US Polls: What should We Celebrate?

By Candice Louisa Daquin, Senior Editor, Indie Blu(e) Publishing

Even the most stalwart historian among us, will attest, it takes living in a country, inhabiting its borders, to truly understand a country. It is no wonder we struggle to truly comprehend the lived experience of people in other countries. America must look very strange to the rest of the world, just as we who live in America may stereotype and miss the nuances of the political landscape of other countries.

But as strange as America may look, it is a strange country to live in too. As an immigrant to America, I have the advantage of knowing what it is like to have lived in three other countries and been resident or citizens of them. It helps in seeing why people hold the perspectives they do.

Obviously, it is a mine field if you say only one side is ‘right’ and everyone else is wrong. That is one of two main reasons Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, she called the other side stupid. Whether they are or not, is not the point. The point is nothing is won by calling names and condemning groups on either side. Those groups will rise and show their power. This happened when Donald Trump, against most predictions, won the US election in 2016.

Many were in disbelief that a man who was better known as a hotelier and reality TV show host, could be President. But interestingly it was less surprising for people outside of America, who remembered Reagan and were aware of similar casting among leaders, happening in other countries. Boris Johnson could be compared in many ways to Trump, and has been, and it is certainly not the first time, someone has won a large election, who was not the favorite.

I saw it as old-fashioned backlash. The party of the left wins, next time the party of the right fights to gain a foothold, it goes back and forth, and therefore so often, nothing is accomplished in politics. Many people believed the 2016 election was an extreme because America had just had its first President of colour, Barack Obama and this was a case of ‘white trumping black’. That is not how I saw it. Many of those who voted for Trump did not do so because of his skin colour or gender, they did so because they were Republican. They were responding to their fears of a socialist government under the Democrats and the rolling out of Obama Care.

What is often misunderstood, are the reasons behind why voters vote. They are not always voting based on racism, sexism, or what is in the news at the time. That explains why in 2020, a significant number of Hispanics and Black voters voted Republican. Had it been based upon the news, one would imagine with ‘Black Lives Matter’ dominating the headlines, that every person of colour would have voted Democrat. Neither can this be explained by people of colour NOT voting, aside when Barack Obama won, where more people of colour voted than ever before.

Ultimately then, there are many reasons why people vote what they vote, and to try to predict what those are, is not easy. It is my belief core values make up more of the reasons for votes than transient values. If a core value is ‘thou shalt not take a life’, chances are, you will vote Republican because you are Pro-Life, and this is a core value. Likewise, if your core value is the 2nd amendment, and you live on a farm and have guns, you may vote Republican even if you do not like Trump.

Of course, within that, there are independent voters and swing-voters who WILL be influenced by negative campaigning, smear-attack adverts, misleading accusations, or truisms. Those people will vote based on the emotion of the hour, and they are often the voters most targeted because of their susceptibility. Whether that justifies spending 11 billion dollars on any election is up for debate. My personal view is, it is shameful to spend the kind of money we do, when people need medical help and food. I would like to see this country take money out of politics as others have, but I find it unlikely this will ever happen.

Neither Biden nor Trump are utterly liked or respected by all members of their parties, but they win based on reaching those core values, and the corralling of as many voters as possible. When money and undue influence are powerful elements of any election, you will never know the full story, only the outcome. Whilst people may have been dismayed to have Trump as President, it galvanized many Democrats to come up with a strong viable counter-candidate who could get rid of him in 2020. Unfortunately, this was not proven to be as easy as it sounded. Too many candidates ran, and votes were siphoned off. Tokenism became more important than ever (to have a female President someday, and if not, to at least have a female Vice President, to have another person of colour as President, and if not, to at least have a person of colour Vice President).

It surprised few when Joe Biden, who had originally said he would not run for 2020 ended up doing so. This was borne from his parties’ fear Trump would sweep the election again without a proven Democratic contender to stand in his way. As Biden had been VP to Obama, he seemed the natural choice, albeit older than his years, and not entirely committed at first. Sadly, Kamala Harris and others, did not receive enough popular support to be considered able to beat Trump and maybe some of this was an assumption a woman could not beat a man at this juncture in American history.

Here is one difference between American politics thus far, and many other countries, where female leaders have had a tradition even in countries one might assume to be more sexist than American (India for example). Which begs the question, are our optics even accurate? I would say they could not be if India is able to elect Indira Gandhi as leader and America has yet to have a female President. Of course, there is far more to sexism than whether a female leads a country, but it is a good starting point.

Biden is not initially as popular as some of his precursors, one could even claim he is a candidate of compromise, meaning; Give me ‘anyone but Trump’ in the eyes of some voters. Whether popular or not, is irrelevant until he begins his term and inherits the troubled US economy, set to be the worst since the Great Depression (and statistically speaking, even worse, given our larger population) and the troubles of Covid-19. It is hard to envy him this inheritance because it will be an uphill battle with little reward.

