Reviewed By Savanna Briscoe
Today, humans are so focused on themselves, their career, superficial items, and invest their time in all the wrong places. We are slowly losing touch with reality, nature, and with the world around us. Published in January 2020 by Blue Light Press, Swerve: Poems on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance by Ellery Akers beautifully casts light on the many threats our world is facing throughout her collection of poems. Akers is the author of three poetry collections and a children’s book. Aside from her most recent publication Swerve, her other works include a book of poems Knocking on the Earth (Wesleyan University Press, 1989), a children’s novel Sarah’s Waterfall: A Healing Story About Sexual Abuse (Safer Society Press, 2009), and another poetry book Practicing the Truth (Autumn House, 2015). The poems found in Swerve enlightens readers on the damage and destruction humans are causing to the earth. These poems force readers to think, aside from themselves, how they can make the world a better place. A powerful book about activism, Swerve is a call for action, encouraging its readers to demand a better world and create change to better our earth’s potential.
Swerve is divided into three sections: The Earth, The Women, and Resistance. As a collection of poetry, both confessional and postmodern, Akers takes her readers on a journey through nature, social change, justice, and social progress. Swerve confronts important issues pertaining to climate change, the environment, and the many issues women face today, such as sexual assault and violence. With the use of vivid imagery, eye-catching metaphors, and intriguing descriptions, readers will find this book empowering, as it opens our eyes to new perspectives and us a new frame of mind. If you have been longing to find a book that is inspirational, exhilarating, and positively embraces taking action to make the world a better place, Swerve is the book for you.
The first section of poems, The Earth, are both heartfelt, moving, and eye-opening. “Lesions” really makes you think about how poorly humans treat mother nature. Each poetic line warns us of the dangers we will soon face if we continue to take mother nature and all of its creations for granted. “Maybe we should write a letter to those people of the future: Here is the earth. Love it for us. It’s hard to believe, but we loved it, too.” These last three lines of the poem send us a chilling message in an attempt to wake society up to the damages we have done. Akers does a remarkable job of reminding readers that it is our responsibility as human beings to keep nature alive.
As a feminist, women’s rights activist, and a victim of sexual assault, I have so much respect for the way Akers composed each poem in the second section- The Women. The poems “Smoke” and “The Encounter at Twenty: New York City”, were by far my favorite poems in the entire book. “Smoke” sheds light on the realities of danger women are faced with daily. It’s not easy to write about sexual assault, rape, or violence against women, but with vivid imagery and rawness, Ellery Akers is able to create engrossing stories that spread awareness on these traumatizing matters. She becomes the voice for women who have fallen victims to sexual assault and/or rape who are too afraid to speak up. The stark imagery helps paint a picture of the terrible things that happen to women, and how some victims don’t survive to tell their story. “A girl in a torn skirt face down in a ditch” is one of the most powerful lines I have ever come across in any book of poetry. In “The Encounter at Twenty: New York City” Akers shares her own personal story of when she was sexually assaulted in a park. Her bravery shines through in every line, as she recalls a traumatizing memory from her younger days, in hopes to let all women know they aren’t alone. Both poems champion the #MeToo movement, encouraging all women to stand up against sexual assault and violence.
The last section of poems, Resistance, promotes ways in which society can take action to create a better world and future. The author emphasizes many messages throughout her poems: it is never too late to begin changing the world, to take back our power and own it, and to stand up for basic human rights. The poem “At Any Moment, There Could Be a Swerve in a Different Direction” uses breathtaking imagery and descriptions to remind us that there is still time to change the things that are in our control. Akers deploys descriptive metaphors and similes to describe “a swerve.” One of my favorite lines is “it tastes red, the way Red Hot cinnamon mints burn in your mouth.” Although this is a poem about resistance and moving forward to better our society, the author takes a blunt and realistic approach by informing us that while this “swerve” is necessary and vital, it won’t be easy to accomplish and takes more effort than we believe.
Overall, Ellery Akers’ Swerve: Poems on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance is invigorating, empowering, and perfectly emphasizes the importance of recognizing that as human beings, we are responsible for the damage done to the earth. This book educates readers on the serious consequences humans will eventually face if we continue to treat the earth with disrespect. It highlights and brings awareness to the untold dangers women face such as sexual assault, rape, and violence, which are topics that most writers are too afraid to tackle. This book teaches us the importance of resistance, the nature of the authentic truth, to take the next step and create the change we have always envisioned for the world but have neglected for years. Swerve is a book that should be read by all of society not only because it’s beautifully written, but because it is a wake up call to get in touch with reality, nature, and the world around us; all of these which we have lost sight of.