by Marsha L. Randolph Of all the different forms of art I would say painting and poetry can be the most difficult to review, they are both subject to personal interpretation. Fortunately I do not have to review a painting; I am however searching for the right words to describe a book of poetry entitled “Not MyLast Breath- Collected Spirit in Print” by Nadjwa Effat Laila Norton, Artist: Jason V. Roberts.
Had the author not explained her poems I would have read each poem incorporating how each word appealed to my emotions. Explaining your work is like telling the end of a movie; it spoils the entire experience. “Not My Last Breath” would have been subject to my interpretation had she kept silent. If I could disregard her words I would be able to tell you that I loved her poems except I kept remembering what she said.
I have never read a book of poems in which the writer felt the need to explain the organizational structure of a book. I have read Langston Hughes, Ntzoke Shange, Nikki Giavonni, Willie Joyce Floyd, C. William “Champ” Morris, Bianca Floyd and a few others I don’t recall them ever doing such. Those I know personally have asked me, upon completion of a poem: “What do you think?”
For example she begins her book (after the traditional acknowledgments of course) on page 8:
“Dear Readers :
“Not My Last Breath: Collected Spirit Talk in Print” was created with the intention that it would speak to people with a range of spiritualities.”
This word “spiritual” is what has caused me pause. For me as a believer in Jesus there is only one God thus there is one Spirit therefore when someone refers to “many spiritual entities” (page 7) or “enacted our spiritual calls” (page 16) as a Christian I have to double check what the writer is talking about. I walk away disappointed not by the quality of the poetry but by the inspiration behind the words.
Paintings and poems are art that is subject to interpretation. I would have enjoyed the poems from a Christian perspective had the writer not went through such pains as to explain her work. Instead I was taken out of my world and brought into hers, one of which I am only vaguely familiar with. To the few individuals who follow my reviews: my overall impression is this book leans on a Unitarian or New Age way of thinking.
I would recommend this book if you see at a library. (The artwork was beautiful.)
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.