All About Love: Poems from Mixed Experience
by Joan Bonnell Clark
Paperchase Solution, LLC

"The low, strong song of a woman
stretched to her tallest
offering her fullest”"

In six sections spanning subjects such as "Regarding Love" and "Over-the-Hill Love," this book takes readers on a whimsical, passionate, and sometimes serious exploration of the different facets of romance, erotic love, camaraderie, and friendship. In often straightforward verses with uncomplicated structures, a woman's desires and passions come alive. The intricacies and clarities of love explain and tantalize, torment and drive, praise but never criticize. More importantly, readers encounter a love that defies fairy tale stereotypes, and they join one woman on her journey of romantic development, understanding, and fulfillment at physical and spiritual levels.

This book explores the comforts of a known relationship, be it a romantic or a platonic one, in poems such as "Telephone Talk." This poem depicts camaraderie and warmth: "All hurts heal as we laugh and recount / What's happened while we've been apart." Moreover, it conveys a sense of preserved youth that many who have maintained a friendship or connection for many years will understand: "The glow lasts on through mental reviews… / Sure, talking with you is such fun." In this poem, familiarity becomes the key platform, one that's almost a shared secret revealing the clandestine spice of a classified, top-secret recipe. This sense of sharing and comfort continues in the poem "Near You," which in its sweet simplicity serves as a reflection about how much two people who have lived for years together actually share: "Reading a piece you have written, / Admiring whatever you're wearing, / Recalling the times we've had together."

The intimate connectedness threads into the poem "We Watch," where again simplicity permeates: "We watch so still across your desk." In contrast to the easily accessible language and images used throughout the poem, the relationship's complexities shine, both as an embraced challenge and a carefully observed warning: "And charting channels, gauging risk / Between past's rocks and future's shores." This connectedness and embrace of the challenges that flood a relationship take a spiritual tone in the poem "Grant Us Time." With its prayerful tone, the poem becomes a reminder that a couple's connectedness can often bind their spiritual beliefs and connections. This poem serves as a reminder that, for many, faith serves as the center of a relationship.

"Blemished Gift" offers readers a different sort of centering, one based on the admission of faults and imperfections. Appearing as "artificial hips" and "surgical scars," these gifts that the narrator offers to a beloved provide readers with a conclusion of affirmation. Also, the narrator displays resolve. Despite the lover's or the emotion's imperfections, love continues in the form of sacrifice and offering, "Whatever those years may bring." In this final poem, the collection concludes, leaving readers with a sense of wholeness, security, awareness, and devotion.

With its full-circle, thematic sections, this collection will appeal to poets interested in themed works. It is also a delightful read for those wanting to explore poetry with a partner because the collection's accessibility and sensibility will appeal to readers of varying backgrounds, experiences, and inclinations. This isn't just a book for Valentine's Day. It's an everyday reminder of the work and dedication love requires and of the joys it can bring.

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