Book Review: The White Colossus
Reviewed by Madeline Barbush
An ambitious poetry collection that floats through heaven, earth, and everything in between
The White Colossus is the first book of poetry by Enne Baker. Composed of twenty poems, Baker describes their work as containing “refined craftsmanship in their imagery and vast meanings.” Their frustrations and discontent for modern life and love are starkly contrasted with their strong beliefs in an afterlife, God, and their wonderment for the world beyond ours.
In the first poem entitled “Wipe-Out” Baker ends with: I began to unpeel like / pieces of White Out / and show my true self / And that’s just / crossed-out / words, letting out fumes.Matisse’s “The Red Studio” was found in a museum lab to have layers and layers under its final iconic red: orange, pink, blue, yellow. As artists we must allow ourselves new beginnings, screw-ups, take twos, threes, fours, and I believe that’s what Baker, in their opening poem, is drawing attention to. In just a few lines, Baker takes ownership of their work and mistakes: crossed out, whited out, fumes and all. This poem helps inform the collection. I have such an appreciation for the entire set after seeing the poems through this lens.
Baker has a knack for visceral imagery. Each of Baker’s poems has beautiful moments of truth—tangible proof of their developing style and the search for poetic voice. What an interesting gift that Baker might not even know they’re giving—this opportunity to witness growth.
Some of my favorite poems in the collection, “Iftar,” with its devotion to Allah, “NASA,” with its union of the human body with the moon and stars, are fine examples of Baker’s ability to take vast concepts and provide personal meaning to them—a vulnerability to be sure. I’m confident readers will find various poems that ring true to their life experience or speak to them personally and specifically.
I especially love the themes that Baker incorporates over and over: these man-made materials and architecture, as well as nature and the human body.
The vastness of the kinds of imagery in each poem is advantageous, and at times, I had a difficult time keeping it all in-sync. If a poem (or poems) has a vast meaning, the hope is that it can find its specificity through its reader, even if that’s different for each person. We experience life so differently and see it through different lenses, that a striking poem can leave us all thinking and feeling differently. But the vast meanings in Baker’s poems sometimes left me confused and wishing the poet had chosen specificity over vastness.
I’d recommend Baker’s White Colossus to anyone who would like to be treated to a firsthand experience of an artist finding their voice. This collection speaks to those who consider themselves artists and to those who know the value of belief and trust in the process. It’s not just the end result that counts, but how we get there.
Print Length: 63 pages
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