Cameron Crews’s To the Monsters of My Past is a collection of free-verse and rhyming poems accompanied by periodic, free-hand sketches that illustrate or allude to the surrounding poems. The back cover notes that this work was written over eight years as a “young girl’s heartbreak diary.”
Readers will notice how the poet-speaker ages across the collection, from a teenager to a woman in her early twenties. A representative poem, “Not My Fairytale,” begins: “She once lived in a joyous castle/ Happy parents, loud siblings present/ But she blinked and lost her tiara/ The prosperous reign came and went.” Such poems, with their fairy tale motifs and references to parental separation, seem likely to resonate with young adults, as do the accompanying sketches.
After the book’s first fourth, however, the focus shifts to the poet-speaker’s dating life and a romantic relationship that ends badly. The language becomes more frequently profane and adult-themed, as in “*Takes Drink*”: “It was hard when I still thought/ You were actually a good guy/ But I know better now./ You’re fucking full of LIES.” There are fewer images here and more reliance on the poet-speaker stating rather than showing how she feels: “No one in this life is sane./ EVERYONE IS A GODDAMN PSYCHO!”
Toward book’s end, the poet-speaker’s anger seems to give way to acceptance, and in her final poem, “Fact of Life (V),” Crews writes: “No matter what it takes, I will have a beautiful/ life that I will enjoy and be proud of.”
The poetry in the collection’s last three-fourths often reads more as notes to the speaker’s self than writing crafted with a reading audience in mind. While the work documents an evolving emotional journey, the scarce use of literary craft and technique impedes its effectiveness; the poems require more sensory and narrative details to resonate. The pieces in the beginning, however, could be developed and expanded into a collection that teenage readers might appreciate.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.