Lift Off! and Verses of April by Vivian Zems | Book Reviews

Lift Off! and Verses of April book covers

Today we’re delving into two poetry chapbooks from Vivian Zems, author of Tales in Teacups and Waxing Lyrical.

Lift Off!

Lift Off! is a life-affirming collection that examines what it means to live well. Many of the poems examine themes of fear and anxiety, and the ways in which we go about coping with these emotions throughout our lives. The overarching message I took away from the collection is that fear should not hold us back from living life to the fullest, which is something I always need reminding of.

Some of the poems in Lift Off! explore the ways in which we carve out safe havens in our life to protect ourselves from fear. But many others serve as a reminder that we must also find it within ourselves to push through fear if we’re to make the most of life. Three lines from ‘Turn the Page’, the opening poem, resonated with me particularly powerfully:

the victories we delight in

have been created by those tentative steps

we dared to take.

There are moments of darkness in Lift Off! but overall the collection gave me the kind of content, relieved feeling you experience when the sun finally comes out after a long, dull and rainy day. It lifts the spirits, just as the title suggests.

Verses of April

Verses of April was written by Zems in honour of National Poetry Month. She penned one poem each day throughout April, and this chapbook is the fruit of her labour.

Like Lift Off!, Verses of April has an infectiously positive vibe, even in those poems in which it berates April for her pesky showers and unpredictable weather. I particularly loved the opening chapter – ‘Nature’ – which beautifully brings to life springtime in Britain. There’s rain and there’s gloom and horrible, biting winds, and yet as the flowers blossom and the weather begins to warm you can’t help but develop a spring in your step. I adored the second poem – ‘A Sly April’ – in which the month in question “brings frost, rain and the sun in her luggage.” It perfectly sums up the wild weather we put up with at this time every year.

‘Observations’ and ‘People’ follow on from ‘Nature’, and the poems in these chapters are ones which have lessons to impart. For example, poem 15 – ‘An Aerial View’ tells us to always be kind and love others, because we never know when a stranger is at the end of their tether. Poem 26 – ‘The Girl Who Lied’ – tells the story of a woman who paints on a brave face to hide her inner turmoil, which is something that many of us are guilty of. And poem 27 – ‘Just Perfect’ – reminds us that there is no such thing as a perfect human, “so let the finger-pointing stop”, both at others and ourselves.

Verses of April is a lovely collection and probably my favourite of the two chapbooks. It has wise life lessons, gorgeous springtime imagery, and astute observations of human nature.

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