Paul Drakeford’s Rhyme Rhythm Reason is an eclectic collection of poetry and prose, with subjects running the gamut from snarky epistles like “To the Editor of Overland” to the meditative lyrics of “Life is a lonely planet.”
The book is comprised of 15 lineated poems, both metrical and free verse, and three short prose pieces. There’s no central theme or concept, and the moods and styles vary dramatically. For example, in the humorous “Poor Marianne,” he writes wryly about the titular character’s failed attempts to become a bride: “[A]ll her swains had picked the locks/ And fled the scene in just their socks.” This contrasts with the ruminative tone of “When is a poet a poet?” Evaluating what makes an effective poet, the speaker concludes: “When is a poet a poet?/ Poetically,/ when other poets/ know it.”
Drakeford’s speaker is an intelligent observer, capable of witty turns. One high note is the poet’s prose piece, “The Trouble with Ants.” Written in a lively, contemporary voice, it’s both playful and potentially allegorical: “As soon as you discover the ants in the oven, switch off the oven lights. The ants mustn’t know that you know.”
The work falters, however, when the author uses formal and antiquated diction (“ere continents collide”; “Thrice beat them off./ My wrath might forge…”). This approach distances modern readers. And sometimes, sing-songy poems make one wonder if the rhyme is ruling the message, rather than the other way around: “Man is a misfit.//Bigger than his size,/ See him touch the skies,/ While lesser lives/ Are trampled to defeat…”
Overall, the collection surveys the author’s writing life over the past 70 years; footnotes explain that some poems were previously published as early as 1948, in addition to more recent publications.
Rhyme Rhythm Reason offers some entertaining moments. However, a clearer thematic focus and commitment to present-day diction would help to transform the author’s intelligence, curiosity, and wry wit into a more relevant multi-genre style.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.