I like a poetry anthology and one that is called the International Family Poetry Anthology made me optimistic that I was going to read a coming together of values and cultures and people in harmony from diverse international backgrounds but with a collective message, possibly spiritual. Family implies warmth and tribute and using poetry suggests depth of meaning. All of that is here to some degree but I am not sure how harmonious the collection is in terms of its composition and in the way it has been compiled and presented as a book.
I found the collection slow to start as there are a lot of introductory sections before one even gets to the poetry, which are extremely wordy and are passages which talk of love and an appreciation for each other and especially for Dr. Joseph S. Spence, the person who brought everyone’s ideas together into this collection. As a reader, I did not feel that this was necessary as the poetry can speak for itself and should for every individual reader who picks up the collection.
There are themes that permeate the anthology: looking back at family; memories; food as a comforter as well as a link to cultural identity; faith in times of strife such as pandemics. The faithful will be bolstered by a collection such as this and the theme of God’s love is omnipresent throughout.
There is some lovely sentiment found in poems like Grandma’s Olive Words (Acrostic Poem)!(sic) which has a real trueness to it in what it relates for the poet, treasured memories of a respected family member. However, this is undermined almost by the inclusion of pop art on the next page which states “TOPNOTCH GRANDMA!” on a blue background over the top of a white cartoon conversation bubble with air escaping in puffs. This may be designed to augment the sense of appreciation for Grandma in a joyful way but I am not sure that this is wholly achieved. This is one example of many where visual aids detract from the validity and power of the words.
Personally, as a reader, I have mixed feelings about the anthology. There are some poems here with merit and depth that are worth reading and that I enjoyed, that met with the purpose outlined extensively at the beginning but at other times, I have to admit to feeling baffled.
This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.