In this, his second collection, J.S. Campbell explores isolation, detachment, and the longing for meaning. The poems travel time and space, from modern and ancient wars in the Middle East, to the declining natural world, from struggles in the LGBTQ community, to the American west, and the systematic atrocities committed against Native Americans. These are stories of life, death, and an earth in crisis, but they also remain personal, human, and at times, autobiographical. Which is which? That may be an unanswerable question, but the journey is thought provoking along the way. The words flow simply, yet the themes are complex and, while each poem may have a direction, there are always undercurrents, refusing to fully surface. Enjoy the ride.
The poems are dense with imagery, thought, and allusions to literature and music. Campbell shows skill with selecting specific, evocative moments from life, and there are strokes of genius in the lines like “Stress fractures the calm of night,” which pulls the word “fracture” in two directions – forcing it to assume the role of both noun and verb at once. Especially notable in the subject matter is a propensity to depict the “gritty” details and contrast them with the perseverance of beauty, as in the line “There is a butterfly / outside the dingy window.” The collection is filled with strong insights and shows the clear work of a skillful writer.
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Praise for On Driftwood and Oblivion
I found On Driftwood and Oblivion to be a great read filled with thought-provoking, emotionally challenging, and engaging poetry. Written as simply as Ernest Hemingway himself, Campbell’s poetry is wrought with the same depth and thought-provoking fluency. It is evident why J.S. Campbell was named one of the Best Emerging Poets of 2019.
Laine Crosby, NY Times Bestselling Author