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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

WE: the poets

Cladach Publishing kindly sent me a copy of the new book POEMS to review, but most likely, the poet-author James Troy Turner will not see this. According to the book’s Preface, his poems “were written on napkins, on the pages of notebooks, journals, and legal pads, to name a few – whatever paper Troy had handy when inspiration came.” With no laptop or computer on this list, he’s most likely to be hanging out with his dog Pedro than on the Internet.

Reading POEMS, you can’t help but notice the honesty, faith, and immediacy expressed in the rhythmic, often rhyming lines. In the first poem, “God,” for example, the “I” of the poem candidly states:

“You cleansed my soul and healed me up
with tender love and care.
I only wish that I had known
that You were always there.”

Other poems, such as “Wedge of Satan,” offer fresh, unpretentious insight –

“Misunderstanding is the pulpit of evil.
It eats through your soul as the grain with the wind.”

– or they offer observation, as shown in “Lonely is the Man” –

“Lonely is the man with his face in his hands.”

– or humor, as in “All the Really Good Poems Never Get Written”

– or vulnerability and an active mind, as in “Thought:”

“I’m really not a poet;
If you read this, then you’ll know it.
But I have fun trying –
To stop would be like dying”

– which is truly spoken like a true poet.

In “About The Poet” at the end of the book, we learn that school was hard for Troy as his family “moved state to state following the harvest of various fruits.” Although an English teacher, Ethel Dean Bell, “instill(ed) in him the desire to write,” Troy did not study poetry or the fine arts but served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and later enrolled in the Denver Automotive and Diesel College.

What I’m trying to show is that poets like James Troy Turner are salt-of-the-earth people who can’t not write the poems that come to them.

I’m not sure how salty I am, but I strongly identify with Troy’s faith and the disability to stop writing.

At the other end of the spectrum of poets, we might find disbelief, cynicism, and infatuations with power, money, sex, intellectualism, and one’s own self. Having the educational advantages of language and literature at their highest, such poetry is often eloquent or, to use a favorite term, “gorgeous,” thus making beautiful the too-common contents of vulgarity, dishonesty, or despair.

Over the years, I’ve aspired to writing better and better poetry, eventually managing to line my office with seven shelves of poetry books, anthologies, and how-to’s on poetry forms, scansion, and revisions. Now, having read them at least once, my “techniques” have improved, and I’m grateful for what I’ve learned, but the pendulum has swung too far toward design, rather than content.

If WE: the poets want real readers, we need to speak to and for real people in our poems.

If WE: the poets switch our sights from prizes and publication to being more sincere, clear, and observant of what’s right in front of us, our poems will consistently be “winners.”

If WE: the poets need to return to our down-to-earth roots of honesty, truth, and genuine caring, POEMS will help.

Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, reviewer, © 2016

POEMS, paperback


  1. Amen! Being real is important or we won't communicate real meaning.

  2. Exactly! Thanks, Pat, for reading and responding. God bless.

  3. Yes, I agree with, Pat. Transparency is always take precedence over imaginative thought. Thanks, Mary!

    1. You're welcome, Shira. Thanks for the feedback.

  4. Thank you for this review, Mary. Since the poet/author isn't online himself, I'll answer for him as his publisher and friend. He didn't compose his poems to impress anyone but to express both the joy and anguish of life ... of being a dyslexic student, a returning Vietnam vet, a working man, a disabled man, a lover, a friend ,,, and through all the successes, failures, struggles--faith continuing to rise. Yes, as you say, "salt of the earth."

    1. Glad you liked it, Cathy. His poems give us all a standard for writing honestly and from the heart. God bless.