Review of The Thirteenth Circle, Chaz Allen

Originally published on Reedsy Discovery. 

Allen’s The Thirteenth Circle is a debut which explores man’s relationship with faith, temptation and possessing a sense of self. Through a combination of poems, drawings and autobiographical excerpts. Allen tells his story in the hope others can relate and find solace.

The drawings are fascinating; each one a different style, only the characteristic colours of black, red and white remain the same. The poems which followed these illustrations stand out as a result – they are often transcripts of the wordless images and this insight into a creative’s mind is incredibly refreshing.

Allen’s frequent autobiographical ‘pitstops’ were too. Very few writers ever feel the need to explain their work, so at first I looked on these snippets with concern. However, Allen only ever stops to build upon the poem, rather than dismantle it. One poem, about suicide ideation, led to Allen questioning the rise in mental illness in recent years and how culpable modern society is. Thus, Allen uses his work to open up a dialogue with his reader.

The poetry itself ranged from mediocre to brilliant. Many added little to what Allen was hoping to achieve; caught up in so much abstraction they became meaningless. However Allen is clearly talented, it is just perhaps the editing and structure of this collection which could have been improved.

Nevertheless, Allen’s collection offers poetry readers something new and fresh. Many shall find solace and their own meanings in the more abstract pieces.

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