Poetry Book Review: ‘Tempest’ by Ryan Meyer

Tempest

Tempest is Ryan Meyer‘s second publication in which the author challenges himself to be more personal. In these poems, Ryan dances eloquently around the eye of the storm, not shying away from the darkest of thoughts. I commend his open vulnerability – a vulnerability that has allowed me, the reader, to connect with the author and experience the poems through his eyes.

Setting the Narrative of a Mundane Life

The first poem of a collection sets the tone for the book, and in Flamingo, Ryan just does that. In this poem, Ryan travels between the mundane and monotous life and a fantasy of a vacation, laying on the beach – a dichotomy between reality and desire. The transition of imagery is smooth and genius:

A blaring horn pulls you back to shore
Your surfboard cursor
Bobs along the surface

(Flamingo, p. 1)

The phrases of beach-related words with office life, such as “surfboard cursor”, blur the lines so much that these two worlds become one. And on a deeper level, perhaps that is a scarier truth; to need to dream. Without such fantasy, the author does not show any motivation for his life. I think Flamingo was the perfect poem to open us into the storm of emotions that Tempest holds.

A Lonely Search for Hope

The following poems carry on a similar tone where the author searches for hope, for growth, for a better future. I appreciate that each poem still had its own voice, imagery and length. As I read the poems Somewhere Else, Can’t Fly Forever, and On Evolution, I had gotten heavily invested in where Ryan is taking us, and I could not stop reading. Is the process of life similar to a caterpillar’s metaphorsis; a stagnant cocoon?

I hope growing wings
Doesn’t have to hurt.

(On Evolution, p.8)

Reaching The Eye of the Storm

It doesn’t take Ryan long to arrive at “the place where they say Death resides”. The poems has slowly led us to a place of metaphysical darkness that requires our silence as we watch. This darkness has an intense grip on us as it takes over the mood. But in Ryan there is a hope, a fire that burns despite the hopelessness that led us to the stage. Out of the hostility of the accumulation of negativity, the author’s inner spirit resurges, perhaps in an unexpected yet very real way:

It makes me yearn for life’s monotony, …

… I want to scrub
Clean the bathtub in my childhood home

(Threshold, p.12)

In contrast to the previous poems, the monotonous life we were escaping primarily has become the sought prize; a refound appreciation for the smallest things in life. And this is what courage is in real life; fighting the most intrustive of thoughts to find a way to survive, to want to be a alive. One does not need to break barriers and accomplish achievements – no, the true change starts from wanting to live, no matter the reality.

Emerging from the Existential Crisis

After Threshold, we continue to struggle with existentialism, at which point Ryan starts reminiscing about childhood and teen years. What was just a lone shell of thoughts, the shell started to crack, shedding light into a past, and a life where it is not just the self versus the world. There were family, there were friends – doesn’t mean it was all sunshine and rainbows:

We were young: fooling around,
Downing cheap vodka,
And smoking stale cigarettes
From our mothers’ purses.

(Unsteady, p.33)

As Ryan lives back through his past, he starts pulling himself out of the present darkness and grounds himself into the world where a person has not only past, but also a future. As the collection goes along, I witnessed the author experience self-growth. And while life may still not be perfect, Ryan’s mindset has changed. I can feel it as I read through, a perhaps unapologetic tone of being oneself, of being okay with not being okay without the resignation that led us originally to the Tempest. The soil is still wet from the aftermath, but the Tempest has definitely calmed

Summary

In the preface, Ryan stated that in this publication, he wanted to go deeper and be more personal. I feel like he successfully achieved being vulnerable with the reader while still retaining the genius of imagery he used throughout, blurring the lines of reality, imagery and fantasy. There were a few poems here and there where I wished to be taken deeper, but alas, as a collection, I was compelled to read it without pause (more than once). I would definitely recommend poetry readers to pick up this book as I would easily give it a 4.5/5 rating, and I have high expectations for whatever future work Ryan Meyer publishes. Make sure to check out Ryan Meyer on nothingpeak.com


Disclaimer: I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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