April Frances Federico’s poetry collection Resilience explores a woman’s life beset by invisible challenges, detailing her quest to achieve integrity between the cruel world’s social expectations and her own passions.
These first-person poems show the speaker’s vulnerability and determination to feel whole. In “April and October,” for example, Federico describes the duality of image vs. reality: “When I’m around other people, I exude a/ warm, pleasant, comforting breeze […] Then there is October—hi! a complete maniac […]”
Some of Federico’s poems follow an extended metaphor to illustrate the work it takes to live up to others’ expectations. The poem “Perfection is a weakness of mine” compares perfectionism to sucking on bone marrow, “until there’s nothing anymore. It becomes addictive,/ like a fidget toy. People tell you you’re doing great by/ cleaning it […] Then you become/ addicted to being perfect and receiving that praise.”
Federico writes in a conversational voice, with an edge of determination to see one’s self as worthy. “Silver Lining” tells readers that the speaker took something she wasn’t good at and turned it into a strength: “The bleakness of the sciences of Biology and Chemistry/ became the adrenaline of Creative Writing and English.”
Unfortunately, the language isn’t as intense or evocative as more accomplished fare. Many lines are indistinguishable from prose and lack musicality or fresh imagery, as in: “Paris had welcomed me with open arms,” and “just like the day we met.”
The last section, “Art Works,” contains line drawings of women’s faces and adds some whimsy to the book. Although the drawings lack professional polish, they convey the idea that a woman can have many moods and aspects to her personality.
Resilience isn’t likely to appeal to readers of sophisticated poetry. But Federico’s slender volume may engage those who fight feelings of being “less-than.” The voice is sympathetic and readers will find themselves cheering for Federico’s speaker as she shares universal concerns about family, love, and authenticity.
Also available as an ebook.