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  • A Compelling Journey of Reflection

    When I initially picked up my hardback copy of John Casey’s debut poetry collection, Raw Thoughts: A mindful fusion of literary and photographic art, I was impressed by how well-designed it is as a physical object. The black-and-white photographs are of appropriately high resolution, the only blurring intentional and used for effect. The poems are laid out on the page with plenty of white space to emphasize the relationship between the poem and the accompanying photograph and invite the reader’s reflection. As the book’s subtitle suggests, the close collaboration between Casey and photographer Scott Hussey--and their singularity of vision for the book--are clearly evident. As Casey indicates in the Forward, Raw Thoughts is intended to take the reader through a series of reflections, beginning with despair and self-loathing and ending with happiness and acceptance. This cycle of reflection is based on the premise that awareness of the thoughts that prevent us from reaching our true potential will lead us out of those thoughts and into that potential. At the same time, however, the poem “Insanity,” beginning and ending with, “Do it again / Do it again / Do it again,” alerts us to the danger of allowing mindfulness of thought to become perseveration. To give interested readers a good sense of the book, I’m providing a thematic sampling of lines that particularly resonated with me: On the waning of love, from “Blue”: “From this new vantage / Your eyes are shallow / And more cerulean than blue // Maybe you are amazing and beautiful / I just can’t see it anymore.” On the search for happiness, from “Rot in Camouflage: “You grow weary of searching / And rechannel your spirit / To embrace life as it comes / Only then does happiness sidle up behind / And tap you on the shoulder.” On running the rat race, from “Cattle”: “There’s that guy--he got his seat / He looks satisfied / Good for him.” On human connection, from “Real”: “You bent the pages of my book / Showing me where to read and what was best / That was real / That was what I wanted.” On letting your children go, from “Pieces of Me”: “And I know as well / I will somehow remain whole / As long as they come back to me / From time to time.” The collection ends with the poem “Gratitude,” which is particularly fitting on two levels: gratitude for having found love in another person and gratitude for poetry’s ability to give voice to the darkest of our raw thoughts and leave them behind.

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