Reviewed by Deborah Lloyd for Readers' Favorite
A collection of humorous, poignant and spiritual poems by William T. Elliott comprises the book, A War of Love. In the introduction, Mr. Elliott explains he wrote these poems over a span of thirty years. Many of the poems describe nature, whether the topic is birds, squirrels or a rainy day. Other poems are derived from life experiences and would be most relatable to the older generation. For example, the author relates a time when his boyhood behavior was a result of the Little Rascals’ television program. Also, one of his most poignant pieces, entitled Johnny, describes his friendship with a black schoolmate during the time of segregation/desegregation. Another meaningful poem is one dedicated to his father, who experienced trauma during World War II. Later, the poet shares that he too is a veteran.
A War of Love: Poems by William T. Elliott is a book of whimsical, as well as touching, poetry. While the author certainly loves and honors his wife, he also shares their little annoyances, from microwave popcorn to computer card games – an accurate description of the retirement years, it seems. Also, he includes photographs from their home in Hot Springs in the western part of South Dakota, as well as photographs of local sights such as Mount Rushmore. Mr. Elliott has given voice to the experiences of his generation through his poetry. He depicts times of childhood through to current times of aging. He makes references to not having much hair left and that he will see his father again soon. His work is thought provoking indeed.
reviewed by Mihir Shah
"Some say you need a gun to fight
but no you really don’t
Instead you need your God above
with Him there is your might."
In A War of Love, William T. Elliott seeks a therapeutic reprieve from nagging panic attacks, but instead ends up capturing the essence of the human spirit through a series of timeless, evergreen poems revolving around prayer, philosophy, nature, and animals. With no clear structure or rhythm, A War of Love won’t be mistaken for an Edgar Allen Poe or Sylvia Path piece; however, the stream of conscious style that Elliott exudes in his work has a genuine, heartfelt aura that will likely resonate with individuals of all ages.
Although the poems are split into six sections, including the compilation’s namesake, Elliott’s observations on animals remain consistent throughout. Four consecutive poems, “THE BEAGLE,” “A CAT,” “THE CHICKADEE,” and “THE DEER,” grace the opening of the collection and establish a romanticization of everyday animals. What makes these poems sparkle is the elimination of age appeal. In “A CAT,” young or old can reminisce fondly on the memorable temperament of a cat that, “gives me not a nod at all,” unless it is feeding time. In “THE HAWK AND THE BLACKBIRD,” like in the poems above, there is unique energy in the author’s writing style and pace that matches the animals’ love of life that Elliott successfully portrays. Perhaps the most intriguing poem, appearing in “Additional Poems,” is “THE BUTTERFLY.” In a matter of five quatrains, the poet injects the reader with childhood nostalgia. The poem itself is emblematic of coming of age: Children are in their own cocoon, and when they become adults, they too, like a butterfly, fly away.
Elliott adds a distinctly personal touch to his words by including personal photographs, none more riveting than the picturesque landscapes of Angostura Reservoir and Coldbrook Dam in South Dakota. This ode to nature is in full form in “THE MISSOURI” and “THE SNOWFLAKE,” both poems that use mother nature and imagery of all five senses to reinvigorate the human spirit and help readers remember what it really means to be alive, be it hearing “the waves that wash upon the sand,” or “the feel of flakes past chilly ears.” While Elliott appears to be focused more on evoking a particular emotion from the reader rather than spectacular structure, his poem, “THE SNOWFLAKE,” exhibits an abundance of strong structure, repetition, and simile that allows the readers to conjure the image of snowflakes falling like “cotton tuffs” in the day and “dandruff’s spite” in the night.
As the poetry progresses, so does Elliott’s depth of observation. While the poems on animals and nature dwell on what is apparent to the eye, his thought-provoking philosophy poems touch on many of the world’s “elephant in the room” topics that most try to avoid. Poems like “Loneliness,” “Frustration,” and “Hope,” discuss the struggle man faces throughout life’s journey, while “Pipe Dreams” seeks to keep readers grounded and avoid the sometimes inevitable delusions of grandeur that find ways into one’s thoughts. “DEATH OF A THOUGHT,” however, stands on its own and represents the metaphysical element of time, inciting a debate of whether one should wait for the right moment to act or simply seize the moment.
Directly or indirectly, A War of Love seeks to infuse the reader with life and love that is ultimately actualized with prayer. Poems like “PRAYER,” and “PEACE” are indicative of the hope that prayer brings, but “WAR OF THE SPIRIT” is not only representative of prayer, but, from a subjective point of view, is central to the compilation and renders spirit and love as synonymous.
There are numerous other poems that don’t necessarily fit in a category mentioned above, though that is hardly a knock on their ability to captivate. Both “THE DELICATE KISS” and “HOW TO GET ALONG WITH A WOMAN” share the spirit of intimate love with legendary poems like “When You are Old” by literary behemoth, William Butler Yeats.
A War of Love will fall short for those who are looking for precision with meter, pinpoint use of literary devices, and poetic perfection. For poetry aficionados who are looking for an authentic voice and heartfelt poetry that drives home the meaning of being alive, A War of Love is a pleasurable endeavor.
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