Book Review: Verses
Book Reviewed by Brianna-Christine Alicea
Verses (The Harmony, Discourse, and Undivided Pursuit of Wholeness) by Jewel Caston-Mendoza chronicles the emotions and thoughts of a lover, wife, mother, yet most importantly, a woman whose life is captured in emotional verses. The verse form is a composition written in metrical rhythm, forming rhyming lines. Caston-Mendoza categorizes her poems into seven chapters, pairing the first poem in the new chapter with a visual image by Chantece Dayshon Mendoza. Each new chapter title is reflective of the themes Caston-Mendoza uses throughout her poems. As the entry point for her book, Caston-Mendoza uses the Once Upon A Time chapter to indicate the feeling of nostalgia for past love and bliss with some undertones of despair in them. It is within this section that the reader gains a full impact of life before the skeletons in the closet. The tone of “I Looked at You” is an innocent love and hopeful for the future. She writes,
The future, my future
You didn’t look boney to me
You looked like a gazelle
Long and lean.
There is the feeling of trying to be strong eminent in the lines, for a sick loved one, trying to give strength to the loved one. However, while this poem has a sweet outer layer, its undertone is heartbreaking, for she writes,
Your spirit was enormous
Your life, so purposeful.
The speaker has boundless love for the subject of this poem, yet they sound sad at the same time.
Changes/Bare Truths reflect on the betrayal of her relationship and the emotional impacts of it. While Mendoza’s book is bluntly personal, many poems can be relatable, and personally, Changes/Bare Truths is a section that resonates the most. It reflects the downward spiral of the relationship. Her lonely and dejected, ‘Why aren’t you here,’ reminds the reader of a couple growing apart physically, mentally, emotionally. When the distance is crushing, and the most significant want is nothing more than to fix the situation so the relationship could be better again. However, there is no going back to the way things used to be, so the speaker’s only wish is to stop loving the person after they have been causing so much pain. The lines
The distance between us
Seems as wide
As the west coast
To the east coast” and “I wish I didn’t
In loving you
are compelling and relatable enough to remind a reader of a past relationship or a current one.
The author reminds the readers again of the flailing, distancing relationship—
Your sideward glance
told me more than your spoken word
It told me I was
No linger your queen.
Following a continuous and persistent search for love, many battles, and obstacles of self-acceptance and self-love, and the element of moving on—which is quite liberating—
Beauty is deeper than the ugliness I see-day by day
I am beautiful.
While this anthology of poems was brutally candid and spoke about the life of a woman of color, there was a poem that stood out amongst the rest, “Heartbeat of the Nation.” This poem was far more political than any of the other poems featured, and while it is not inferior to her other work, it was a jarring change to consider. Found in the sixth chapter, New Beginnings, the politically charged poem reflects on the current political situations and the frustrations of the continuous issues people of color face while in America. However, the contrasting topics of the poems can be overlooked because the constant emotions threaded throughout the anthology is pain and suffering being endured, which is clearly evident in all of Caston-Mendoza’s poems. Jewel Caston-Mendoza’s poetry states it is dedicated to “all the women who have been jaded one time or another,” building a connection between the author and the readers with the issues they have faced.