Foreword Reviews

A Night Sea Journey

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

A Night Sea Journey is a thoughtful, transformative poetry collection.

Inspired by his own experiences with physical and mental breakdown, Adrian G. R. Scott presents his unique and transcendent poem collection, A Night Sea Journey.

The book’s title is explained in the first pages—a reference to the Jungian idea of the night sea journey, or the “dark night of the soul.” This recurrent theme provides a strong framework for Scott to branch out from, all the while reinforcing his message of intense self-exploration. As a result, A Night Sea Journey is more than a collection of poems (plus a short prose piece)—it is a stunning, fully coherent whole.

Memoir-type poems about mental or physical trials are common, but Scott’s works serve as excellent examples that also elevate the convention. Personal and unguarded, he forms an intimate connection through his poems while exploring metaphors and parallel stories through allusions and the abundant use of epigraphs. These devices are integral to the poems, making Scott’s poetic universe larger and more inclusive by invoking the universal human experience, not just his own. This is true whether Scott’s poems parallel a thought or quote by another, or artfully redirect their original meanings. For example, the title “This Thing of Darkness I Acknowledge Mine” is a quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as Prospero speaks of Caliban, but Scott uses it to refer to his own depression and anxiety. Scott also relates his experiences through the lives of Saint Francis of Assisi and Vincent Van Gogh in twelve fascinating biographical poems that together make up “The Francis Cycle” and “The Vincent Cycle.”

At times, lines are more prosaic than poetic. Still, the work demonstrates mastery of many poetic forms and techniques, from the coming-of-age-themed villanelle “You Stride On, My Son, Ahead of Us, Up Enchanted Rock” to the alliteration and allusion of “Advice to Myself in Anxiety,” part of “The Vincent Cycle,” which explains its statement “all will be well”:

Not well as in a trite joyfully ever after,
but life lived to the downed dregs, drudged and
diamond-like, weakening into the starry night.

Several of the poems were written for specific occasions: a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, a funeral, two weddings. Each captures the emotions of those moments in a way that’s both personal and universal, as in “Funeral Litany for Farah”:

We take our leave
as you have of us in this veil-thin space.
Carrying you as you carried us …

Scott is a poet armed with life experience and craft, two weapons that he brings to bear with full force in this book. A Night Sea Journey is a thoughtful, transformative collection.

Reviewed by Peter Dabbene

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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