The poems in Walls and Fences aim broadly to instruct readers in the principles for good living and to model inspirational self-reflection. As the speaker announces in the first poem, “We all build walls and fences…/ Keeping what’s outside them…out/ And what’s inside…in.”
The conceit of walls and fences as barriers to human connection appears frequently throughout the collection, as in “Revision and Refreshers” where the speaker begins, “I don’t like walls…let alone build them…I see them more as isolators/…than shelters and protection…” and “An Afterthought” where the speaker declares, “Some folks build so many walls…I mean so many mini walls…/ Everywhere and with Everyone/ Sharing conversation and information on a need to know basis…”
The repetition of walls and fences grows increasingly redundant as the book progresses because readers are not presented with any new or surprising insights. Much of the writing here feels obvious and clichéd. For instance, “What is the distance between my closed eyes and my soul?/ What is the distance between parts and whole?” and “How can we be…So near and so far apart?/ I need to understand the bridges in my heart.”
While the speaker is clearly well-intentioned in his message, the writing is prosaic rather than prosodic. There are no vivid or memorable images, and the stanzas do not read rhythmically despite the frequent use of end rhyme. The idiosyncratic use of multiple sets of ellipses in nearly every poem is largely responsible for the lack of rhythm. The speaker presents a few words and then interrupts himself with an ellipsis followed by a few more words and another ellipsis: “The purpose of life…is to learn about relationships…falls and/ trips…/coming closer to each other.” This format tends to confuse and distract readers rather than draw them in.
Overall, Walls and Fences may hold some appeal for readers of self-help literature but is not likely to reach the wider poetry-reading audience.
Also available as an ebook.