Opening this book of poems is like entering a darkened room and hearing voices whispering in a conversation that began before you arrived and will swirl on after you have left. They speak of love and loss, hope and fear, the terrible need to connect and the dread of failure to do so. The poems form a narrative of pain and desire spoken from the points of view of a cast of characters that includes Angel, Serpentine, Dark Majesty, Watcher and The Group. The interplay of these voices drives the book, giving it a sense of urgency and direction.
The danger in this kind of writing is that it’s easy to fall, at one extreme, into the maudlin, and at the other, into the grotesque. What is required is an inventiveness of insight. While author Karol-Ann Roberts is not always successful in avoiding the pitfalls, she does create a tension and dynamic that pushes the reader forward.
The poems convey a complexity and depth of emotion. When we hear one voice whisper, “My scars haunt me” or another note that “My wrists feel tangled,” we know something of the anguish and disorientation these characters feel. There is fear of commitment: “I know that you’ll take everything from me / you’ll kill me like you do in my dreams”; and hope for commitment: “I hope you get to see my heart before my scars.” And even a flash of wit: “I’ll recover from this soon / not as the same person.’
Unfortunately, the emotional impact is undercut by what appears to be inadequate proofreading. If there is a purpose to the many grammatical errors, it isn’t evident. There are also too many jumbled sentence constructions that topple into the incomprehensible. One hopes that in her next book, Roberts will tighten her composition and pay more attention to the details of proofreading, for it’s clear that she has a powerful and moving story to share.
Also available in hardcover.