(Reviewed by Andrew Buckner,
author of Song of Survival: Poetry in the Key of Freedom.)
In Hard Rain and Thunderstorms: Collected Poems, master wordsmith Jamie Collins’ sixth and most current volume of original verse, the ever-engaged reader becomes witness to the stalwart strength and phenomenal influence of a passionate soul magnificently addressing the genuine ideal of the innumerable relationships every being carries within us throughout the tribulation-laden privations of our entirety in our commonplace existence. Speaking, more often than not, as a singular representative of all like-minded citizens of mankind, he eloquently discourses on our dealings. From more direct forms of the sentiment, such as yearned for desire to be romantically entangled with another being on works such as the majestically earnest, gorgeously penned ballads as “My Love” where Collins states this aforementioned admiration through an intricate web of immaculately woven metaphors married with tender, sympathetic imagery.
Outside of these more commonly associated forms of personal interactions, Collins communicates triumphantly about our human affairs with nature as in the ardently resourceful narrative “Bird’s Song”. The aforementioned piece uncovers Collins weaving a characteristically fashioned opus that brings to mind the contemplations of a love ballad to these wonderful creatures from a human perspective. This present ideal of appreciation and oneness towards our uncorrupted global backdrop is at its most riveting, dazzling and intense in the composition that precedes “Bird’s Song” dubbed “Mountain Song”. Here Collins masterfully personifies the sweeping melody of the fields and the musical opus concerning all that tenderly surrounds nature’s picturesque beauty in a rhythmic, whimsical manner. “As I Stood upon the Mountaintop”, one of the single best unions of pen to paper in the tome, carries on this particular line of deliberation luminously as it delicately converses of the sense of magnificent triumph, and undeniable concord with the environmental world one feels when involved in the action the title bares.
Hard Rain and Thunderstorms is at its most uncompromisingly personal and subjective in compositions such as “Slow Suicide”. In this tremendously honest bit, Collins furthers the varying theme of modern-day mortal relationships by weaving a tremendous ode to both his nicotine addiction and also the brutal drudgery of withdraw. This is done brilliantly and with a clear, intelligent and knowing focus as he sees this aforementioned compulsion through the iris of a more traditional correlation where he knows greatly of the evident danger but still cannot heed his obsessions.
Collins continues to weave his individual torment into a more introspective and pain-stricken manner in poetic works such as the abandoned and outcast visions perfectly personified in the staggeringly sorrowful “I Know What It’s Like” and the darkly alluring “One of the Nights I killed Myself”. In these pieces, we further glimpse into his haunted and secret agony expertly from a First Person view that amplifies the exemplified misery found within. Those poetic compositions are immaculate in their transcendence of his brimming melancholy, and Collins finds the perfect atmospheric note to bring his grief-stricken meditations unto the page.
What lies as the cornerstone of the entire volume appears to be Collins’ ever-changing outlook on religion. Often the underlying topic of an omnipotent creator is brought forward in tones occasionally praising, sporadically denouncing, yet the most potent is the mocking and overwhelmingly cynical tone found in “I God Am”. This is amongst the most powerful pieces in the entire gathering and his wordplay here is simply searing as he views God as a being looking down gleefully on the destruction and infinite chaos he has brought upon the world.
As is evident from above, Collins utilizes mainly classic subject matter within the work’s sixty pages but flawlessly unveils an aesthetic method to mix it with commonplace attitudes, contemplations and sensibility. He evokes a stylistic banter in this effort that is forthright yet heartfelt, gentle and aggressive, staggeringly complex while comprehensive. To coincide with this, especially the timeless focuses at hand, the melodic lyricism he often displays within the pages of this opus is wonderfully reminiscent of the Victorian era of poetic odes and song. This is quite a tremendous feat and Collins pulls it off effortlessly.
The above mentioned classic style is best utilized, and also most visible, in such heart-rendering eulogies as “In Time of Sleeping”, where he discourses on our own mortality through the unblinking iris of the deceased. With this he employs the previously stated method of word usage alongside subject matter to bring the composition to powerful, immaculately conceived being. This is done equally as well in “Ode to No One” where he brings to wonderfully embodied life his thoughts of death’s ever-watching eye. These respective poetic ballads view Collins returning to the contemplation of demise and its release from the gnawing extremities of painful existence in a mature, clever fashion rarely seen erupting from the pens of modern authors.
Largely because many of the poetic terminologies in this singular assortment are under twenty five lines in duration, the overall pace of the volume remains rapid fire yet every bit as graceful and focused as the works themselves. The swift-stepped movement of this collection of rhyme is due primarily to Hard Rain and Thunderstorms‘ flawlessly conceived layout. Subject matter and form are aligned in such a striking, fully deliberated approach that every continued composition in the volume’s duration appears, whether articulated or in a subtle technique, to be continuing on all previously addressed topics. This execution works and aids tremendously in making the entire publication an utterly unproblematic read.
Conclusively, Hard Rain and Thunderstorms: Collected Poems exists as an extraordinarily well thought out, complete, well-rounded and serenely tasteful effort that exhibits Collins as a voice of experience, wisdom and supreme intellectual capabilities. His undeniable appreciation for modern terminology and ageless expression, as well as unbounded substance and concrete thought, evokes a fresh, unique mode of communication that makes him a commanding wielder of the spoken word. Collins’ use of personification, imagery, mood and overall language make him as a truly magnificent writer worthy of great admiration and acclaim as well, and this refreshing assembly of verse, an absolute must-own.