Book Review: “Lift Off!” by Vivian Zems

Happy February, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful January, and that February is just as good or better than last month!

This time I’m reviewing “Lift Off!” by Vivian Zems. This is a poetry collection I received from Voracious Readers Only in exchange for an honest review. Given that this is a collection of poetry, and not a work of fiction, I have to rate this on different grounds than I would with a work of fiction (hence why there are no highlighted categories like I would with fiction this time around). Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“Lift Off! is a poetry chapbook of uplifting poems that savour the fruits of life, allowing you to revel in those small victories. Life is too short not to celebrate triumphs….. and this collection doesn’t hesitate to examine our challenges while at the same time providing a balm to the spirit and a calm to the soul. There are strong echoes of victory, whispers of magic spells and murmurs of prayer. However these poems impact you, they will cause you to lift your head, see the sky, dare to dream and test your wings.”

The collection as a whole makes sense in its theme, writing-wise. Like Jennifer LeBlanc’s “Paper Heart,” the poems have a variety of forms. Some are free-verse, while others have rhyming involved. All the poems depict the feelings of going through struggles in life, as well as celebrating triumphs and encouraging words along the way, so the author definitely hit the goal they were going for. However, I would have liked to see is an expansion of some of the poems. For instance, poems like “Journey of a Prayer” and “One Life” seem rather short. They’re fine to read as is, and they fit what themes or ideas they’re portraying, but I wanted to read even more on those themes and ideas, and see them explored a bit more than they were in their text.

Another improvement I think could be made to the collection is the use of punctuation. I previously wrote about this in my review of Rupi Kaur’s “The Sun And Her Flowers,” but this collection has the opposite issue. Instead of consistently lacking punctuation in all her poems, Zems’ excess use of punctuation in some of her poems is what reduces the impact. For instance, “Awake” became one of my least favourite poems to read due to the many question marks used at once throughout the poem, and the use of the dots halfway through the poem didn’t quite help me understand what was happening within the poem.

One of my favourite poems, in contrast, was “Shackles and Dreams.” I enjoyed how the line length contrasted in this one, because I think it brought about the emotional impact of the poem. The first several lines of the poem are long and lengthy, rambling about the dreams the speaker has in the poem, but as they reminisce about the days they thought would never “end,” the word “end” is isolated as its own line. This gives a nice emotional impact of the suddenness of those days ending. I thought that was really effective and helped set the tone for the rest of the poem. Also, the use of the dots in this one felt better-placed and helped continue the tone of the poem as opposed to “Awake.”

Overall, I’m rating this collection 3.5 out of 5 stars! 

I definitely recommend it for those that would like to read some uplifting words, and perhaps relate to some of the struggles depicted in this collection.

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