Review: Disinheritance by John Sibley Williams

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I’ve read a number of poetry collections lately but they’ve all dealt with different themes. Here’s a really thought-provoking one that certainly inspires strong emotions:

Disinheritance by John Sibley Williams
Genre: Poetry

A lyrical, philosophical, and tender exploration of the various voices of grief, including those of the broken, the healing, the son-become-father, and the dead, Disinheritance acknowledges loss while celebrating the uncertainty of a world in constant revision. From the concrete consequences of each human gesture to soulful interrogations into “this amalgam of real / and fabled light,” these poems inhabit an unsteady betweenness, where ghosts can be more real than the flesh and blood of one’s own hands.

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With a theme like grief, you know to expect some pretty hard-hitting messages and this poet proves he’s more than capable of handling this topic. This collection is really powerful and evocative, and each poem has something important to say. If you’ve had personal experiences with grief as I’m sure many people have, it may be tough reading some of these poems but I think the poet does a really great job in discussing these feelings.

A few of my favourites that really struck a chord were Postpartum, Alight, and Teething. Some weren’t to my taste, especially those that were more disturbing, but I did enjoy reading each one. I especially enjoyed reading the titles of each poem, as many of them had a clear connection to the main theme even from this first “line”, like A Dead Boy Distinguishes Proximal from Distal, Bone River, and Preparations Have Been Made. Obviously the poet has a lot of creativity at his disposal.

One thing I thought was missing in this collection was an intro of some sort at the beginning. I like to get to know the poet more than trying to uncover the meanings of their poems so I would’ve liked some kind of lead-in, either setting up the following poems or explaining the poet’s motives. Just something to give me some kind of insight as to what to expect.

This isn’t a particularly high rating for me but I can’t really explain what’s preventing me from giving this collection more stars. It’s more just my personal taste in poetry and I couldn’t fully connect with these poems. I think poetry is really down to individual taste so I definitely don’t think my rating should reflect on what yours may be. There are very powerful poems in this collection and I think you’re sure to find something you like within it.

About the Author: John Sibley Williams is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Disinheritance (Apprentice House, 2016) and Controlled Hallucinations (FutureCycle Press, 2013), and hasJohn image served as editor of the two Northwest poetry anthologies Alice at the Center (Ooligan Press, 2013) and Motionless from the Iron Bridge (barebones books, 2013). A five-time Pushcart nominee, John has won the Philip Booth Poetry Prize, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry.

John co-founded the Inflectionist poetry movement, edits its journal, The Inflectionist Review, and has previously served as Board Member of the Friends of William Stafford, Co-Director of the Walt Whitman 150 organization, and Contest Chair of Oregon Poetry Association. He also co-founded the Moolit College and an MA in Book Publishing from Portland State University, where he served as Acquisitions Manager of Ooligan Press and Marketing Manager of Three Muses Press.

Currently John works as Marketing Director of Inkwater Press and as a freelance literary agent and publicist, representing poets and writers of fiction and nonfiction. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Author links:Facebook

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own


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