Wild Flowers by Michelle S. Smith is a book of poetry that is very different from what I am used to. Honestly, in my adult life, I have been drawn to more lyric poetry such as Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine. Michelle contacted me and asked me to give a review and so here I am, reviewing.
She asked me for an honest review and I will be as honest as I can be. One of the amazing things about poetry is that it is extremely free, not only when it comes to word choice and punctuation but also sentence length and formatting. Poetry can be anything, it is kind of an all-encompassing question mark. It is that gray area that we get to explore. But that is just how I feel about it. Let us get down to it. This is the first book of poetry I am reviewing so the format will be a bit different.
Wild Flowers is a piece that confronts grief and depression and more. Smith uses her words to discuss disenchantment and the struggle it can take to move forward after loss. All heavy topics, all things that may not be the most comfortable for certain readers but all necessary. I do appreciate the fact that she is not afraid to discuss these topics. The poet makes use of the freedom of poetry, not using capitalization except in her titles and rarely using end punctuation. It adds a sense of authority for the reader, you can choose what you wish to emphasize, how you wish to read each short poem.
Although it was a bit jarring at first, one thing that worked well was keeping the titles of the poems at the end of the poem. That way when I read the poems, I went in without any preconceived notions or ideas. I am not sure if this is what Smith was working towards when she decided to format this way but I liked it. I truly enjoyed some of these poems and feel that they are not only relevant but at times palpable, as poetry should be, guiding you to recall your own experiences. The poems seem to work well as snapshots, small instances of what the poet was feeling or thinking. In that way, they are almost like quotes reminding me of inspirational quotes I come across from time to time as well as author quotes that come after living life and knowing what it offers. What ties them all together is their message and theme.
Some of the poems seem to be almost forced. Once again, that may be due to my recent fascination with the more lyric, ever-flowing form. To me if felt as though she were making a clean break even when some of the ideas she conveyed weren’t so keen, even when I longed for a bit more to chew on, I was denied that. As I mentioned before, Wild Flowers tells of Smith’s own battle with grief and loss. I am not going to claim this is a reflection, as I did in an earlier post which you can read here. This is a review. And that is why I am giving you both the good and the bad of this piece. There are no breaks in Michelle S. Smith’s work, no pauses to offer balm or break from it. Each poem is just as unashamedly real as the last, each one forcing you to look at mental health, hers and perhaps your own.
All in all I give it a 3.5/5. Why when I liked the poetry and the imagery she uses? Strangely, but not in a negative way, Smith uses very few allusions or metaphors. She simply states what is. And although I enjoyed it, this book may not be for more hard-core poetics fans but I think it is a good entry point for poetry. Poetry, in itself, is hard to “judge” as it were. Even bad poetry can be good if it is bad enough. Does that make sense. I find that this book would be more suited for those just learning about poetics, perhaps college students or people not well-versed. There are a good many masterful poems in it but I can’t begin to claim what others would say about Smith’s work.
Michelle S. Smith
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Happy reading! Chyina