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Henry Thomas

Adult; Poetry; (Publish)

RISE celebrates the diversity of our beautiful planet and its inhabitants and it unveils harsh truths that need to be faced before we can experience total-world transformation. Most importantly, it inspires us to dive deep within ourselves and truly introspect, especially during these uncertain times fraught with fear, racism, and societal collapse.
Thomas establishes the tone of this wide-ranging and impassioned collection in the opening of its second poem: “I do not know about you,/ but I’m having a love affair with poetry./ It turns my warm body on/ like I do not know what.” That demonstrates his enthusiasm, plainspoken clarity, and willingness to take risks in self expression, tendencies that dominate the several dozen works that follow: “In case you didn’t get the memo,” he writes a hundred or so pages later, in a section dedicated to “Philosophical & Social” concerns, “Real men are sensitive too.” Other poems in that category speak hard truth about the hate encountered by the participants in an interracial relationship (“If we bow down to the haters,/the world can’t ascend”) or call for an end to deadnaming with this potent declaration: “So stop impacting my well-being/ and call me by my chosen name.”

Those searing lines, though, are the pointed exceptions in a collection that often is as buoyant as the hot air balloons depicted on its cover, as Thomas celebrates all that makes life worth living and fighting for, from hydrangeas (“Their blooms last longer than a social media vine”) to departed greats (“Reign on forever, my purple Prince”), to the interconnectedness of creation explored in the ecstatic “One With Nature,” which opens with “My skin is like the Black Dirt region of a Hawaiian beach” and builds to the inimitable “My tears are like the falling waters at/ Frank Lloyd Wright’s UNESCO/ World Heritage House.”

Such striking connections power Thomas’s most compelling work, inviting readers to contemplate the possible meanings. Other poems, especially on spiritual or inspirational topics, tend toward the didactic or proscriptive, lacking such mystery (“If you find your life going off course,/ stop the car and pull out the map,” though they’re still touched by the poet’s inimitable wisdom, clarity, and sense of hope.

Takeaway: A rousing collection of poems that celebrates all that makes life worth living and justice worth fighting for.

Great for fans of: Ruben Rivera’s ​​Z is for Zapatazo, Shamir Kali Griffin.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: B
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A