Thirteen Nocturnes By Oliver Sheppard, 255 pgs.

I’m going to come in right at the start and say I am not the biggest poetry fan, which is odd because I’ve written it on and off for a large portion of my life. But poetry by other people has never engaged me quite as much. So I cringed  when I saw a poetry book was sent to me to review. Not only was it poetry, but it was 255 pages of poetry. Yikes.

But I was glad to be proven wrong. 1) The amount of poetry in this book is far less than 255 pages. 2) I actually liked some of these poems. Nocturnes are poems inspired by the night and these are certainly darker in nature. Amongst the poems, author Oliver Sheppard places pull quotes, old drawings from the early twentieth century and before, as well as quotes from other authors. In addition to this extra material, the actual thirteen nocturnes only comprised a sliver of the pages. Much more material was related to part of the book titled “The Void Cantos.” These were poems often more experimental in nature, but still bearing a darker tone.

What I appreciated most in these poems was the ability they had to evoke feelings associated with night, darkness, and solitude. They also evoked memories. For example, Nocturne No. 9, with its references to the death of summer and awaiting winter, reminded me of times living in rural Indiana and surviving the winters that dragged on for long periods. I appreciate any form of art that can tap into my thoughts and feelings and Sheppard obviously has that ability.

My concerns and frustrations with Thirteen Nocturnes is twofold. First, it’s too long. I think this would’ve been more effective as a chapbook limited solely to the nocturnes and without the extraneous quotes, artwork, and “The Void Cantos.” Second, the language used is, on occasion, hard to follow. Sheppard may use phrases and words that harkens back to the Middle Ages. In this, it makes it difficult for the reader to truly be embraced in the lyricism, as I had to look up what certain words meant.

In the end, if someone can get me to enjoy some poetry, that’s a positive. But Sheppard still has a way to go to make me a fanatic of the style. –Kurt Morris (Ikonograph Press, ikonographpress.com)