We have a history here in America of blaming leaders for natural disasters, as if they wield the power to change them. Trump has been accused of causing America to have one of the consistently highest rates of transmission and deaths of Covid-19 since March 2020 and to some extent this is unfair, given that most other countries are not far behind and we are all on a steep learning curve. Not wearing a mask or asking others to, certainly could be called irresponsible by any leader, but it’s worthwhile considering that outright accusing a leader of a country of causing deaths, might be going too far, when we look at pre-existing health care infrastructures and how they have not withstood an illness of this magnitude.

One could argue it is the legacy of all Governments who are responsible, because they simply do not plan ahead, or put money into things that need financing, and instead they live for the moment, spending on the immediate. Maybe it is the very essence of politics that is corrupt and puts the immediate ‘reward’ ahead of long-term planning and infrastructure — this is the real issue here. In which case, I do not see things changing, because in a Capitalist country, economic reward tends to outweigh social support. That said, if you compare America’s healthcare system to others, whilst it isn’t socialised and does leave many poor without resources, it also has a lot of money pouring into it, whilst socialised healthcare systems in Europe are floundering. Begging the question, if both do not really work, what is the alternative?

Whatever your political view, if you are in India right now or of Indian heritage, you must be excited to see an Indian woman as Vice President of the US, even if she doesn’t represent your political views. Not only is Kamala Harris half Indian but she is a formidable woman of great accomplishment. Whether you voted for her or not, you may find the appointment of a brown skinned woman as Vice President, a very exciting first, given the history of American white men being Vice President up until now.

But perhaps it is not sufficient to be glad a woman is in this position simply because she is a woman, or that a person of colour is voted to power simply because they are a person of colour. More is surely required. That person must have earned their stripes and be capable of the job. I think few doubt Kamala Harris’s credentials and experience thus far, make her an outstanding mentor for any woman or person of colour wishing to go into politics, which in America at least, is still a very male and white arena. Only time will tell if she can prove herself. I suspect she will.

In some ways this has made me realise that tokenism is not always a negative. Of course I would rather a time where it did not exist, but if you earned the right to equality and the only way you get it is through tokenism then it’s preferable to having no way of getting it. Kamala Harris was given the Vice President’s job because the Democrats wanted a woman and wanted a person of colour, that part is undeniably tokenism, but she earned the role, and she deserves the role and nothing can mitigate that.

So how is America responding to the election results? Well of course, as predicted, it was messy. First it looked like Trump was going to win, then abruptly he lagged because of write-in-votes (by mail) and Biden surged. Understandably, many Republicans wondered how their candidate who was ahead in some states, could suddenly fall behind based on mail-in-ballots alone? The fear that those ballots were tampered with, was discussed at length and many still believe some dirty dealing was done to stuff ballots in favor of Biden.

Whilst this was done routinely in the past, and this is documented, without proof, there is no reason to believe cheating occurred and unless a witness comes forward or ballot boxes are proven to be stuffed. It is reasonable to assume, Biden surged ahead because yes, the majority of write-in ballots by mail were for him. This is not implausible, but it leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth because it was not a ‘clean win’ the way both sides had hoped for. On the one hand, Democrats believed they would win by a higher percentage, and on the other, Republicans had their hopes raised and then they fell.

As for the Trump campaign and Trump himself, we are still waiting on his perspectives, but unsurprisingly, he is seeking legal redress in the hope a recount will secure him another term as President. It was said that there would be riots throughout the US if Trump won again, and this may have happened, given recent tensions, but with Biden all but heir apparent, there have been few protests coming from the Republicans. I am personally glad for this period of calm, having had many months of riots throughout this country (often with good reason). Now, seems like it should be a time of reflection and planning for 2021.

Namely, how to rid America (and the rest of the world) of Covid-19 and its hold over us, economically and socially. People have reacted differently than ever before, due to the stressors of this unprecedented time. That said, it is not unprecedented, it has just not happened for a long time, and people forget their history. One thing we can say, is if we all knew our histories better (both politically and socially) we might be in better shape to handle what is coming.

Back to Kamala Harris. What can the first female Vice President do for women throughout America and the world? What can she represent, engender, inspire? And what will having the second person of colour in the second highest position of the land do to helping eliminate racism and racial tensions? In some ways I believe it will be like neighbourhoods. History shows us, when white neighborhoods had people of colour move in, their first response was racism and over time, the racism reduced. It is my hope by having people of colour (and women) in positions of political power in America, it will reduce racism and sexism. And implement more equality. Whether that happens or not, time will tell.

For all the faults his detractors will list, Trump is still a deeply popular man among his core bases. No he is not very well liked by Fox News, the only Republican run media channel in America, nor do some of his fellow Republicans respect or like him, but among the ‘regular Joe’ throughout America, you could see a vast number of people still rooting for him. Democrats would have us believe this is as simple as the divide between those who are racist and those who are not. Respectfully I disagree. I think that is too simplistic an analysis. People who vote for Trump are not always voting for the negative aspects, others may equate with Trump, such as racism, sexism, elitism. They may in fact be voting for Trump because they are afraid of change, they may be voting for Trump because he’s the Republican candidate and they have always voted Republican or they may be voting because they don’t feel they are represented by the other party.

