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By: Patrick T. Randolph, Editor
151 Poems / 228 Pages
Popcorn Press, Elkhorn, WI
Popcorn Press on Line
Review By: Karen Schwartz
Empty Shoes is a collection of poetry dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the harsh realities of the hungry and homeless through a compilation of works contributed by the many talented artisans who are featured within. Despite a myriad of different backgrounds, varying topical awareness on the plight of those less than fortunate and diverse life experiences among the 80 featured poets, one finds a unique universality of familiarity woven within the poetic fabric as demonstrated through common themes, shared compassion as well as candid authentic inferences that can’t be ignored.
In Lady of the Rising Steam by Mary Jo Balistreri, a homeless woman is described in all too familiar terms as she writes:
“She was unkempt, her face pocked and ridged/ with wrinkles. Garments of neglect hung/ on the skeletal frame as she hovered in the warmth/ of the manhole’s rising steam.”
An outstanding heartfelt depiction of the hardships and misfortunes many hungry and homeless themselves face, this collection maintains a distinct presence of dignity and respectability that mirrors those well deserving individuals who are faced living this difficult lifestyle but are often left ignored.
In Homeless in the City by Ed Galing, the poet reminds the reader that homeless does not mean lacking taste, preference or distinction as his poem’s ending points out the empathetic but often misguided efforts of strangers that leaves the reader nodding in shocking revelation. He writes,
“Thanks for the coffee, though./ But why did you put sugar in it?/ I take mine plain.”
Between the pages, a meticulous discovery of human value is honourably uncovered. Through honest expositions, the reader can’t help but see his own reflection reminding us that adversity is not selective so we best not get too comfortable. As in Precarious by Nancy Gauquier,
“They embody my greatest fear,/ a constant reminder of what could happen to me.”
We are asked to see beyond the surface; past the seeming absence of etiquette and grandeur in order to see the hungry and homeless’ true wealth of brilliance and practical knowledge waiting to be shared that is best gained from lived experience such as this.
As in Don Melcher’s, Man in a Cardboard Box, we observe,
“A fish bone caught in the throat of society…/his persona asks perplexing questions:/ ‘Who are the rich?’ ‘Who are the poor?’/ ‘Who the givers?’ ‘Who the receivers?’/ ‘Don’t you see my gifts?’/”
Empty Shoes is filled with tenderness and soul that tugs at the readers’ heart strings much like the poems’ characterized muses appear to have inspired their respective poets.
In Contingencies by Sharmagne Leland-St. John, the poet describes a desperate mother aching for compassion and the difficult choices well meaning tourists are forced to make.
“…a gypsy woman tried to hand me/ a baby, pleading/…as I reached out for her ‘gift,’/ you held me back./ ‘Don’t take it,’ you hissed./ ‘She’ll run away.’/ I stood there,/ in the shadow/ of the basilica-/ in somber half-light,/ in the cobbled streets/ of this foreign city-/ my barren heart,/ my fallow womb/ needing the baby,/ But you pulled me away.”
Patrick T. Randolph’s vision to “…raise awareness of/the homeless and the hungry, the yearning to/ bring together insightful poetry written by/ kindhearted souls, and the desire to make a/ difference for a homeless or a hungry person.” is well achieved in this strategically crafted compilation that truly inspires its readers to take notice of their actions, reactions and their ability to make a difference in someone else’s life in the name of humanity.
Thanks to the dedication and gratuitous donations of its poetic contributors who I have only had opportunity to share a small sampling in this review, Empty Shoes is a must read and a definite buy; first for its poetic excellence and second for its donation of profits going to support programs dedicated to helping the hungry and homeless. I highly recommend it for all.