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Monday
Jan042016

Book Review: The Best Kept Secret in Poetry

The Best Kept Secret in Poetry. Tabitha Fefee. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, August 5, 2015, Trade Paperback, 26 pages.

Reviewed by Susan Dennison.

In reading Tabitha Fefee’s The Best Kept Secret in Poetry, I was struck by the energy with which she writes. There is no need to guess where she stands on love, race, God, domestic abuse, or children, nor is there a need to spend time thinking about symbolism—what you read is what you get. This is not a good or bad thing, but it is something that can feel hastily written.

Fefee is an enthusiastic poet, and someone who is not afraid to lay her soul on the page. From the poem Young Dumb and Out of Touch:

When you know you should not have sex at the age of sixteen and please oh please wear a condom but you don’t listen and by the time your [sic] eighteen years old you’re a parent of two kids and no job in sight, no education and you’re still living with your parents you’re still young, dumb and out of touch.

This is one of my favorite stanzas, even with the typo, because the run-on sentence works for the movement of this poem. The headlong rush through this poem contributes to its impact. There are poems where Fefee gets the rhythm right and lets the topic dictate the pace and structure of the poem, such as Black is Beautiful, in which she relies on repetition to drive home her pride in being black.

Fefee includes very little punctuation in her poems, preferring to move quickly from stanza to stanza and assuming the reader will be able to follow. Fortunately, this is not difficult as her lines have natural pauses, even without a period or comma to slow the reader.

While I applaud the poetic efforts of Fefee and the self-confidence with which she writes, many readers may find her grammatical mistakes, lack of consistency in editing, and use of clichés off-putting. She has a strong voice, one that captures the syntax of African American speech. The mistakes, however, get in the way of being able to fully enjoy these poems.

Having read this book several times in preparation for this review, I kept wishing Fefee had taken the time to push the boundaries more. Good writing, whether prose or poetry, should take us out of where we are. The many clichés included seemed lazy for a poet who has a lot to say.

All writing can benefit from a good editor, and this collection is no different. Beyond the misspellings and clichés there are other mistakes that lessen the validity and professionalism of the collection. For example, there is a poem listed in the table of contents that is not included in the book. I do not know how long Fefee has been a poet, but I hope that she will take her passion for the written word and spend time developing her craft. 

 

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