At the end of his poetry collection, Self Reflection, author James M. Sciortino reveals the purpose of his project: “My book is about a teenager that feels God’s presence leave his soul and then begins to fight for his spirit to return to his body by willful suffering.” The book’s poetry, however, does not clearly articulate this search for faith.
This is a slim volume of brief poems – very brief, sometimes up to four per page. Each page of poetry is offset by a full-page photograph credited to the stock photo service Thinkstock.
Some of the poems use language that succeeds in making interesting associative leaps, such as the title “The Ancestors of Missing Pieces” or the line “Fog departed future.” The best of the pieces seem like seeds of ideas worth expanding. There is a sense the author could burst open the poem and unpack the underlying idea.
However, much of the work is difficult to decipher. Nearly all the poems sacrifice meaning and imagery for the sake of easy rhyme. For example, the poem “Miracle” reads: “ I once was dead/ Then the son bled./ Will he ever be fed?/ Only through the bed/ I shouldn’t have said/ That’s the way I was led./ Why are roses red?”
The even briefer, though no less confounding, “Anxious” reads: “Will destroy the shadow/in battle/on the saddle.”
Further, while some of the photographs are lovely, the images rarely succeed in adding to the meaning of a poem or group of poems with which they’ve been paired.
Because of the fragmented nature of the poems, readers will not get a strong sense of a single speaker leading them through a journey, as the author had intended. As such, the volume ultimately lacks the power needed to carry readers along.
Also available as an ebook.