Poetry for Southern California
BREAKING THE RULES
An Anthology from the Beyond Baroque Young Poets Program
Beyond Baroque Books (www.BeyondBaroque.org)
Reviewed by G. Murray Thomas
Poetry is many things. It is an art form, of course. But it is also a method of expression, and a process of discovery. Sometimes the expression and the discovery are as important as the art created. Sometimes they are more important. This is especially true when a poet is starting out, when they are still realizing the power of words, and the power of putting those words down.
Breaking the Rules is an anthology of poetry from the Beyond Baroque Young Poets Program, in which established poets work with high school students on writing poetry. There are some very talented poets here, and even a few great poems. But most of the work is from poets who have not honed their craft yet. Who are still feeling out their potential.
Which makes this an important and exciting read, especially if you care about the future of poetry, and, for that matter, the future of our youth. You can feel the writers discovering the power of poetry. Reveling in the ability to finally expose their feelings, to tell people things they have, until now, kept inside. In her poem “Grief REVolution,” Danielle R. Bailey writes, “You’re not supposed to talk about death..../ But what am I supposed to do?... /Who are you to tell me I can’t be expressive of my feelings?” And Monica Caris titles one poem “I Can’t Always Tell You What I’m Feeling, But Give Me a Pen and I Will Show You My World,” which could be the title for this entire collection.
Further, you can see the poets actually discovering their thoughts through the act of writing. In poems such as “The Mind” and “I Who Knows Nothing,” both by Monica Caris, the flow of the pen leads to understanding. The same thing happens in “Speak” by Darika Brown, which starts out:
They say speak only when you’re spoken to. Wondering could
you speak to others without sound. Is speaking the only way to
communicate? Seeking bad / unacknowledged events mind trembling
back and forth in time, words racing through my mind. Noticing
as I speak it’s hard for others to understand me.
Poets often say that writing is their therapy. This book shows that not only can that be true, it demonstrates just how it works. Discovery and expression are key components of both. Accepting and understanding that is often a key step towards producing great poetry.
All this is not to say that there are not fully formed works of art in this book. “Ode to America” by Laura Savage, “Lunch in Room 201” by Anna Runova, “Honesty” by Danielle Bailey and “Central Park Poems” by Josh Fried all stand as powerful poems (as well as the poems by the various instructors: David Del Burgo, India Radfar, Tresha Faye Haefner, Jessica Wilson and Juan Cardenas). I’m just saying that before you can write great poems, you need to learn a few things. Among those are the notion that it is okay to express yourself, and the lesson that sometimes you don’t know what you are writing about (or even what you are thinking) until you actually put the words down. This book shows that these young poets have learned those lessons well. I expect to see more powerful work from many of them in the years ahead.