Title: Sands of Centuries Swirl By My Side
Author: Kathleen Byron Etzel
This vibrant collection of poetry provides a thoughtful look at love and passion, grief and loss, with glancing references to God, heaven, and hell in what seems to be an unorthodox viewpoint.
The topics of the poems vary, though most share the same theme. One presents the struggles of challenging an alcoholic while another seems to examine marriage from a somewhat cynical point of view, yet the messages of the poems are overall filled with hope and optimism, speaking of souls and love that lives on despite separation or even death.
The beauty and power of the individual is celebrated throughout, whether as seen in a couple or alone, which adds to the empowering nature of these pieces. The lengths are nicely varied, with some poems only a few lines long while others cover pages. Most are written from a first-person perspective—though the identity of the speaker is left largely up to the reader to interpret, providing the first of many intellectual opportunities readers get to enjoy in this work.
Another such “challenge” is identifying just what the poem is discussing and what it’s saying. The terms used in the poems are clear, but their structure and the abstract nature of the themes of most of them can make them like poetic riddles, distinct and yet unknowable, a burst of flavor and mood and thought without ever breaking into any message stronger than a feeling, an idea.
The words and syntax used in this work echo the intellectual flavor of the poems, as older English terms like “thee” and “t’was” appear on a fairly frequent basis. Similarly, the words that provide the rhymes or appear within the poems’ lines can be longer than is common, to where three or four syllable terms appear on a regular basis, which may make this work less accessible for some readers while adding to the scholarly feel.
While the narrative tone varies, the intellectual capabilities of the voice behind the poems rarely changes, offering readers a unifying quality to these rather diverse works of art.
The volume itself could offer a broader style of poetry, though, as most of the poems seem to follow the same cadence and even follow a similar rhyming structure, though the words used to create the rhymes are certainly unique and far from repetitious. The terms in the poems can be repeated, with concepts like “grace,” “beauty,” and “soul” being found in a variety of poems, but this creates a kind of thematic unity to the work as a whole.
Perfect for those looking for poems where the message is clear and yet obscured, intellectual yet universal, and modern while being timeless, Sands of Centuries Swirl By My Side offers poetry that creates a vision which connects what is experienced with greater, broader concepts. The pieces are delightfully ambiguous, crafted to create a mood rather than a clear message. Each hangs like a piece of glass in a window, shining and mysterious and changeable depending on the day and how one approaches them.
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