Winner of the American Book Fest 2021 Best Book Award for Contemporary Poetry
Winner of the 2021 IndieReader Discovery Award for Best Cover Design in Fiction
Ryan Meyer departs from the horror themes of 2018's Haunt in his new collection of poems, Tempest. He explores fear, hope, and self-identity through striking fictional vignettes and surreal personal accounts. Tempest is thus a marriage between the dichotomies of musical, rhythmic poetic dialogue, and the deeper, innate anxieties that accompany change. Discover your truest self and brave the Tempest.
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You can’t expect in a book of fifty poems that each one is going to speak to you. If the majority do then I would suggest the poet has done a very good job.
In Tempest: Poems, poet, Ryan Meyer didn’t make the cut, but there still are a good number of poems in this collection that are nothing short of astonishing.
Meyer is at his best when he comes at a subject obliquely, understanding coming as a satisfying surprise. Examples, where this is best achieved, are with Flamingo, the weekend, and drinking and dreaming of being somewhere, anywhere else. And again in Straight Bs, “Still, the lights guide me, Inch by inch, to the dance floor, Where glances have evolved Into lower back rubs … It’s dim enough for anyone To be a dance partner.”
Good poets have a way of saying what you already know or have experienced but saying it with originality. Meyer taps into this secret to universal appeal in Somewhere Else, that “…ends up just as disappointing as right here.” And again, in Cavernous where “Even my dreams leave me An anxious mess, feeling as if I’ve missed something, that I Have reason to be worried.”
This originality can also be illustrated in a unique perspective as is the case in On Evolution, where the poet compares his own purpose to that of a caterpillar and worries, “I hope growing wings doesn’t have to hurt”. And then with Long, Long After, a unique reflection of the past “The way everything was Before pie tins on the kitchen table Became ashtrays beneath wrinkled faces”.
Sometimes it’s diction, cleverly choosing the exact words. This is exemplified in A Melancholy Album Cover for a Coffee Shop Artist where Myer nails the affectations of an amateur. He achieves it again in Come Around, with this description “… the women who wouldn’t have Let this go any other way, who stood, Arms crossed, one foot tapping, Eyes staring daggers, unmovable, In the way of all other outcomes." Unique imagery that resonates on the periphery of your consciousness.
His success is with poems that are not momentous, but just moments, like the heartrending description of the death of a sparrow in No Science to Loneliness.
However, themes of relationship angst, reminiscences of misplaced or wasted youth and existential anguish are too often revisited. They’re accompanied by a lack of intensity along with lots of garden analogies and weather metaphors. A few resemble the self-indulgent verse of adolescents using clichéd phrases like “tear-stained pillows” and “You leave me speechless.”
But despite the shortcomings, Tempest: Poems by Ryan Meyer is worth the read for a handful of jaw-droppers that provide personal poetic epiphanies.
Reviewed by Rod Raglin