Leave It Raw
by Shakira Croce
24 poems ~ 30 pages
Price: $14.99
Publisher: Finishing Line Press
ISBN: 978-1-64662-265-8
To Order: finishinglinepress.com

Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

As a reviewer the first thing I consider about a collection is the title. Leave It Raw. Who would use those words to title a poetry collection and why? I don’t want my food served “raw.” I want it cooked according to the recipe. I don’t want my body rubbed “raw” by the clothes I wear. I want garments whose textures and styles are kind to my body. In con-versation, I dislike “raw” language that irritates my sensibilities. Give me well-heeled vo-cabulary and good verbal manners. Leave It Raw. What is this?

Poet Shakira Croce invites her readers to join her on a journey. It is a pilgrimage of sorts. Croce visits familiar places and experiences. These include making sense out of life after losing everything in a fire (“The Remains”). “Homecoming” returns readers to those long-ago days when:

         King and Queen
         walk down the 50-yard line,
         but she feels the arena of eyes
         still on her.

“Commuter’s Pastoral” studies a once robust man in the dim light of old age. I give these examples merely to point out that Shakira Croce is a gifted poet. Her poetry paints compelling pictures of reality. Hence, her title, Leave It Raw. When poets tell the truth, the results get our attention. I interpret “raw” in the sense that Croce takes a “fresh” perspective on her subjects.

Croce’s writing style is verse libre. She uses it well. Line break decisions result in pleasant reading cadences. Her poems look good on the page. She varies presentation between couplets, tercets, quatrains and poems without stanza breaks. Croce does not employ end-rhyme. I’m impressed by her craftmanship. Interlinear rhyme, assonance and alliteration are hallmarks of her work.

Earlier I used the term Pilgrimage. Croce includes a poem by that title. I reproduce it here as Exhibit A in my thesis that raw means “freshening of life”:

         We can make up time in the air,
         the captain explained,
         or at least that’s what I understood
         between the fuzzy intercom and
         broken English,
         not mentioning we’d lose
         six hours crossing the Atlantic.
         They say animals have a different
         internal clock, without feeling
         passing weeks and years.
         Yet the butterfly with a tear
         across her right wing
         returns at noon each day
         to that same turn in the road,
         darting between rosemary and dandelions drying
         in the honeyed weeds.
         The sense of smell is the strongest
         for us all to find food, a partner.
         Flowers waiting to procreate on a cliff above the sea
         bring me back to where I was born.
         After spending a lifetime thousands of miles away
         that simple power lets me know my home
         is not where I live
         but a long climb up from Roman rocks and ruins
         to the stuff springing from
         the uncut earth.

In “Pilgrimage” the poet considers the meaning of place. During a tedious flight across the Atlantic she muses that even a wounded butterfly has a strong sense of belonging. The butterfly returns again and again to those environs which propagate life. The “raw” truth is that occasionally, if we’re looking, we gain a fresh perspective–and life can never be the same again.

This is precisely why Leave It Raw should be in everyone hands. The best poets take the commonplace and infuse it with freshness not thought of before.

Best of all, Shakira Croce’s poetry reflects a good mind. Hers is a mind which takes a deep dive into her subjects. “A Second Honeymoon” demonstrates that Croce knows where her readers live. Two quatrains follow:

         Last night I don’t know why
         we were fighting.
         I think you felt like
         everything was on your shoulders.
         … …

         It’s time to plan
         a break from working our way
         up, shift scenery, and
         rest our limbs from the climb.

Leave It Raw, is a pilgrimage down the road of life. Reserve your seat on the plane and buckle up.


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