Reviewed by Elvis Alves
by Antonio J. Hopson
Anaphora Literary Press
Paperback: 60 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1681140957, May 2015
During the Crusades, European priests kissed cannons, by way of blessing them, as soldiers marched east to fight what was perceived as the threat of Islam. Instead of cannons, Antonio J. Hopson uses words as his weapon of choice in the poetry collection Seven, and that for the most part focuses on a love affair. “I am a poet. I use words” (Mr. Law, 31). Amazingly, his use of words gives the impression that this affair—at least for him—resembles the carnage of the Crusades.
In Men like Me, Hopson admits that he is like those “Who storm the gate, mad with love. Mad with it. Cannon fodder and shrapnel in their faces…” (7). In Bleach, one of the strongest poems of the collection, he writes, “There have been a thousand lies gifted to me as truth…” and “My fire the one I always lit for you, is now buried in the ash of what was once love” (24). However, there is hope, “I will never allow you to stomp on my little fire again. For now I know you are envious of it” (Bleach, 25). Hopson is able to love again, even though bruised. “The stars have returned, and they are closer than we dreamed. As it turns out, my apocalypse was only the beginning of a new cloud of ash from which to make more stars” (A Story To The Girl In The Black Dress With Eyes The Color Of A Rainy Seattle Day, 46).
We are told this toward the end of the book, after being saturated with what can be interpreted as the author’s obsession with his hurt. And in writing this review I recognize that what I just said might come across as offensive. After all, who am I to tell Hopson or anyone else not to write about their pain? I recognize the therapeutic nature of writing. So does Hopson and he should be congratulated for this. What I object to is the proliferation of the author’s personal pain (or that of his partner) in most of the poems, making them sound the same.
Hopson moves away from this tendency at certain points, as in the aptly titled Mr. Hopson (which is a response poem by a character named Mr. Law), “The W in my name is for many things. Wanderlust is one you know, but wit is what I choose to show! I surf the surging ebb and flow, on tides of Whitman, Hughes, and Poe. So hop on, Hopson” (32). There is a welcomed playfulness in this poem that is missing from some of the other poems. This theme is also in Crazy Normal, “NPR is in your car, you drive right by my favorite bar without a clue, and like a shrew, you’ve never been to Katmandu” (45).
Hopson is a poet of promise. He writes, “my world is ablaze,” and this is true (My World on Fire, 33). I wanted to have witnessed this fire in more of the poems in this collection. I look forward to reading more of his work as he, and the rest of us, navigate this life (which can be of carnage at times) with the light of words.
About the reviewer: Elvis Alves is the author of the poetry collection Bitter Melon (Mahaicony Books, 2013). Find out more at www.poemsbyelvis.blogspot.com