Review

Review: Like nobody’s watching: the debut of a poet by Elisabeth Hayes

This book of about 30 poems was the first book, written by an indie author, that I read and reviewed this year. I’ve lined up 7 more books that I hope to read and review, and give them their rightful spot in the light.
With every book I read, I try to be as professional and objective as I can be, but you should know that a review is always just an opinion. It doesn’t take away from the kick-ass attitude of the writer for publishing their work, nor does it mean that what I feel about a book is what the rest of the world will feel also.

Synopsis

“And when I freed myself from you, I could finally show myself to this world the way I always wanted to be. Stripped of your flags. I am bold, I am free.”

“Flags in the Breeze” – From Like Nobody’s Watching.

Like Nobody’s Watching is small poetry collection of about 30 poems including topics meant for mature audiences. This book tackles some of the struggles of youth, including mental illnesses and heartbreak. It’s an eye-opening and raw piece that belongs in a modern world where we all share similar struggles and pains.

Elisabeth Hayes is a poet by nature and by heart, having written 300+ poems in her lifetime, most of which have been lost to circumstance unforeseen. Fortunately, it didn’t break the passion and love she has for the art. She writes throughout the day, bringing raw and fresh perspectives from the day to day moments and emotions.

The Writing

I’ll highlight a few poems which I feel make up my opinion of this book.

Poems I liked:

Fists has an important message for parents. It was the first that actually did something to me, made me feel the consequences of bad parenting. It drew me in and touched my heart.

The Most is about overcoming the fear of failure. It’s short and raw, but it’s got the potential to be powerful.

RSVP: Absent has a clear message, but it doesn’t hit as hard as it should especially considering the subject. The poem is about how hard it is to be social when you’ve got (mental) deceases to deal with. This is a subject very close to my heart, and I was rooting for it to have a killer ending, something like a wakeup call. It’s pretty straight forward, but it didn’t make me feel the emotional overload someone’s experiencing when they don’t RSVP an invitation.

Flags In The Breeze is the kind of poem I like: it tells a story. It’s got a definite beginning and a definite conclusion. It’s the first that actually felt complete to me.

Like nobody’s watching was the first uplifting poem I read in this book. From all the dark and raw poems I’d read up until this point, this poem gave me light again. It was beautiful and I liked it.

The Martyr is another poem with a great message: being vulnerable so that others might see you and know they’re not alone. I’m just a bit torn about the title. Martyr makes it sound like the one being vulnerable will suffer great consequences, even death, for being vulnerable and that to me is the wrong message. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean becoming a victim, it’s much more than that. I feel being vulnerable is quite the opposite; it’s powerful, it’s meaningful and it’s what the world needs.

Poems I didn’t like:

Rough Love is … well … rough and very personal. The author shows some true raw material here and it made me feel quite uncomfortable. Maybe that was the intention all along, but this poem feels like a lash out, a victim mode, a finger pointing message and that, to me, didn’t do the underlying message any justice.

Drunk Thoughts is actually what it sounds like. It’s incoherent, doesn’t make sense and it’s message is unclear. It’s a short poem and while pondering over it after reading it, I couldn’t shake the thought that this didn’t fit within the description of the book.

The Boy makes me think the author has gone through some very troubling boy issues. This poem gave me the shivers, and not in a good way. Saying that you ‘want to be the boy’ who did awful things to a girl is not a good message. It’s like saying you condone what the boy did because there’s a certain admiration in the fact that you want to be that boy. If the poem ended with something like, I want to be the boy so I can see if he feels regret, sorrow or anything else like that, then it would make sense to me. The poem would’ve definitely been much stronger.

Editorial notes

I’d expected a bit of story before the poems began. Something that would draw me in, and let me know the author and her mindset when writing these poems. To give an idea of what to expect so to say. Instead, we’re thrown in the poems instantly which I feel is a missed opportunity to set the reader’s expectations. The author’s note – at the end of the book – did give me a look into the author, and I think it would suit better at the front of the book.
The lay out of the pages in the ebook I bought do not look professional. There’s a lot of space between sentences which results in sometimes only 4 sentences on one page. Because some poems were long, it was spread out over several pages and that made me have to turn back more than once to find out what I’d been reading. I don’t know if it’s the set up of the book, where the author felt she could add more pages to the book or if it’s because the book has been wrongly formatted, but this issue did affect me negatively.
I found a lot of poems that had lines starting with ‘and’. Even new sentences, which is one of the first rules of writing; cut the unnecessary words. These words decreased the flow of the poem. There was also use of repetitive sentences that perhaps were meant to emphasize what’s being said, but I felt they also affected the flow.
Furthermore, I noticed quite a bit of errors in sentence structure and grammar. Like the poem Mirror, broken mirror which reads: “If I’d taken an iron to them¹, or put my hair in a messy bun, I never would’ve fallen in love with your smile.”
¹ Referring to her curls
This doesn’t make sense to me. Changing your hair would’ve never made you fall in love with someone else’s smile?
Now, I don’t know if poems undergo the same kind of editing like a fiction book, but I do believe very strongly that issues with grammar and sentence structures should be addressed before publishing any book.

So, is this book of poems enough for me to continue reading this author’s work?

In the author’s note we learn a bit more about the author. I’m glad she added this to the book because it gives me a feeling of who she is and why she writes poems. The art of writing poems is delicate. Not everyone will understand its poetic meaning. For me, to connect to a poem, I feel it needs a way in, so the reader can figure out what the poem is about and feel connected its message. I tend to disregard poems which are vague and feel all over the place, unsure of its meaning.
To me this book falls mostly in the last category. There are a few poems that I did like (see The Writing), where the story is clear and the words have the potential to pull you in. Those poems convince me that the author does have poetic skills. But overall, the book felt like raw, unedited material and I feel that, sadly, this might push away the greater part of its curious readers.
This book took me about an hour to read, and another half an hour to try to read between the lines and find the message of the poems – which I didn’t always find. With poems that’s not always a bad thing. After all, it’s art and art is very personal. Some see things in it, others see just a few stripes on a canvas. That doesn’t make the art bad, it just makes it very personal.
The same goes for this book of poems. Some might love it, others might not. I’m on the fence. A few I liked, but sadly most I forgot as soon as I turned the page.
I give it two stars. For effort, for art, and for the few I did like.

Buy Like Nobody’s watching: the debut of a poet by Elisabeth Hayes on Amazon.

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