In Review: The Paradox Complex by C. L. Williams

A Poetry Book on the Human Paradox That Is, Itself, a Bit of a Paradox

This review was originally published April 3rd, 2018 on Vocal.Media. It may have been subject to editing changes.

First impressions are everything and poet C. L. Williams does not fail to make an impression with his eighth book of poetry, The Paradox Complex. The overall structure of the book, rather than the poetry itself, generates questions. While the cover design is clever in it’s presentation of earthy tones on the front and more celestial purples on the rear, the use of playful fonts for the book’s title and titles of the poems, the marking of some pieces as lyrics without directing readers as to which those are, and the excerpt for a future prose piece at the collection’s close derails focus from what is most important: the poetry. An inspection of the multi-dimensional state of humankind, Williams’ introspective and emotionally honest poems, which at times come dangerously close to losing individual distinction under a mono-stylistic cloak, do provide lines that catch the reader by surprise with their raw beauty and clever word-play.

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Perplexingly, Williams chose to show a list of pieces in their original format in the section entitled, “Writer’s Notebook.” Upon inspection, a few of these poems should have been remained in their original condition as they were exceptional; “Glass” was one such piece. Compact in length, the poem cuts deep and linguistically translates the image of a jagged piece of glass into the minds of the reader. At its close, the poem ends on a plea for tender mercy, “One touch of you can me more visible to all / And a different touch could make me fall to pieces.”

Who among us cannot feel an aching familiarity to that level of vulnerability? That terrible, beautiful amount of trust we place in a significant other to see and know all of our inequities while we pray they will not use this knowledge against us.

The book wishes to investigate the human paradox, but poetry in and of itself is its own paradox. Poets can convey their unwieldy passions through stringent verses or perhaps run wild with free verse describing the mundane.

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Williams, for the most part, utilizes rhyming couplets, changing the end rhyme as he moves throughout the poem. Unfortunately, it can become a bit repetitive. “Feet on Earth (Hands on Stars)” does make good use of this structure though. The poem deliberates on how an individual who thinks he or she is at their lowest point always must continue to reach higher, to hope. The speaker states, “Told to give it my all and I haven’t done it yet / That at this moment I have no reason to be upset / I was told to try harder, this time give it my all / Because despite being down I have yet to fall.”

This is an uplifting poem and one that readers would be remiss to pass over. Another intriguing piece, “Heaven and Hell (Inside of Me),” is a second poem that will give readers pause. Williams breaks from the couplet rhyme scheme in order to portray a tortuous inner paranoia to the reader. The speaker’s turmoil is expressed quite deftly in the opening lines:

“I have an angel sitting on my shoulder/

Always looking over/

Always looking over/

Looking at all I’m about to do/

The only issue with this piece is that it carries on for three pages when it could end at the first stanza. As the poem moves along into the proceeding stanzas, the sense of turmoil is replaced with a sense of redundancy.

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Language is a universe powering through a poet’s fingertips and sometimes those fingertips need a bit more practice to hone in on all that they are capable of. Williams has a bright future. His ability and willingness to tap into the layers of a human’s soul are lovely and with time, his skill to edit his work in order to drive home his points with passion and precision will undoubtedly grow. Those wishing to follow to Williams’ writing journey can follow him on Facebook or his visit his blog.

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