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.
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. It is evident why J.S. Campbell has been named one of the Best Emerging Poets of 2019.
Written as simply as Ernest Hemingway himself, Campbell’s poetry is wrought with the same depth and thought-provoking fluency. He probes such broad topics as gender identity, the earth in crisis, the struggles of life and the often painful glimpses of death. In doing so, his words explore common conceptions and misconceptions in our culture, the vulnerable and difficult space between childhood and adulthood, and the ways our experiences intersect with our feelings. He journeys into a world of happiness and gloom in which perception—either in one’s own mind, or that which is imposed upon oneself by others—creates reality, for better or for worse. Campbell gives a voice to the unique struggles people face in light of their experiences.
I was particularly inspired by his poem “Acceptance,” as I was clearly able to imagine, as the poet does, what it is like to travel in another person’s shoes. “Thanksgiving” was a glimpse into the difficulty of being in a family who doesn’t accept you. Although the situations may be different among families, our complex feelings and struggles are the same.
“The Spirits Cometh” brought a smile to my face as I’m sure it meant something completely different to me than to Campbell, but I believe that is the effect of a good poet. And when reading “The Departed on a Rainy Day,” I am reminded that the sting of death affects me no more than others. We are all in this world together, sharing similar experiences, and through this collection of poems, Campbell is vividly able to communicate feelings which are often so hard to express.
While On Driftwood and Oblivion may just pass 100 pages, it is not a quick read—it is one to savor. You’ll want to keep the paperback within arm’s reach whenever you need to feel understood, or have faith that great writers still exist, outside of 140 characters. Thank you, J.S. Campbell, I did enjoy the ride.
Laine Crosby, NY Times Bestselling Author