The Truth I Must Invent by Francis DeClemente

There is a delicate balance between writing for the sake of the writer and writing to communicate to the reader. Once it has been written, poetry that is too therapeutic has served its purpose. Once it is words on the page its value becomes what it communicates, and to whom it speaks. The most successful poetry reaches out to the universal truths and feelings, to that which exists in all of us. The more specific it is, the smaller readership it communicates to.

This means that the poems in Section II of the book that deal with the poet’s specific medical and social problems have less impact. Once we get to Section IV, which deals with poetry and being a poet, the scope widens, and Section V, which speaks of empathy, is much more effective. Several poems in this section use imagery and symbolism, which give depth and meaning to the communication.

A particular favourite of mine is “Witness,” which portrays a specific, vivid experience in which the poet immerses us so well that we understand why he decided to communicate it in poetry rather than modern digital images.

The section on parenthood reaches out to a wider audience, since so many of us have similar experiences. But the basic lesson plays out in this section as well. The experiences the poet puts us through are felt by all parents, whether our child is autistic or not, and mentioning the handicap narrows the effective readership from “parents” to “parents of autistic children.”

Having myself dealt with an autistic child in a restaurant, I can testify to the accuracy of one of the poems. However, the reviewer’s job is to predict the response of the average poetry reader, who has no such experience. This poem is conversational in style and does not appeal to the emotions like it could with more use of poetic expression.

In this book, the poems which relate to the wider experience of the wider audience also contain the best poetic writing, and are most successful in appealing to the reader. The more focused works tend to be less poetic in style and have a narrower appeal.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

About the Author: Gordon Long

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