Amy Jean’s latest book, Side Steps Terrorizing Sound Bites Part 2, her newest collection of free verse poetry, brings to light many of life’s truths as she’s found them in an “intense poetic clang.” Where did these terrifying/terrorizing thought bits come from?
In an interview on Women Writers, Women’s Books, Jean tells us: “Writing my memoir was more challenging; I took my journal and tried to piece together many events that felt hard to grasp. Either because the memories were difficult, or they were other worldly and challenging to describe coherently.”
Readers may find Jean’s writings difficult, challenging, and even frightening in some cases, but she clearly has chronicled with incredible insight and sensitivity to be able to transmit such stories in poetic form.
Whereas The Kingdom Has Arrived: Foundations Volume 1, her debut memoir, was comprised of poems and essays about her faith, the poems of Side Steps: Terrorizing Sound Bites Part 2, Some Things are Black and White take up additional personal themes including an anguished plea for societal introspection. The book’s epigraph states: “A synthetic existence is not a life; it’s a crime.”
Difficult, painful, urgent words in her poems decry the path of human progress, almost screaming off the page, her personal writer’s pulpit, at the blind evolution of a society that appears to be spiraling out of control. To Jean, citizens today are challenged to find a real listener, peace, acceptance, truth, or liberation in any corner. Readers may find solace in knowing they are not alone in such thinking.
Jean’s poetry reveals her incredible artistry with both the spoken and written word. Some stanzas fairly tick like a time bomb:
Political organization’s inclination toward
domination spurred a lack of concern for the
civilization that elected them for protection
The undying determination for universal
purification prompted investigations,
justifications, and recommendations
culminating in confirmation. (Covid quite possibly)
(The above are stanzas taken from “Extinction.”)
Eric Savage’s illustrations at the beginning of each poem seem to defuse each crisis in a soft, colorful, artistic way, so beautifully and simply they coexist and illuminate the poet’s messages.
Jean’s poems themselves speak as a strong 4; however, a reader may come away with a sense that part of the story is missing, an important truth remains unrevealed. For that reason, the rating slid down to 3.
I recommend this book for high school, college age, or adult readers, including incarcerated women. While younger readers may be disheartened or frightened by the tone of much of Jean’s poetry, mature readers will better discern the threads of reality and hope woven in among her poems. Readers may take her poetry as a clear opportunity for discussion, and perhaps even as a call to “arms.”