Books Reviews

Poetry collection ‘A Matter of Selection’ by Carol Smallwood delves deep

By: Alex Phuong

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Michigan writer, Carol Smallwood is currently one of the most prolific authors writing today. Credited with numerous books, she continues to publish poetry on a wide variety of topics.  She has also received acclaim for her artistic merit and her ability to write elegantly and eloquently while also establishing her own sense of poetic style.  Her poetry resonates with readers because it dares to ask profound and philosophical questions without delivering easy answers.  For example, her poetry collection entitled In Hubble’s Shadow explores the humbleness of mankind within the vastness of the universe.  Smallwood’s poetry is very articulate because of its precise use of language and very simple, but also very powerful, ideas.  It is no surprise, then, that her newest poetry collection would continue that same tradition of very deep and moving words that established her as a wonderful poet.  Carol Smallwood’s A Matter of Selection is a fantastic new poetry collection that features poems that remind readers about the humility associated with being natural human beings of all people while also celebrating the common humanity that unites all people.

Smallwood’s collection begins with a prologue about the power of choice.  Sometimes choices are hard to make because of the circumstances that can make life difficult.  There is also the fundamental fear about making the wrong choice.  Even with such hardship, Smallwood’s poetry reveals the basic truth that sometimes things happen for a reason.  Some people might believe in destiny or fate.  Others would have a more humanistic outlook on life, and argue that choices really are based upon the decisions people make.  In spite of such conflicting philosophies about how much people can do in their lives, one basic fact is clear throughout this poetry collection.  Everyone in society really does all co-exist together on this planet called Earth, which is literally and metaphorically the only home of all people.  Carol Smallwood makes it clear that selections can be difficult to make, but it would also be comforting to know that new choices and opportunities are always coming up as long as people are still alive.  Therefore, there is an optimistic tone to the writing that can reassure readers that both bad times and good times must happen in order to make life what it truly is.

A Matter of Selection delves deeply into what it means to be alive while poetically examining the choices that people make.  Smallwood divides this poetry collection into four main sections while also including a preface, a prologue, and an epilogue.  The four sections are entitled, “Nature,” “Moments in Time,” “The Domestic” and “Speculations,” all of which deal with common themes in creative writing that relate to life itself.  The poem “Safety of Predictability,” found in “Moments in Time,” is a neatly organized poem that explores what life would be like if it consisted of a very simple routine.  One of the best lines in this poem is, “Sleeplessness encourages losing civility, a definite increase in irritability” (3).  The first line of this poem is, “A lack of sleep encourages awareness in the safety of predictability” (1), which also serves as the concluding line as well.  This simple, yet profound, poem consists of twelve lines with three stanzas that are four lines each.  The organization of this poem suggests that a simple and ordinary life is the most ideal life possible. Indeed, such a powerful truth can make life so much easier if people did not over-complicate their lives with issues that would only hinder their way of living.  Therefore, Carol Smallwood suggests that people must enjoy their “moments in time” just because the greatest moment in time is the present moment, which truly is the greatest present of all in so many ways.

Carol Smallwood’s poetry also appears to make allusions to other famous written works.  For example, there is a poem in the “Speculations” section called “Prufrock Napkins,” which might be a reference to the famous poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and both poems relate to that iconic character from T.S. Eliot.  Interestingly, Smallwood has a similar poem within In Hubble’s Shadow entitled, “A Prufrock Measurement” that also relates that same character.  It is clear that poetry from different writers have influenced Smallwood to create original works of art using her own skills as a poetess.

Carol Smallwood also establishes the fact that she is a woman capable of expressing independent thought while also honoring the writing of women who came before her.  That is because another poem within that same section entitled, “A Room of My Own” also appears to allude to the famous essay A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.  Carol Smallwood is definitely a great writer in her own right while also paying respects to other writers, especially women who had to challenge the status quo in order to prove that women can just be as creative as their male counterparts.  It is a pleasure to know that Carol Smallwood is such a brilliant writer because of her way to explore profound themes about humanity while also writing about such topics with grace and elegance.  Therefore, Carol Smallwood is an established writer in her own right.

A Matter of Selection is a special poetry collection because it combines the historical context and biological concepts associated with Charles Darwin and his famous “natural selection” theory, but Carol Smallwood masterfully blends scientific concepts with creative writing to form stylized poems that captivate readers.  A special feature of Carol Smallwood’s writing is her ability to merge scientific topics with common poetic themes.  Such talent makes Smallwood a masterful writer who demonstrates the fundamental fact that interconnections form bonds between everything within the universe.  Smallwood might have mentioned in her prologue that some choices are good and some are not, but hopefully readers will make the choice to enjoy her poetry so that they could learn more about what it means to be human.  All that exists really is just a matter of selection because of the basic fact that choices determine character in a very diverse world.

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Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University—Los Angeles in 2015 while also serving as an editor for Statement Magazine. He currently writes articles and film reviews online.  Alex is an altruistic individual who enjoys volunteering and helping people practically every day.

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