A Self Portrait in Verse

by Jenny Prater

I have never been a big reader of poetry, with the exception of epics (the Illiad, the Ramayana, and the like). But when I saw an open offer to review Ms Prater‘s new book and learned a bit about its subject matter, I knew I wanted to read it. 

So while I don’t spend a lot of time on poetry, I’ve always admired it. Besides, there’s fairy tale and mythological context in some of these, and I’ve always loved those subjects.

Before I go on, I want to say that I don’t know any of the technical terminology for poems. I know a little bit about meter and a few poetic forms (thanks Classics from college!), but that’s about it. So this is very much a layperson’s response to this book. With that out of the way, onward!

So my immediate reaction was it was really, really good. I immensely enjoyed reading it. I think part of the reason I did was because the poems felt so accessible. 

As someone who does not read poetry on a regular basis, I honestly found myself plowing through them without any trouble or desire to put it down. I think it has something to do with the mixed subject matter. There was something to appeal to me in nearly every poem.

So, not only was it easy to read, but the subject matter in each poem, while it felt decipherable to me, was coupled with some very striking and vivid metaphors which really made them pop out at me.

Additionally, the poems’ forthright tone gave them a sense of relatedness. I felt like I could understand what they were about, not just intellectually, but emotionally. I could emphasize with the first person point of view in most of poems, whether I had experienced the situation described or not.

On top of that, the direct tone, coupled with their concise length, made the poems feel more immediate; there was no beating around ideas or intentions. It cut straight to what it had to say.

On a more personal level, I loved the range of subject, from reflections on relationships, to changing identity, to fairy tales, mythology, and religion.

To address a few of these:

I loved how “Lille Havfrue” uses the suffering of Andersen’s mermaid – lost of her voice, walking on knives – to evoke a sense of lost and autonomy around ones actions.

Of course I had to comment on “Siren” because…yeah. The poem builds gently, like the sea, rolling out soft words and wham! crash! at the end with the last line: “Gentle enough/To drown out your screams” (8). Not only is this textually nice, but it’s mythologically sound – sirens were beautiful and tempting but they still never hesitated to kill sailors.

In “Bathsheba” I liked the jab at King David and, regardless of what she wanted, she was stuck.

And that is part of the book’s strength: it’s ability to craft striking metaphors and clever turn of phrases so as to impress poet lovers and engage casual readers.

I don’t think I have the words to express the little details referencing literature and mythology in the poems without going through each one line by line. But just trust me, it’s there, with nods to Wizard of Oz, The Faeries, and Medusa, to name a few.

In conclusion, it’s definitely worth reading. I would recommend it for people who love poetry and people who sometimes avoid it. I’m somewhere in the middle myself; I don’t read a lot of modern poetry, but I’m not averse to reading it.  

Since Avalanche‘s poems are written in a rhythmic, diverse, entertaining, and thought provoking styl, I believe it would be appeal to anyone. Even if you don’t read poetry, you would enjoy this book because the poems are quick, easy to get into, and engaging.

Works Cited:

Prater, Jenny. Avalanche. USA: Createpace, 2015. pdf 


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