First Reads · Poetry · Reading

Goodreads First Reads: “Votive” by Karen Joan Kohoutek

My second Goodreads First Reads review was the reading experience of Votive by Karen Joan Kohoutek. I gave this chapbook a one-star rating.

votiveI received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

It was a short read, though the reading experience felt longer because of the style. At first, it was unclear whether the book was a Christian, Pagan, Spiritual, or any other form of reflection. Since finishing the book, I think it was meant to be existential.

The lines of poetry were more statements than verse, but this coincided with the Oracle option. The directions for turning this book into an oracle were placed at the back of the book, and honestly, did not make sense. In an effort to capture depth, this book tried to do too many things at once. It seemed to use fortune-telling as an act synonymous with transcendentalism, which only comes across to the reader as abstract and void.

The verses could have used some editing, such as the line “stifled by white cinnamon, cocaine…” (p. 3); the explicit name is superfluous. The poem itself would have had more allure had it not been so straightforward.

Many of the poems also consisted of the overuse of the words “like” and “as” within their metaphors and similes. This simplified the messages of the poems.

While the imagery is strong, the poems rely so much on the abstract that very few details can be painted in the pictures of the verse. This abstract-ness creates a rift in the reading experience. By the closing of the book, it is evident that the author meant for these poems to be abstract to accommodate the flexibility of fortunes. While this seems like a good concept, the final product does not echo this. So much meaning has been packed into these poems that all meaning is lost.

The directions on how to use the oracle at the back of the book were in need of editing. The line, “add a zero to that number” could have been reworded to “multiply the number by ten” for a simple, concise statement.

Favorite Lines:

“I am gargoyle-toed, all maid and no mer” (p. 14).
“The drink glitters as if sprinkled with crushed butterflies” (p. 17).
“Albino dust bleaches the brown air” (p. 39).

Not-So-Favorite Lines:

“The words lie numb under the under-nub of the tongue” (p. 6) (Duplicate use of “under” throws off the rhythm of the line.)
“My palm is the x-ray of a hand” (p. 28)
“The liquid stains my teeth to the bone” (p. 33) (Teeth are bones, though…)
“The limes are darker than lime green” (p. 45)

As a reader, I felt disconnected by this chapbook and alienated by its verse.

This review can also be found on Goodreads.
Picture from Goodreads.

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