Disclaimer: Please note I was approached by the author who sent me a PDF version of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Arthur P. Johnson’s upcoming poetry collection, I Ride Tsunami was a good companion to my enormous cappuccino this morning. The irony made it that before diving into the book, I conveniently started my morning by checking work emails, Twitter, and doing analytics for the Coffee Time Reviews website. And boy, did this poetry book put me to shame.
The collection starts with an introductory note from the author, explaining the metaphor of the tsunami and why it is the central motive of the book.
“If you choose to adopt my metaphor of tsunami-as-emotionaldisturbance then you will probably agree that our lives are replete with these waves. The question is then, what to do with them.” Arthur P. Johnson, “I Ride Tsunami”
Arthur uses the image of the tsunami as a metaphor for our tumultuous existence in the digital age, particularly in the West. Now, seeing the current rhythm of life as an enormous, destructive wave trying to wipe out everything in its way is not a never-before-seen image in poetry.
What makes it good, and Arthur’s poetry worth reading, is the element of surfing on the tsunami. So although we deal with chaos, he creates the hope that it is worth it and possible to navigate it.
The collection spans over seven sections, each of them depicting a phase of dealing with the tsunami. From section 1, Dreams Die Here, to section 7, Vapour, the poems follow the lyrical voice, who deals with the “emotional turbulence” of the tsunami, from the point of chaos and confusion to the point of blissfully working in tune with the wave.
Best Parts About It
I thoroughly enjoyed some poems in particular and thought they were little highlights of the collection. Hollow Man tells the story of a person consumed by work. The simplicity and universality of the poem made it easy to relate to, as the character in the poem reaches a point of utter oblivion because of all the ways they changed and worked themselves, to the point of losing the substance of their being.
There now exists/Only a thin layer of flesh /Between me and utter/Nothingness.
But then,/As Byung-Chul put it,/I optimised myself /To death. — Arthur P. Johnson, “Hollow Man”
The closing lines, “I optimised myself to death” really hit hard. As someone who has dealt with workaholism, and the pressures of social media, and who is also making a living purely out of digital work, this poem made me re-think my life and aspirations outside technology. I’m sure it will do the same for many others.
Unsurprisingly, I Ride Tsunami is also a little gem of the collection. The main idea of the poem is coming to terms with the challenges of life and diving head-first into them instead of trying to avoid them.
What I do know/ Is that the blood that is/ Flowing/ Through my being/ Is the blood that is supposed to flow/ It is blood with origins/ In my moment of/ Formation/ It is the blood of my destiny/
Therefore/ Today/ I ride tsunami — Arthur P. Johnson, “I Ride Tsunami”
Again, it is the realisation of purpose at the end of the poem, that really leaves you gasping for your own purpose and makes you think beyond the poem itself.
There are some poems that I wanted more from in I Ride Tsunami, especially where images like “your sweet soul” appear. Some of these I found unnecessary to the message and even diluting, but I can also see a wider readership for poems of this nature, so it is more a case of personal preference.
In the context of wanting to bring readers closer to poetry, Arthur did a great job. His poems are easy to follow and understand, have clear meanings and messages, and I could actually see them easily do well on social media, ironically enough.
At various points in the book, I could picture specific verses on a pretty background, going viral on Instagram, much like Rupi Kaur’s poetry. Now, many poetry snobs will find this a negative thing. But I think readers — particularly those who steer away from poetry — need more collections like this.
I am also a poet and it might be my own poetic bias, but I generally prefer much more abstract metaphors and meanings than those in I Ride Tsunami. However, this review is not about me alone, but about what this collection could bring to other readers, and in that respect, I highly recommend it.
I’ve been told many times that my poetry is horribly difficult to understand, and many readers usually stay away from poetry for that exact reason — because they get confused by it. So Arthur P. Johnson, either on purpose or because this is his writing style, really addressed this by writing a poetry collection that, in my opinion, is accessible and universally relatable.
I Ride Tsunami will be published on October 4th, 2021, by Independent Publishing Network.
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