The poems in Young But Old aim broadly to document and reflect upon the emotional struggles of their speaker. Author Janet Brown tells her readers on the back cover: “I wanted to share some of my life experiences as to educate and communicate what many go through but are afraid to say as women.”
Brown’s poetry, while clearly rooted in strong personal emotions, relies almost exclusively on broad statements and general questions. An early poem, “Is It Me?” suggests that the speaker is struggling, with lines such as: “Surely I wished I were never meant to be” and “Why does it always feel as if there’s a burden/ on my back?” Readers, unfortunately, are cut off from the source of these feelings, which would have made for stronger understanding and emotional connection to the narrator. In the next poem titled “Birthday,” the speaker switches abruptly to light inspirational verse: “Each person was sent here from above,/ For someone to have, cherish, and love.” In the next poem, “Secret Lover,” the speaker’s dejection returns, but once again, no larger context is provided: “Cause you know he’s not yours and never was,/ Knowing you settled just because…”
Throughout this book, readers experience a kind of tonal whiplash. The arrangement of these pieces is haphazard, switching from a joyful voice in “Precious Love” to an angry voice in “It’s Hard Being Thin” and then to a melancholic voice in “Always Being Down.” The subject matter also varies dramatically, from adult themes such as “Raising Your Child Alone” and “I Can Tell He’s Cheating,” to poems such as “While I’m Reading” and “Magic” that seem best suited to young children.
While earnest and heartfelt, Young But Old lacks thematic consistency, fresh insight, and specific details to engage the reader’s mind and senses, all of which will inhibit this book’s appeal to serious readers of contemporary poetry.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.