Renaissance Dreams: Life’s Journey Through Poetry
by Juanita Gaskin
Inks & Bindings

"There were no loving arms to hold me tight,
only the emptiness of a young girl’s longing
to be loved."

This poetry collection is a culmination of a life well-lived via poetry and photography. In its pages, readers encounter a speaker whose constant companion is one with which many are familiar—depression. However, while it tackles the difficult issues which often present themselves as one navigates depression, it also addresses the small glimmers of hope and restoration one finds amid the chaos. Specifically, it includes a personal speaker willing to share their childhood, adulthood, and survival experiences. This journey through a lifetime separate from one’s own is eye-opening and soul-awakening, especially as the speaker discloses intimate confessions such as “There were no loving arms to hold me tight, / only the emptiness of a young girl’s longing / to be loved.”

Poems like “A Day at the Welfare Office” might remind readers of poems like Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room” in tone and structure. Thematically, however, the poem is a dark portrayal of inequality permeating America’s fractured social services systems. The speaker observes, “They treat us with no respect, telling us we need / to get jobs, as if a job will alleviate the poverty.” The poem addresses the disrespect workers within the social services system often offer the impoverished and disenfranchised. A bold, albeit hopeless, poem, it reminds readers that for those trapped in society’s inequity, life is hostile, and their circumstances seem inescapable.

Other poems, such as “Life on Hold,” reflect on a life where “Fear deferred the dream.” It is a poem filled with self-recognition and self-awareness, one in which the speaker recognizes they are “Living the dream so late / in life.” However, despite this awareness, it is not a poem about self-pity, loss, and what might have been. Instead, it transforms into a poem about how a single moment can transform into a moment of new beginnings. The speaker acknowledges, “I will start anew, away from the / pain of the past, away from those / who think I dream too much.” It is a poem of self-preservation and self-reclamation, one that will inspire readers to embrace the moment in which they are living.

As the collection progresses, it segues into the section titled “The Journey Continues.” This section bears poems about the weight of personal loss and the significance of personal belongings. It also carries a deep, inspiring message for abused women. In the poem “A Message to Daughters, Sisters, and Friends,” the speaker offers advice rooted in experience. The speaker asserts, “Take care to preserve what is yours, / left to you by your ancestors.” The speaker then leaves readers with a powerful message about transforming negative energy into positive energy: “Do not lose your way, / redirect pain with power!” These messages remind readers that simple changes in one’s life can make a huge impact.

This book is part poetry collection, part emotional survival manual. Its verses are poignant and personal. For many, its words will inspire them to reclaim who they are as individuals. Reading these poems is like sitting with an old friend and engaging in intimate, enlightening conversations that put one back onto the path of living life to the fullest.

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