Book Review: When It Starts to Hurt

When It Starts to Hurt, by Rama Kaba

I am choosing not to assign a star rating for this book. I have barely read any poetry in my life, and don’t know how to judge quality. Consider this a novice review with value only to other novice poetry readers. I read through each poem at least twice to try to maximize the meaning I got from them, but I admit I did not understand them all.

The poetry in this book is split into three distinct sections with different themes. The first section, “Another Kind of Normal,” has a mixture of topics, but many centered on the self. Some are positive, many are wistful. My favorite poem in the book, What I Am, is here. It’s a statement of defiance from a girl who refuses to fit the mold society would set her in. My favorite verse:

When you look,
              you look up.
I am that girl that sparks fire.

Magical and inspiring. The whole poem has beautiful turns of phrase.

I had the most trouble with the second section, “Bones Do Not Exhale.” I found many of the poems in that section difficult to comprehend. Reading expressions of dark emotion with vague meaning isn’t really my thing. If you’re looking for a way to relieve some pent-up negative emotions, you might be more into reading these than I was.

The third section, “Love Like This,” is a collection of poems about love, passion, and love lost. Mostly romantic love, but some familial. I quite liked several of the poems here, especially Walked Home, a melancholy reflection of a partner who no longer fulfils their promises of support. I also liked the playful passion in Fly and New Year.

Across all of these poems, even the ones that weren’t to my taste, I could respect many interesting turns of phrase. I appreciate the author’s wordcraft.

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