Sathepine Marco’s What Have You Done to the Angel? is a slim collection of rhyming and free-verse poems that touch on a variety of subjects, including depression, loneliness, and lost and unrequited love.
The book is arranged in seven short sections and interspersed with occasional black-and-white sketches. The poems are infused with a deep sense of despair, with many echoing the sentiments of “Cry with You”: “Everyone and everything/ Swirls around me./ Everyone and everything/ Is all against me./ My pain, my suffering/ Is driving me crazy.”
Such feelings are obviously heartfelt and authentic. Unfortunately, the poems suffer from several important issues. Most rely on general, abstract language (e.g. “pain,” “suffering,” “crazy”) rather than concrete, sensory details. For example, in “Chasing Illusions,” the author writes: “All I have is reality’s pain./ I can’t even take a break.” Such language registers on an intellectual, rather than emotional or sensory level, largely robbing it of its resonance.
Additionally, readers gain little insight into the speaker’s actual life experiences. As a result, they are unable to experience her emotions viscerally. For instance, when the speaker of “If I Could” confides, “If I could, I’d make you love me,/ Make you see that this is good,” readers never learn who the “you” is or gain context for the real or imagined relationship inferred. In “Comfort of Midnight,” the problem persists as the author writes: “O Darkness, your beauty is alluring/ O Light, you seem so far away.” Readers can’t help but wonder what is happening in the speaker’s life to spawn these feelings of hopelessness.
In its current form, What Have You Done to the Angel? lacks a satisfying arc to show the speaker’s progression through an angst-ridden journey. The book reads more like a diary for the poet’s catharsis rather than a collection shaped with an audience in mind. Revision with an eye to balancing the work’s abstract language with vivid imagery and detail would enhance this collection.
Also available as an ebook.