“Book Review: Eleven After Eleven”
Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen
A deeply personal poetry collection that delves into the darker corners of human emotion
The poems in Eleven After Eleven explore trauma, mental illness, stress, and anxiety; they forge a path toward peace, self-care, and healing.
It all starts with a poem that encompasses the message of the whole in many ways. It is a discussion of more, less, and enough. While at a glance it may seem that there is a demand to settle for enough, the reality is that the author sees enough for what it is. The perfect portion; not in material wealth, but psychologically. Eleven After Eleven is an exploration of working with what you have and seeing the value in it.
There’s a journey in these pages. The fact that it is Dine’s journey makes it no less poignant for those reading. The feelings these poems explore are universal, even if the events are quite personal. Those who have experienced anxiety will see the coping mechanisms built into these poems. A thread that runs through them like a protective mantra. The poem that begins “Bring awareness to 5 things around you,” is a lovely way to begin a sensory exploration of the poet’s world. It is also a proven way to combat an anxiety attack.
Affirmations abound in this thin volume: “You are your own invitation to rise,” or “Here’s my regeneration song.” The entirety of the poem beginning “I am a vehicle of kindness” could be made into cards to encourage a person. These lines catch you by surprise with their simple loveliness. They also build the foundation of this volume.
Eleven After Eleven does not just speak to mental illness; it actively battles it.
Dine can turn a phrase that will make your breath catch. The other thing she does, though, is use common phrases and expressions that have become bland through overuse, and she twists them just a little. It’s enough to make these tired clichés look fresh again. Enough for us to see them in a new, somewhat altered light. The olive branch is safe, if dull. In Eleven After Eleven, “The olives on your branch are stuffed with red flags.” Suddenly there is a dangerous edge to them, and a new understanding as well. Few people in this world have not been made a peace offering by someone with ill-intentions.
Space and motifs are used brilliantly in this collection. The forms the poems take have their own beauty. They are not afraid to take up space across the page. They don’t shy away from the silence of blank space. They give readers the chance to breathe. Throughout, the poetry is punctuated by small symbolic designs that reinforce the poems they decorate. Many of these symbols are plants: regenerative, adaptable. Beings that grow toward the light and leave the dark behind. Dine’s writing attests to the power of nature in the line “You are sun, sand, oak and ocean in strength from all you go through.”
Eleven After Eleven is not a long collection, but it fits a lot within its pages. It’s a personal journey, but one that most readers can take with Dine. Dark and desperate at times, it nonetheless is a journey toward healing and light.
Paperback: 92 pages
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