Review: Cathedrals of Summer by Robyn Stone-Kraft

I’m not a big poetry person, even though I publish a journal that is half poetry (that’s why I have editors who are big poetry people). But it was suggested that I take a look at Cathedrals of Summer by Robyn Stone-Kraft (Smashwords, iTunes) and give it a go. So please forgive me if I misuse terms for types of poetry.

The first part of the chapbook’s poems – “Eating a Lemon”, “Summer Psalms”, and so on, are poems about a particular sensation. They’re focused on trying to bring you into a kind of emotional state. I typically am not fond of this kind of poem; they often come across as a little too … well, “foo-foo”. They’re static moments, not dynamic changes of state. Yet though these are not really my cup of tea, I could still recognize that they’re well-crafted examples of the type.

Then halfway through the chapbook, we get to “Fields of White Clover”, which begins like another of the same type, but has allusions to something changing.

“Weave a flower crown,/be the June queen,/but don’t fall back/without looking first.”

This poem serves as our “turn” for the work, bringing us to “Roles on a Sandy Field” and “Allure on the Breeze”. These last two poems refer to events, where a dynamic moment or change is occuring. These types of poems are the kind I connect with, and are excellent examples of the form. Perhaps it is a shortcoming in myself, but when there is an event described, I am more able to empathize and be present with the work.

Aside from the individual poems, as I hinted above, there is a larger arc in the entirety of the chapbook, hinged around “Fields of White Clover”. We start with innocence and just experiencing sensation, but with the foreshadowing at the end of “Fields”, we are drawn out of innocence and into the choices that take all of us, eventually, into the wonderful and tragic world beyond.

It’s this arrangement and subtle arc that elevates the whole above its constituent parts.

A few technical notes: I read this as an ePub, and as I’ve mentioned before, formatting poetry in eBooks is a tricky thing. It is, however, well done here. The chapbook’s cover is sadly uninspiring, which is a disservice to the actual writing within. One hopes that another edition is forthcoming with a better cover.

Overall, quite recommended.

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