I may get a lot of criticism for this statement, but it will not be the first time or probably the last time that I have received grief over something that I have written. Even though I am a poet myself, I just find it hard to read what is considered good poetry, because it is often inaccessible and hard to understand. If I cannot understand a poem, it is hard for me to connect with it in any meaningful way.
However, that was not the case with Jason Franklin Blakely’s new collection entitled “Collecting Ghosts: Love Poems, Love Notes, Pictures, and Wedding Vows.” Not only is the content good, raw, and gut-wrenching, it took me on an absolute roller coaster ride of emotions like nothing I have ever read before.
I cannot remember exactly when I first met Jason, but it was likely at one of the many community poetry events that he used to hold prior to the Covid-19 crisis. Jason is the owner of Poetry Is Life Publishing located in Akron. In the interest of full disclosure, Jason and Poetry Is Life Publishing are the publishers of my own first collection of poetry.
As the title implies, the book is divided into four parts: Poems, Love Notes, Pictures, and Wedding Vows. In the “Poetry” and “Love Notes” sections, it is as if Jason and his wife, Michelle, are bravely breaking their hearts open to reveal their humanity, their struggles, and their love in a extremely personal way. It is almost like eavesdropping on a very private and intimate conversation that you should not hear, but you just cannot stop listening. It seems like nothing is being held back.
I connected with the poems on many different levels. In “A Man Questions Himself” Jason’s strong faith comes shining through when he writes:
It takes a strong man to admit he is unsure,
but a stronger man understands that he is not perfect.
When a man feels he is nothing,
he must realize that he is just a man.
And when he can do nothing else to fix the situation,
he has to put his cares in God’s hands.
Other poems that really left me feeling the anguish that is shared throughout the book are “I Ask Love,” Love’s Blues,” and “Reflection of Love’s Despair.” However, the poem that affected me the most is “In the Bathtub.” I could literally hear the “drip, drip, drip” of the water and feel the despair as the narrator sits naked in the bathtub holding a knife in his hand. This poem is raw, emotional, and takes the reader to the very depths of his or her soul. This truly is life reflected in poetry.
The “Love Notes,” which seem to mostly be hand-written by Michelle, are no less poignant than Jason’s poetry. Some of them are difficult to read, but it is well worth taking the time to decipher them to feel the longing and anguish expressed as the early stages of their relationship develop. The final two sections consisting of pictures and Jason and Michelle’s wedding vows are almost a welcome relief after the roller coaster ride of the poetry and the love notes.
This book is a very intimate look into the lives of Jason and Michelle, and they are to be applauded for having the courage to share so much of their personal lives. In the final analysis, this collection is about going through the deep dark tunnel of guilt, despair, depression, and struggle only to emerge from the other side to find forgiveness and love which serve as a strong foundation for a strong and enduring relationship. And, that is something that most every committed couple can relate to.
“Collecting Ghosts: Love Poems, Love Notes, Pictures, and Wedding Vows” is available at:
Barbara Marie Minney is a transgender woman, poet, writer, and speaker. She is a retired attorney and originally from West Virginia. Now based in Tallmadge, Ohio, her first collection of poetry entitled “If There’s No Heaven” was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award. Follow her at www.barbaramarieminneypoetry.com.