The Essence of a Young Poet

Juan Manuel Caraballo

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 97 Price: (paperback) $15.99 ISBN: 9781499044591 Reviewed: June, 2016 Author Website: Visit »

Written mostly while the author was in high school, this collection of nearly 50 free verse first-person poems reflects the tumultuous feelings of a teenager. The poems appear to offer a chronological storyline beginning with two failed romantic relationships, followed by depression, religious redemption, and military enlistment.

Although the author uses poetry to express heartfelt emotions, he doesn’t delve beneath the surface to offer fresh insights. The poems provide a limited perspective with in-the-moment observations.

For example, in “Only You” he writes: “I’m already bright, but with you I would shine;/ Together we would shine so much that we would blind.” Similar simplistic sentiments are repeated in “Impatient,” which reveals the speaker’s emotions after a breakup. The poet seeks “A gorgeous lady that is worthy of my time, / Capable of making my life blissful and a delight, / That instead of making my life odd, she would make it prime.”

Other poems, such as “In Spirit and in Truth” and “From God to You,” describe how a religious awakening helped him survive the painful breakups.

Writing poetry seems to be a means of coping with his emotional struggles. Unfortunately, while therapeutic for the author, the work lacks many elements that mark more accomplished fare – most notably figurative language. For example, in “Talent,” he writes: “Everyone has a talent;/ Perhaps it’s playing sports, playing instruments, drawing/ and painting, singing, or playing PlayStation.” In “Do You Remember?” he asks: “Do you remember everything you said?/ When we used to talk all day about the things we dread.” The lack of imagery and lyricism creates work that largely reads more as prose than poetry.

The book includes a helpful table of contents and an index of first lines. Some poems contain drawings and photographs that add a layer of interest to the written material. Even with these benefits, the book’s surface insights and stylistic limitations will likely limit its appeal.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

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