I interviewed this author last month (find that here) and now it’s time for my review! This poetry/prose/stream of consciousness collection was a pretty quick read but one I think deserves a second read-through (as I’ll get into below). Read on!
Cognitive Debris by Steven C. Nelson
Genre: Poetry / Short story
Throughout the years, you live and witness and experience. And all of those phenomena are recalled later in varying degrees of completeness and accuracy. These excerpts from life are periods of personal tumult, events that generated intense emotions, and accounts of others’ conquests that are so poignant you’ve never forgotten them, not one detail. They are variations of trite phrases that you’ve altered to help you better remember them, and fictional stories incubated in your imagination that you augment to become more complex and pleasing. They are funny things you used to say, a trademark phrase, a “youmark”-something everyone at the party expects to hear at least twice from you. You collect them and protect them because they mean something to you, and maybe only you-they are you. We all live with this cognitive debris, and how we interpret and react to the events of each day is filtered through the prism it creates in each of us. This is mine.
As I’ve said before, it’s tough rating a collection because there are some ‘chapters’ that I liked more than others, so it’d be different if I was rating each one individually. And for clarity’s sake, there are both poems and stories in here so I’m going to refer to them as ‘chapters’ though they don’t make up one larger story (at least as far as I can tell).
The collection is broken up into two parts, beginning with prose and then moving to verse, though the prose section makes up more than 2/3rds of the book. While there were several chapters from the first section that stood up, I found that overall I preferred the verse section. There were just a few things that bothered me about the prose. First, which is totally a personal opinion, I prefer prose that doesn’t rhyme so those that did in this collection were at odds with what I like in this genre. There were also some that used unnecessarily long words, sometimes even making up an entire sentence on their own. In these cases, I felt like simpler words could actually allow you to understand the meaning of the whole better, rather than stumble through the reading.
I wasn’t sure entirely how to understand this collection as a whole, which was part of my difficulty in reading the prose section and where I think a second read-through could help. I expected more of a seasonal theme, especially with the first couple chapters involving winter but it wasn’t a continuous theme; it just kind of popped in and out. The more overarching theme seems to be around family and relationships. However, while I could grasp this common theme, I didn’t know how the individual stories related to each other and that’s the main reason I’d like to read through it again.
At times it felt like there was one narrator but the stories didn’t always fit well together so I wasn’t sure if they actually were different speakers. The ordering of the prose section also felt a little back and forth as one chapter would be angry, then hopeful, then back to angry, and some even felt like a repeat of an earlier chapter. Reading these as their own unique stories makes it much easier to understand but I think in some cases a reordering would really benefit the reader by providing a more logical progression.
With all that said, I do want to reiterate that I enjoyed this collection! While the layout was a little confusing, the stories and poems themselves were oftentimes very powerful. A few of my favourites were The Last Time, Dichotomy, Cursor, and The Cursed Home was a very fun poem to read! This book is only 100 pages so it’s a nice quick read for when you have some downtime, maybe even when you’re enjoying nature as the front cover suggests.
About the Author:
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.