The author of this book, Ritter, submitted this to my Review Requests page! I agreed to read it, and here you are with a review.
Author: David Ritter
I didn’t know Ritter before he popped in on the site, but here you go! An honest review.
I will admit that I may have bias due to shared faith. There is a lot of Christian references, imagery, and themes to the writing that you should be aware of if you’re considering this chapbook.
Ritter’s book about his journey through addiction and recovery is emotionally intensive. Some of the poems describe quite horrible things that happened to him, around him, and to other people. He paints a story that does not hold back details, even the sordid ones. While I don’t think anything is especially triggering on its own, I do think it’s possible a reader may feel emotionally connected or otherwise drawn in by the book and its characters.
When I think of this poetry collection in its totality, I think of this as a sort of “wilderness poetry.” No, not like Ansel Adams or John Muir type wilderness – I’m talking the Israelites in the wilderness, or Jesus during the 40 days of temptation. In Christian mythos/theology, a wilderness period is a time in one’s life of indeterminate length during which there is suffering or struggle. The wilderness implies a “lostness” or a “search” in addition to deprivations or struggle. While much of Ritter’s poetry reminded me of Kevin Parrish’s What Words May Come, this set of poetry had a stark difference in that it marked one wilderness period and faith journey rather than a gamut of life lessons. Its themes and progression were very well done.
The poetry within the book is well done. I know a lot of people don’t like rhyming poetry, but I do, and Ritter does an excellent job coming up with new rhymes throughout. My biggest complaint about the compilation, however, lies in the steadfastness with which he sticks to the four-line stanzas and rhyming couplets or rhyming on alternating lines. Only six of the 28 total poems did not have this format. I would have liked to see greater variety.
5/5 Discoball Snowcones
Like I usually do with collections, I will choose 3 poems to talk about more specifically. My favorite, one that sticks out from the rest, and my least favorite.
Favorite: The Kind Man
I think this poem was probably chosen by Ritter as the central piece of the work, given that it is in larger font and tells a story with beginning, middle, twist, and end more readily than some of the others. The twist is easily expected, and yet it’s that payoff of getting the twist that made this poem one of my favorites.
Standout: Alone once Again
This one had that “haunted” flavor that just crept under my nails and hair. It just doesn’t sit well in the soul, and yet you can’t look away for hope that the speaker will change his wayward ways or that the mythical “you” and subject of the poem might show up. After reading “The Flower Never Blossomed,” just a few poems later, “Alone once Again” takes on an even more vicious and important meaning.
Least Favorite: Had My Share
Whether purposeful or not, the first line “I’ve had my share of constant sorrow” got me off on the wrong foot with this poem. It reminded me of the tune “Man of Constant Sorrow”, which while I enjoy the song, it’s too easy and too often referenced for a pop culture item. After that, the poem felt relatively repetitive after such goodies as “Material Things” which had a fairly similar message.
What I’m Reading Next:
This year, I’m not doing reading lists; instead, I’m going to be publishing posts as I read. However, I’m going to cheat a little bit this month because there’s four great indie books (including the one you just read about here) I read last year that are SCREAMING to be posted on the blog. Next in line is the “clean” sci-fi adventure The Outlands by Tyler Edwards.