A review of The Book of Hopes and Dreams, Dee Rimbaud (ed)

In a world frequently divided, supporting our “fellow man” is the keystone of civilization. The Book of Hopes and Dreams has been compiled to raise funds for Spirit Aid, which provides medical services to the people of Baglan Province. So Dee Rimbaud’s The Book of Hopes and Dreams is a worthwhile enterprise in and of itself, but buying the book is no act of charity. Carefully chosen, the book contains 102 poems in all, from poet’s residing around the world.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

The Book of Hopes and Dreams
Dee Rimbaud, Ed
bluechrome publishing
ISBN 1-904781-73-X, 2006, £9.99
http://www.bluechrome.co.uk/store/shop/item.asp?itemid=126&catid=60

Why should poets and poetry editors bother with charity? After all, most poets aren’t multi-millionaires, and poetry editors don’t usually make heaps of money off their work either. Shouldn’t charity be left to those with enough money to be charitable? Of course it’s a rhetorical question. Everyone has a responsibility to use their gifts to help those in need, and poets, being gifted with one of the most generous of muses, is ideally suited to not only providing financial support for those in need, but to helping others understand the basic tenets of humanity and to provide a platform for common compassion. In a world frequently divided, supporting our “fellow man” is the keystone of civilization. The Book of Hopes and Dreams has been compiled to raise funds for Spirit Aid, which provides medical services to the people of Baglan Province. The Book of Hopes and Dreams has been compiled to raise funds for Spirit Aid, which provides medical services to the people of Baglan Province, but buying the book is no act of charity. Carefully chosen, the book contains 102 poems in all, from poet’s residing around the world. The themes are as varied as the settings and level of experience of the participants, but Rimbaud’s careful editing has ensured that the one thing which doesn’t vary is the quality of the work included.

Some of the more famous participants in the collection include Jon Stallworthy, Ron Riddell, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Margaret Atwood, and Simon Armitage. Most of the participants have had at least one collection published, and while the poems all contain a kind of inspirational message, not a single one is soppy and there isn’t a cliché in sight. NZ poet Ron Riddell’s “Love in a Time of War” opens the book, and manages in the compact perfection which poetry is master of, to unite horror and joy in a single epiphany of dramatic rhyme:

In this silence of hills
and poppy-scented breeze
you beside me sleeping
again I see the wild fire
an end of all our weeping.(11)

Simon Armitage’s “Poetry” is lighthearted in a way that regular rhyme emphasizes. Yet for its regular rhythm and jovial stanzas, the poem packs an important punch as it traverses the line between cynicism and wonder:

It’s empty in here, mostly. There’s no God
to speak of – some bishops have said as much –
and five quid buys a person a new watch.
But even at night with the great doors locked
chimes sing out, and the sap who was knocked dead
comes cornering home wearing a new head. (24)

This nod to wonder is a common theme in the choices which fill this book. Vicki Feaver’s “Glow Worm” is a feminist affirmation calling to mind Ulysses’ Molly:

Wingless, wordless,
in a flagrant and luminous bid
to resist the pull to death, she lifts
her shining green abdomen
to signal yes yes yes.(35)

Jon Stallworthy’s stunning homage to the regenerative power of youth, “In the Street of the Fruit Stalls”, uses the power of multiple metaphor to turns the simple succulence of a piece of fruit into a lantern and finally into a light that defines depression:

They take it, break it open, let
a gold or silver fountain wet
mouth, fingers, cheek, nose, chin:
radiant as lanterns they forget
the dark street I am standing in.(44)

Many of the poems have a dark/light theme, where light wins in the end over the otherwise overwhelming force of darkness due to a moment of beauty. Ron Ridell’s “When the Sun Shines” performs a similar feat by holding up the joy of parenthood and a moment of light, which he equates to “the light of heaven.” (69).

Robert Mezey ends the collection with his beautiful homage that both nods to and defines death in “I Am Beginning To Hear”:

as now
moving easily as a hand
among the fiery lights raining out of space
I know what is said but it is
dark untranslatable
a flower suddenly folding up
and rushing away into its ancient parchments.(114)

There are many such poems in this collection—work that walks the line between darkness and light; which is positive without being syrupy. Overall, The Book of Hope and Dreams is a well chosen, thoughtful collection of poetry chosen as much for the quality of the work as for its uplifting message. If you buy this book you’ll be doing good, not just for the people who benefit from your money, but for yourself. Let’s hope that Rimbaud starts a trend.

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