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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Using free and narrative verse, Vivian Zems’ chapbook, Time Passes Differently Here is a collection of 2020 musings: of lockdown days, grief, sorrow, nostalgic memories, what is life and time. The first line of the first poem caught me and wrapped me in its hypnotic bundle of possibilities: “Poems are cities of inspired words”. And there’s more, but this first line certainly sums things up more than adequately. Why? Because one would assume inspiration leads to poetic creativity. And, it’s through poetry that one can marvel at the multiple meanings of every word carefully chosen by the poet, the artist of words.
The poet digs deeply into the meaning of life with particular reference to the year everyone wishes never happened with profound advice, like the poem The Pilgrim Poet’s Progress: “On the way to purpose/ is a road paved with plans/ with potholes of mistakes/ and puddles of complication.” There’s more, but these four short lines are deep with meaning. And the poem Without Words brings the deep meanings of Scripture into play: “Was it not The Word that created the world?/ But for words, our world would/ be as silent as the grave/ and darkness would still/ hover over the deep/ where the nights are not dark enough.” Powerful thoughts to ponder.
Vivian Zems writes of the troubling times of 2020: the pandemic, the lockdown, the violence of Black Lives Matter that followed the death of Georg Floyd. And she writes about life. Her concluding poem simply titled 2020 speaks of the pain that engulfed the world and how it can be narrowed down to elements of time: “The year 2020 will be remembered as/ the beginning/ the end/ the turning point/ the arrow that pierced/ hope reborn/ beauty for ashes/ and not simply/ as the year of fires and screams.” I hope she’s right. The year 2020 will never be forgotten by those who survive it and this powerful collection of poems provides deep insight into what has happened and how we reacted to it all.