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Book Review: Jaded

Jaded. Owen Patterson. Chicago: BREVIS Publishing, August 2018, Trade Paperback, 163 pgs.

Reviewed by Jose Nateras.

In his latest book of poetry, Jaded, Owen Patterson takes readers through the stops and starts, and the arcs and codas, of a life that leaves us both exhausted and, upon reflection, appreciative of the journey. A collection of varied poems, Jaded begins with the poems “Description,” “Dedication,” and “Intro,” and then continues with ten individually titled sections.

All of the poems vary in form and subject matter, even within their respective sections, resisting limits and classifications. Some of the poems rhyme, some are catalogue-like, others are self-referential, and still others adhere to a stream-of-consciousness-like flow, moving through the poet’s train of thought as he processes, references, and summons imagery.

Patterson’s use of free verse allows him to focus on whatever captures his attention. In so doing, he elevates everyday happenings into ruminations on such themes as the passage of time and the absurd or fleeting nature of life itself. “Happy Cat,” for example, takes the simplicity and familiarity of a subject common to children’s literature and imbues it with the world-weary weight of an adult’s ups and downs. 

As with any collection, establishing through-lines and consistency is tricky. But by embracing variety, Patterson avoids such challenges. The pieces in this collection are less concerned about being in conversation with each other than about being in conversation with the reader. Many of the poems feel freshly distilled from the poet’s environment. Lines of dialogue overheard on public transit, for example, such as those in “47th and Chill (based on a real event)” and others, feel less like poems and more like flashes of Patterson’s life, free from poetic curation. He paints a picture of life in Chicago that provides insight and clarity to the context in which his more poetic work lives. Not only do his poems paint the interiority of the worn and “jaded” poet himself; they reveal the very world that has worn the poet down. 

Given the varied nature of Patterson’s poetry, it’s not surprising that he has also written prose-fiction (2015’s The Dis-condition of Ease.) Jaded is his third collection of poetry, following 2017’s Lovely Faze and 2018’s Stars at Naught. As a writer, Patterson’s unique voice and strong perspective make his poems valuable reflectors of a world that many of his readers walk through. It’s a world that can leave us feeling “jaded.” At the very least, reading this collection can lead us to reflect on how we’ve reached a certain state in our lives and our world, and view the larger context that allows for appreciation of the journey that leads us to such a state in the first place.

A Chicago native, Patterson presents the type of insights often overlooked in poetry of this kind. He taps into the complexity and nuance of living in Chicago, a city filled with and characterized by juxtapositions. After all, Chicago exudes the fast pace of a metropolis, but one that is nestled in the heart of the Midwest. The region also lies near the center of a country that is often both exhausting and disheartening, leaving so many of its citizens “jaded” but—like the sentiment expressed in many of these poems—unwilling to give up.


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