Unlocking the Cellar Dreams of a Poet

Joe Gonzalez

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 338 Price: (paperback) $19.99 ISBN: 9781543430127 Reviewed: December, 2017 Author Website: Visit »

Unlocking the Cellar Dreams of a Poet is comprised of 263 poems written in English and 29 poems written in Spanish. In both languages, the free-verse poems with occasional end rhymes rely on familiar spiritual platitudes and biblical imperatives.

In “What Would Jesus Do?” for example, the speaker articulates his views of the current zeitgeist: “A new generation, rewriting God’s values of life./ An unborn with no chance at life, the ultimate price of life?/ Christian values lost, marriage questioned at what cost?”      

As seen above, these poems rely on exposition rather than imagery. They quickly grow redundant in their message. The speaker repeatedly expresses his fidelity to God and family with various prayers (“How many, Lord?/ How many must I pray?”; “I ask for your forgiveness and your mercies” ) and tributes (“I love my mom./ I love my dad,/ Who’s there even when I’m sad// I love you, dear Lord”), as well as his rejection of the traps of the secular world and warnings for the End Times (“God is going to punish us all”).

By telling instead of showing his commitments and beliefs, Gonzalez tends to exclude readers instead of enfolding them in the unique and sensory particulars of his life experience. A line like “My soul is mine and mine alone, and I think what I please” captures the diary quality of many of these poems, which seem written more for the author’s self-expression and catharsis than with a wider audience in mind.

Additionally, while the industry standard for a poetry collection is 48-64 pages, this volume exceeds that by five times but lacks a dramatic narrative arc or thematically organized sections to justify its size and redundancy of topics.

The overall ethos of Unlocking the Cellar Dreams of a Poet is Christian self-help and inspirational verse. While the collection no doubt holds sentimental appeal for the author’s friends and family, it’s unlikely to appeal to serious readers of contemporary poetry.

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