Poetry Review: A Drop in the Bucket
(Column: Ward Stories)
A poet opens her heart through her book
It is not often that a poetry book can be called “harrowing” and “beautiful” in the same breath, but both adjectives are appropriate in describing Melissa Brown’s A Drop in the Bucket. To say that Melissa is a brave girl is an understatement. She is brave not only for having survived life’s pitfalls and come out on the winning side, but also for being able to stand before us, proudly, to recount the whole story. And she does so using straightforward, accessible words with a Jamaican lilt, with a spiritual essence, with a steady grip and an unwavering smile. She does it so that we will listen and learn.
Upon opening the book we are greeted with a poem titled A Few Of My Favorite Things, a delightful and calming litany of the stuff that makes Melissa happy to be alive. “…paintings of an aesthetic nature hanging on the walls…courage to stand up to what you believe in…” It is apparent that the author, from the get-go, is choosing to accentuate the positive. To be sure, there are plenty of dark moments, as when Melissa laments a suicide attempt during which she was damaged: “Embittered By Scars, which begins “People once considered me beautiful. However, I look in the mirror and I don’t like what’s staring back.” There are playful yet frustrating moments as she confesses the crush she most obviously has on her therapist in A Futile Desire. Each poem bears the unmistakable marks of eloquence and elegance. These poems “rise” in the same way that Maya Angelou’s do.
Melissa’s poems depict not only passion but craft. She is comfortable in many poetic forms from haiku where she manages to compress large moments into three lines to rhymes, to free verse where the meter evidences her fervent desire to truly be free. Her subject-matter, while staying within the boundaries of life in general and her life in particular, range from her love for children (she includes several odes to the children of people who are close to her, depicting her maternal instincts) to her struggle to really know her abilities and self-worth. The poems are so vivid that the reader can actually watch Melissa climb the difficult stairs, successfully reaching a new rung every time.
Although A Drop in the Bucket denotes that which is insignificant, there is nothing insignificant about either these poems or the person behind them. Every moment is pivotal and every sentence demonstrates urgency and great power, even when the words themselves are subtle. Melissa is not afraid to tell you how she really feels, and although those feelings are sometimes negative, the negativity is soon replaced by a desire to go beyond herself into a world that is as warm and lovely as her native Jamaica. Likening herself to “the little engine that could,” this poet gathers her resources from within and pushes hard to overcome her fears and woes.
Melissa Brown is an individual who has found a way to comfort herself and, in doing so, she soothes the rest of us. But don’t take my word for it, purchase a copy of the book for yourself.