Poet John Everett Button is a true romantic who wears his heart on his sleeve. Following in the footsteps of Rod McKuen, popular ’60’s songwriter and poet, Button’s poems are easily accessible to general audiences drawn to familiar images of love.
In his preface, Button explains how personal love lost inspired his desire to delve deeper into love in verse. The book’s first section, titled “The Love Dialectic (The Movement of Love),” contains succinct poems of moments with a lover, such as “The Hour-glass Between Us.” In it, he writes, “Time falls inside the gaze we share / like sand inside an hour-glass, /…” In “Riddles of the Heart,” the second section, Button presents poetic parables filled with variations on love–familial, platonic, or erotic. “On Her 18th Birthday,” tells the story of a daughter who must leave her father at age 18 due to custom, never to meet each other again. Their acceptance of this fate is strange and troubling, leaving readers to arrive at their own conclusions concerning the parable’s meaning.
Philosophical introductions to the book and each section expound on the inner workings of love. Long-time poetry readers may be put off by this approach, as they generally expect to read poems without any explanatory handholding. Sophisticated poetry readers may find, too, that the images and descriptions in Button’s poems rely on superficiality and sentimentality. Poems in the first section, however, often end with lines that hint at deeper possibilities. And in the second section, Button nicely showcases his ability to tell curious tales set in a created, mythological time.
The collection is enhanced with intriguing line illustrations of lovers in all types of poses, from adventurous to ponderous. While the book is a mixed bag for devoted poetry readers who might expect more depth, it’s perfect for those with romantic, philosophical souls who are inclined to explore poetry.