Buy the Book
Review by Tryst Editor
In their own words, The Little Red Book of Poe-ee-tree:
The book is a collection of poems and short stories written by ten U2 fans, from the US, Canada, the UK, France and Australia. We all used to post our poems in a poetry forum, The Heart , which was part of U2's official fansite back in 2001-2003. We all just kind of stumbled in there, from completely different walks of life, brought together by U2's music and our love of words... It was a time of great creativity, and so much beautiful writing exploded out of that little place in cyberspace... Then after the forum closed down in autumn 2003, it felt like all those words were lost forever. It really had been quite a special moment in time, I felt... And then just out of the blue, over the past few months, I started wondering if I could perhaps round up some of the old poets and see if we could put a book together, and turn it into something constructive...
The African Well Fund have been such an inspiration! They're a non-profits, founded in 2002 by a group of U2 fans inspired by Bono's activism on behalf of Africa, and we were so keen to work with them to do something positive in this way. I mean, water, – it's so easy to take it for granted when we turn on the tap... All donations to the AWF go directly to Africare (one of the leading private, non-profit, charitable organisations assisting Africa) to fund water projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, and have specifically been used to build and implement clean water and sanitation projects in Uganda, Angola and Zimbabwe, benefiting thousands of people in the communities where they are located. It's been so inspiring learning more about their work and seeing the difference a clean water source can make in a community. Aside from the immediate health benefits, a well can generate new sources of income, such as vegetable gardens, fishponds and fruit-drying projects. Two AWF board members travelled to Uganda last September, and visited wells that were built with AWF donations.
All royalties will be donated to the African Well Fund.
An unknown friend, i.e., a friend to poetry, but not personally known to me, by the initials of RHE, wrote, "
The road to bad poems is paved with good intentions," adding "the poem is flat as a sat-upon souffle" with regards to a poem of mine he had read. I did not take offense, simply because I felt at the time the opinion was warranted, brave and was rightfully his. In fact, I couldn't help but be amused: Would this kind of ernest opinion arrest my writing career, make me think twice about giving up my day job, or even more drastically, make me want to jump off a bridge? Well, the answer to all three questions is "no" for I'd already given up my day job years ago when I couldn't get fired from it, my writing career has never been profitable enough to call it a career, and I'm afraid of falling so jumping off a bridge is out of the question. It's not that I'm tough, or that I don't care (really), or that I have a secret arsenal of high opinions stored away somewhere to boost my morale when needed; it's just this...nothing is going to stop me from writing verse, good, bad, ugly, or otherwise.
Now I am going to metaphorically jump off the bridge and risk being castigated by the editor of Little Red Book of Poe-ee-tree, Mrs. Fields, bless her soul. I've nothing against Mrs. Fields, she sounds like a sweet and selfless editor with whom I could easily form an alliance if we should ever meet, but the simple, blunt opinion - most of the poetry in this book is not what I would call "good" with the exception of perhaps three or four poems: For example, "One Withered Wing" by Laurie CK:
One Withered Wing
I thought was effective. I wish the poet had used another word besides "majesty" - it seems too heavy of a word to fly. And "painful" is what the speaker is projecting; a different approach would have been to use "painful" images to effect that emotion. But on the whole, I liked the poem for its simplicity.
This poem by Jennifer:
Tonight I Run
The snow fences were removed
from the beaches today
and lay along the edge
like rolls of hay in the field.
The red-winged blackbird sings
his special evening song...
The early days of spring
make their presence known.
Tonight I run with the symphony
of the world to accompany my strides.
The light of day fades slowly;
the striations of grey clouds
elicit a quietness of my spirit.
It's hard to imagine
what it must be like to live
with the noise of bombs
and air raid sirens ...
... That somewhere the birds
have stopped singing
their night songs–
and the daylight fades
with each black cloud of destruction.
A little more editing, some paring and better line/stanza breaks would make this poem just about perfect. The right elements are in place, most notably introspection and empathy, a poet's best friends.
The poem, "Visitation" by Mrs. F, has merit:
After you went away, you would come to me in my
Once, you sat upon my bed
In my old room,
Box-room with purple carpet,
Shelves lined with Spanish dolls,
Trinket boxes, pine cones,
Borrowed books, read, re-read.
Then from under my bed,
Eyes bright and laughing,
You brought out a hidden casket,
You opened it carefully,
Unfolding layer upon layer
Of an intricate arrangement of cotton wool
And tissue paper,
Sudden warmth and radiance
Of pastel paper flowers,
Postcard (your handwriting),
And moments, memories,
...Then I wake.
And I cry to dream again.
The promise in "Visitation" is that it has all the material for a great poem to be written. The poem's potential lies in its attentiveness to the details, the clarity of the dream and being able to place the reader in the dream. But the personal pronoun "you" distances the reader from the speaker's subject - i.e., the exchange is between the speaker and this "you" so that the reader becomes the third wheel, an interloper. The way to remedy this would be replace "you" with "she" or "he" - third person singular, thus making it possible for the reader to be taken into the speaker's confidence.
Which brings me to the rest of the poems that I am unwilling to parse or cite here simply because I don't want to target any one particular poet; although, let me be quite clear, it always has been, and always will be about the poetry. That is to say, if the poet cannot separate his/her ego from the work, then the work is not finished. This isn't the same thing as saying one cannot be proud of his/her work. And that's where I'm taking this next line of thought: I'm proud of these poets for writing, writing anything at all. It is my sincere hope that they will continue to write with these objectives in mind: to improve and grow in whichever order suits them.
And the lovely thing is: the book is red, is small, cute and portable. I believe in the book's vision, to give to communities in need. I'd like to see thousands of books sold for no other reason than to see royalties from the sale of the book go to the African Well Fund. Because truly the poetry does not matter in this case; the obverse of the preconceived notion mentioned in the beginning of this review is, "The road to good poems can be paved with bad intentions." So here's what I'm going to tell you: Go ahead, buy the book anyway. It's less than the cost of three packs of Coca~Cola, less than a carton of cigarettes, and all the other things that are bad for you and only line the pockets of corporate executives anyway. Do something selfless and kind today.
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