the old television program Kojak provides a deft mixture of nostalgia, affection and street savvy. (“I miss him, so full of life/ stunning Magnanimity in the pat of his fingers…/ then throaty encouragement…/ ’You can do it, baby…’ “

Some of the longer poems are excerpts from two “epic sagas” he’s currently writing. These predominantly involve war themes, both Roman and Middle Eastern, although there also appear to be excerpts from a third saga seemingly set on a college campus.

The collection’s two essays explore the formation of character. McMillan likens character qualities to elements of the periodic table and discusses some of the necessary elements, like hope and honesty. Magnanimity, a theme that appears throughout the book, is “the highest state of being for the human kind.”

Meanwhile, stories include a King Arthur riddle, a narrative about the integrity of a longtime janitor, and a classic conflict between a child and the monster in her closet.

McMillan’s poems, overall, are strong on ideation and storyline and often eschew heightened poetic language for a flamboyant narrative style—sometimes to unfortunate effect: “To say I was shocked is to say turds fall,” says the narrator in one poem.

Additionally, although MacMillan’s plots of his epics and stories show formidable imagination, sometimes there’s not enough information for readers to establish a relationship with the characters. (For instance, in “Shoogie and the Creole Girl,” the author is apparently describing a college memory but never indicates why Shoogie is important to him—or us.) Some of the excerpts are inserted into the middle of the action, disorienting readers.

As is, the book may attract some readers. However, revision to address the aforementioned issues could greatly enhance its appeal.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

Available to buy at: