Reviewed by Alex Phuong
One of the most interesting features of life is patterns that exist all around the world. Clever designs prepend artistic merit to an otherwise mundane life. After all, life without vivacity is oftentimes monotonous. Patterns help people connect with one another because of the universal and fundamental fact that everything is interconnected because of the diversity that defines the world and its inhabitants. Therefore, Carol Smallwood’s newest poetry collection, entitled, Patterns: Moments in Time, once again explores the sublime nature of reality that reveals how life can be truly extraordinary.
Smallwood organizes her poetic masterpieces with a prologue, three sections, and an epilogue that create a gestalt-like collection that proves that the entirety of her collection as a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Within the prologue, Smallwood addresses how “Driving Into Town” offers the idea of embarking on the mystical journey known as life itself. Life has been compared to traveling on a road that can be a bumpy ride metaphorically, but Smallwood suggests that reality can be like a cabaret, or as she puts it, “a cocktail party” (4). The classiness of an elegant party compares life to an experience that must be felt to enjoy what life can offer any given person. Therefore, Smallwood immediately establishes her assertion that “moments in time” must be enjoyed since time is limited.
Smallwood reiterates the importance of time by acknowledging the cyclical nature of life. Her poem entitled, “A Dawn Trio” reveals how life operates like clockwork. Specifically, she capitalizes the phrases, “Dawn Comes” (1), “My Hands” (5), and “Every Morning” (17). The structure of this poem is similar to the doctrine of the Trinity because devout Christian believers believe that the purpose of life is serving with humility. Even though the “Dawn Comes” (1) daily, human hands must perform good work to add significance to otherwise bland existence. The phrase “Every Morning” (17) emphasizes the fact that people who enjoy life will be able to “recall home” (24) since Earth itself is the only home. This “Dawn Trio” figuratively creates the daily circadian lifestyle that defines human existence and emphasizes how there is beauty in every day even though all people encounter bad days. Therefore, this powerful poem with a structured pattern suggests that life itself is beautiful no matter how bad life may seem.
“It made the ground we walked unreliable/following question marks of increasing girth / the change was just undeniable.”
The second part of this poetry collection, entitled, “In the Observing” demonstrates how people could observe patterns in both the natural world and their daily lives by simply looking around with their eyes. Patterns do exist in the world, and sometimes these patterns exist just because they exist. Specifically, the poem entitled “Carl Sagan Called Our Planet” openly exhibits one of the most puzzling questions about existence, which is, “what makes water blue?” (4). Smallwood then attempts to answer that question by reminding readers that young children might also ask, “why the sky’s blue?” (6). This reply suggests that some patterns in the world might exist so that there is no need for an explanation. Maybe patterns exist just because they do, and all of the patterns in the world help create decorative elegance within an otherwise harsh and painful existence. Life can definitely be challenging, but big questions oftentimes have no easy answers, and should instead just be accepted for what it is (just like knowing life and loving life for what it is).
The third section and epilogue of Patterns: Moments in Time emphasize the eponymous phrase through symbolic poetry. The third part is called, “Connections” and it contains poems that beautifully explore how patterns reveal the aestheticism within everything in the world and in life. Specifically, the poem “Select Moments” is actually similar to another poetry collection by Smallwood, which is called A Matter of Selection. This beautiful poem contains the stanza “Surely if I stood tall as possible / Long enough, tried hard enough / there’d come some hints, some pattern? (18-20). The rhetorical question that concludes this poem directly relates to the importance of demonstrating a sincere effort to live a meaningful life.
Life itself is a matter of choices, as explored in A Matter of Selection, but Smallwood uses this stanza to reveal how people would sometimes pursue their dreams while also confronting the anxiety associated with what the future holds. Sometimes choices lead to unintentional consequences, but that just shows how life is a process. People might make poor choices sometimes, but Smallwood suggests that there is no need to fret over making mistakes because of patterns that result from cause and effect. Therefore, causes and effects are essentially patterns that form from human behavior. Such an insightful examination of the way people act within moments in time ultimately create the patterns that exist all around them as they make choices based on their own matters of selection.
Smallwood is truly a profound poet. Her previous poetry collections delve deep into what it means to be alive, which is what most writers hope to achieve when they create their own original works of written art. Smallwood’s poetry offers insight into the connections that people in have along with their relationships with the world around them, and ultimately the entire universe itself. In Hubble’s Shadow explores how people are compared to the unfathomable universe, and A Matter of Selection reveals how choices, both good and bad, really do determine the future. Once again, Smallwood examines how human behavior establishes patterns based on decisions they make within moments in time. Therefore, she has achieved fame as one of the most gifted and prolific authors in contemporary writing. Through simplicity and profundity, Smallwood’s poetry examines what it means to be alive with audacity. Life itself is short anyway, so why not treasure moments in time? Smallwood once again writes poetry that will hopefully inspire readers to re-examine what truly is beautiful in the world.
About Alex Andy Phuong
Alex Andy Phuong graduated from California State University-Los Angeles with his Bachelor of Arts in English in 2015 and was an editor for Statement Magazine. He currently writes articles and film reviews online. His writing has appeared in The Bookends Review, Society of Classical Poets, and Wilderness House Literary Review #12/4. Alex writes with the sincerest hope to inspire readers. You can see visit his blog at the following link: http://alexandyphuongengl492playlist.blogspot.com/
Be sure to grab your copy of Carol Smallwood’s Patterns: Moments in Time to read all of her poems.