This review is an extended version of one originally published at Reedsy Discovery where I get to review books before they are published, which is rather exciting.
I think that it is quite difficult to review poetry as it is a deeply personal thing, both from the point of view of the poet and the perspective of the reader. Different readers glean different nuances from poetry depending on their situation, mind state at the time and their level of interpretation of the verse.
It is with some trepidation then that I embark on this review. However, that said, I think that Jason De Graaf has some talent in this field. His verses are succinct but are full of imagery, their shortness lending itself to their message, sometimes easy to grasp, sometimes, like a riddle, requiring a little more indepth thought or discussion.
The collection is split into two parts: the first, Peculiar Me, the latter, A Strange Deity.
Peculiar Me has many poems with a variety of themes but mainly focuses on love and its various states whether passion or feeling or conflict, all of love’s many faces are here. There is also a lot of pain in these pages, stemming from self-doubt and scrutiny as well as relationships and De Graaf uses dark and vivid imagery, some of it uncomfortable in its intensity to describe his emotions in these verses as well as using a variety of form.
Personally, I prefer his simpler poems like Afghanistan, a poem about boys going to war, which is brief but poignant, and those that have natural imagery like Leave the Pale Weeds and Autumn Undresses which are evocative and have a clarity of voice that resonated for me. This clearness is also true of the poems that discuss passionate reactions like Electric Like.
The second part, A Strange Deity contains poems which illustrate, for the most part, the poet’s relationship with God, which seems to wax and wane, an undercurrent present in the verses of a need that the poet has which is not always found easily in God and how living a life without sin is not an easy thing to fulfil.
Again, as with Peculiar Me, certain poems resonated for me and I think that these contained the less florid images and religious references and felt like the relating of moments of calm, steadiness and acceptance like Dual Fists to Wall, Icy Well and Strange Weight. These poems still contain conflict but it is not so rawly expressed and I liked them in particular.
Poems are a way of sorting through emotions in a lot of ways, to try and understand and interpret the world around you, its influences on you and its pain, and it is fair to say that you have all of that here in Jason De Graaf’s collection.