The Geometry of Freedom, a poetry collection, explores the human condition, especially in the sense of how we make decisions with our special blend of mind, morals, and desires. The poems are philosophical and prose-like as they meander from topic to topic, meditating on what freedom means for human beings.
Many of Henry Cunningham’s poems are about how our brains are the source of our decisions, but also limited, which generates uncertainty in our lives. In “For Those with Brains and Backbones,” the speaker notes: “Driven by the source that generates all impulses,/ all measured thoughts, all brilliance and all speed bumps,// Is fate so entwined that our brains always guide us/ to what is necessary/ or just what is available…”
The work also expresses yearning for ease and natural beauty, while other topics include the ongoing struggle for a coherent American national identity, the constant change in the natural world, and the idea that there is no virtue—-only being.
Cunningham’s most prevalent poetic or rhetorical technique is repetition, which gives some of his pieces a Biblical or ritualistic feeling: “When the roots of wrath begin to burn,/ When the anger wells up from deep inside,/ When the head swells and the heart races…”.
Unfortunately, the author’s approach is rather impersonal, with details that are often generic. And while his language is lofty, it lacks sensuality: “This is the breathing of our universe,/ the forever rearrangement of its fundamental bits,/ the seed that becomes a baby or a tree,/ the baby that becomes a friend and neighbor…” Such abstract thoughts make it hard for readers to connect with the work on an emotional level.
Still, the use of repetition and the tone of gratitude create a graceful stream for readers, and overall, the work renders a coherent personality through the consistency of its concerns. Those who enjoy rhetorical poetry may find some rewards here.
Also available as an ebook.