The poems in Thank You for My Tears, I Thought I Had None Left by Sonja Brooke introduce the poet-speaker as a young woman who has loved and grieved deeply, ultimately turning to prayer and poetry-writing as balm for her pain.
In the book’s first poem, a multi-page narrative sequence, this speaker recounts the loss of her beloved when she was “young/ Motherless/ Fatherless/ Hopeless/ Pregnant/ Alone.” Many of the poems that follow are presented as tribute to this lost love, as in “I remember you in my heart and I believe that you remember me too” and “My heart shall always remain with you/ Surely as this writing implies.” In a later poem, the speaker reveals that she raised seven children and that she “never got over the loss of a child,” another source of grief.
Although written with strong emotion, the poems rely almost exclusively on telling rather than showing, stating facts and feelings rather than creating images to conjure and evoke them. For instance, in “Old and Gray,” Brooke writes, “I’ll always cherish this time/ The moments that are here/ That won’t be here tomorrow.” Readers never witness any of these “moments,” and the language doesn’t engage the senses. Instead, the content remains broad and vague.
Similarly, in “I Was Set Free,” the speaker repeats abstract nouns like “love” and “fear” instead of concrete nouns that ground the work in specificity: “Sometimes love equates fear/ And/ Fear will hold you back/ Be free/ Love will ground you/ Fear may astound you.”
The book is nicely produced, with black-and-white illustrations sprinkled throughout. But the poems, which blend free-verse and assorted rhyme schemes, are generic outlines of experiences that trade in truisms and clichés rather than memorable image-making. As a result, the collection is most likely to appeal to those who appreciate the inspirational/self-help or religious/spiritual genres or who have a personal connection to the author, rather than fans of more sophisticated fare.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.