RISK A VERSE is the product of Libby Weber’s challenge to herself to write a sonnet for every day in the year. While on some days it was clearly a formidable task – there are poems in this book about how frustrating it is to write poetry – she came through, with some rather intriguing results. There are poems here on topics ranging from football to literature, Harry Potter to the Hunchback of Notre Dame, opera to the Indigo Girls, and of course, the inevitable cute and funny odes to the poet’s pets (two dogs, in this case).
RISK A VERSE, at its heart, is a window into the poet’s life, with simple pleasures and dramatic high points, annoying setbacks and painful heartbreaks, and through it all, the steady rhythm and rhyme of the sonnet, played with, explored, and thoroughly enjoyed. She isn’t afraid to experiment, sometimes playing off of sounds or spoonerisms or nonsense words to create her daily art, but she doesn’t hesitate to tackle serious topics either. There are poems in here – like “Sightedness” for January 29th – that find intriguing new meaning in simple little facts of life. There are poems with mischievous little twists that entertain, like “True Story” from April 21 or “The Watched Pot” for Sept. 11. Some poems play on more famous poets’ work, like “The Grossness-Eaters” from March 11th. She even manages to make poetry out of Calvin and Hobbes comics, for November 5th’s “Sport.”
Footnotes explain cultural references and go further into the purpose of the poems – sometimes, however, she explains a bit too much and would have done better to let the poem stand on its own, trusting to the reader to experience it for themselves. (For example, had she simply titled January 9th’s lovely poem “The Half-Blood Prince” instead of “The Prince,” her footnotes explaining the reference to Severus Snape would have been unnecessary for anyone familiar with J. K. Rowling’s novels, and would not perhaps have been so much a spoiler to anyone who hadn’t read them.) Sometimes the language is a bit overwrought for the simple things it describes, but her wry sense of humor generally keeps that in the realm of “playful” rather than “pretentious.” All in all, this book contains several bright gems, quite a number of thoughtful and interesting poems, and only a few clunkers.
RISK A VERSE will delight sonnet-lovers with its experimental, playful, curious and creative approach to that most elegant of verse-forms.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader