Last Summer I flew from New York City to Seattle, a trip that felt like forever. I had a window seat, but it was an evening flight so I couldn’t see any of the Canadian Rockies. The person next to me had clearly taken something to help him sleep because he was passed out within seconds after boarding. The WiFi was down, and I couldn’t pick what I wanted to watch on the overhead televisions. I figured it wouldn’t matter what was on, just so long as there was something.
I was wrong. The feature film was The Smurfs….2.
First of all, it’s a well-known fact that sequels are never as good as the original, so it didn't even have that going for it. Secondly, the only Smurf I’m a fan of is the Smurf Sangria at my local brunch spot. With no other choice, I plugged in my headphones and sat through The Smurfs 2 because I thought it had to have been better than just sitting in silence, doing nothing.
Two hours later, the film finished. I was relieved. Maybe they would play something a little more interesting, I thought, or at the very least something that would appeal to the passengers over the age of 8. After a brief intermission, the second film started. And what do you think they showed? Just guess. What could follow that paradigm of cinematic excellence? I’ll tell you.
They played Smurfs 2. Again. I wanted to hop out the emergency exit right there. I could’ve kicked myself for not bringing a book with me.
Don’t get stuck in that position. Be prepared. Bring a book.
Lucky for you, I’m here to review some of the newest releases in the literary world. I’m reading everything from poetry to memoirs to literary fiction, and the occasional experimental work. Today I’m reviewing an independently published collection of poems by a young artist named Makenzie Campbell.
Let me start this off by saying I LOVE poetry. I studied it in college, wrote 20-page final essays on it, and took so many poetry classes I practically started thinking in rhyme and meter. Postmodern poetry has always been my favorite, but I thought I’d branch out and see more of what the poets of today are doing. That’s how I stumbled upon 2AM Thoughts.
And so, in the age of Rupi Kaur and tumblr poetry, comes a teenage spin on flash poetry. It’s a quick read, taking about 45 minutes to finish, so it’s perfect for when you’re in a hurry. Though the book is split into two sections, Dusk and Dawn, each poem functions as a stand alone and can be enjoyed independently of the others. You can read a page or two as a break from drafting that project proposal, or you can power through it during a short layover.
Now, for the sake of being completely honest here, not every poem is a hit. While some resonated with me deeply, others kind of missed the mark. For example, on page 18, “you are the sand that doesn’t stick when I am dry and sad” doesn’t really rustle my jimmies. It’s also not the most groundbreaking proclamation I have ever read. Something about being explicitly told she’s sad is just too much of a nobrainer.
Like of course you’re sad, it’s a book of poetry.
But, when you consider the author is only eighteen, you begin viewing these poems through a different lens; looking at her poetry through the context of age inspire a sense nostalgia. Campbell’s poetry deals explicitly with the need to be accepted and even desired by one’s peers, which is a feeling we all remember from high school.
Additionally, she talks about the struggle of finding an identity separate from that need to be loved, which is such a real struggle at that age. She addresses heartbreak in the context of young love, and if that doesn’t remind you of some of the most raw and expressive days of your life, then you’ve missed out on a quintessential aspect of growing up. Though it’d be an oversimplification to classify this work as a “coming of age” piece, 2AM Thoughts brings back so many memories of learning to love as a young adult.
Yes, every poem isn’t perfect, but there’s a real sincerity in Campbell’s writing. You can tell that this work means a lot to the her, and that it comes from a very real place, whether or not some of the topics feel juvenile at times. One could even argue that it’s the less refined poems that make it so heartfelt and truthful. That occasional grittiness overall takes the collection to another level.
That’s not to say that the collection is overrun with rough pieces. There’s really only a few that didn’t work for me, but that's just me, and as a whole, this book of poems is really fantastic.
On page 33, Campbell writes:
“Today I inked my skin with your name // Not because I like the look and not because I love you // I got a tattoo because I enjoy the feeling of knowing it will never leave me even if you decide to.”
Go ahead and try to tell me that isn’t gold. It's gold. You know it. Her writing style is so straightforward and honest that it makes me shiver. It’s impactful, without being convoluted or immensely dense that can be a common fault in many a lot of other works of poetry.
It’s the easy to read, unpolished style that makes this an accessible and enjoyable work for anyone.
Overall, I’d say this a strong start to Campbell’s career as an author. It’s definitely worth picking up if you have some spare time between flights or need a quick distraction from the kid kicking your seat back. If you’re a fan of the impressionistic style that’s becoming a staple of recent poetry, I’d say go for it. If you’re more like me and get your kicks from dissecting a piece word by word, this might feel a little bit juvenile. Regardless, it’s worth picking up a copy and supporting a young author.
Happy reading and travels!