If this is the reason, then it would not be fair to say those people were just ignorant racists. And this is what divides America. The beliefs we hold about each other. As a lesbian woman, as an immigrant, as a Jewish woman, as a mixed-heritage woman, as a female, I check a lot of minority boxes. But I know within those boxes there is are multiple considerations. Consider the situation of a Jew. Jews are dying out (literally) they are the most targeted minority in the US today, Muslim immigration increases throughout the world, it is possible a Jew will vote Republican because they perceive Republicans to be pro-Israel and thus pro-Jew, whilst it is possible they perceive Democrats to be anti-Jewish because of certain Democrats who are Muslim and have spoken strongly against Israel. If this one example can be expanded to fit all possible examples, we can see why it is not as simple as RACIST = VOTING FOR TRUMP.

I neither defend, justify, or condemn either side for mistakes made, because it only inflames people to read condemnation. Rather than criticise, let us look at what does work, and do more of that. It works to consider how to help people, it works to care about people. It works to value diversity because in diversity, we get variety, and that is a good thing. Despite the fact that America is a country built on immigrants, we seem to, once we reach the melting-pot, have forgotten our origins, and gone our own ways. Many immigrants do not ‘become’ conservative, they already hold traditional, conservative views that they continue to hold once they have immigrated. To expect them not to, is to disrespect their culture as much as telling them to change to fit ours. Equally, any immigrant, and I speak as one, should respect the basic tenets of a country they immigrate to. If you hate women and gays, do not live in a country that asks you to respect them. Simple things like that.

We need to learn this and not rely as heavily on obvious tokenism and short-term tactics to gain voters. By doing this, we learn more about what voters really want, what matters most to them and why. We can then have conversations about how to achieve this on both sides, and the polarity in both parties can begin to be reduced, which is a good thing for everyone. As the Republicans still hold the Senate, Biden’s hands will be somewhat tied, and this divide only exacerbates the going back and forth in politics that causes less to happen on both sides. Isn’t the ideal to do more? No matter what party is in office? We should never celebrate that we are so divided, we should seek ways to come closer together.

Nonetheless it is a cause of celebration for Kamala Harris to be Vice President of America and I hope this heralds a time of less friction. It is good to disagree and debate. It is not so good to have hate and erosion. It may seem clear cut. But think of it like this; both sides feel it is clear cut. Not just one. And with such diametric differences, we must find what we have in common again. I do not believe this is impossible. Discounting the true haters, most of us are not bad people, we are just varied, our beliefs, what motivates us, what we fear. A good leader will try to unify. In this Pandemic we have seen we are far from unified, with people refusing to wear masks, whilst others say; ‘let those who are going to die, die, so we don’t ruin our economy’ and this has really brought us to our knees. What better time to rebuild, and find what we can agree upon? I hope we never forget to value human life and each other, irrespective of our differences. Ultimately, we are far more alike than different.


Candice Louisa Daquin is a Sephardi immigrant from France who lives in the American Southwest. Formerly in publishing, Daquin is now a Psychotherapist and Editor, having worked in Europe, Canada and the USA. Daquins own work is also published widely, she has written five books of poetry, the last published by Finishing Line Press called Pinch the Lock. Her website is www


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely that of the writer.




Fighting Fascism with Poetry

Review by Candice Louisa Daquin

Title: Lastbench, North American protest edition,

Editor: Tanvir Ratul

Publisher: AntiVirus Publication, November 2020

Lastbench is an anthology written in the time of Trump and Covid-19, acting as a voice for those who are frustrated with the news cycle, wishing for something more visceral. It is unapologetically against Trump and considers his Presidency to be the terror that began the downfall. Whether true or not, this is the slant of this publication and it will appeal to those who feel similarly and are frustrated by the current office. That said, it’s aware things will not change simply because a President changes. Many of the issues brought up, are systemic.

If you are looking to read a collection of poets who explore the myriad ways of frustration against the current administration and the over-all ineffectiveness of politics en mass, you may find a lot here to sink your teeth into. Irrespective of which political hat you wear, you cannot fail to appreciate the solid authorship of the writers involved in this inaugural issue. Clearly the editor has gone out of his way to ensure those who were featured were the very best writers he had, and the writing is impressive.

I particularly appreciated the IMMEDIACY of this publication, you feel as if you are reading in ‘real time’ – this highlighted in Jennifer Lagier’s piece, ‘A New War’, that begins with a quote from Michael Cohen, “I fear if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” Let’s hope the prophecy isn’t true, but either way, we’re in the moment, the writing is now, the authors are current, this is why we have technology, and this is how Lastbench is relevant and interesting.

With such publications, poetry needs to have that edited, clear, precision that speaks to the point immediately and cuts to the chase. If it goes on too much, we lose focus, because this is all about the punchline, the bottom line, the key points, the overview of what is occurring. We don’t want massive detail; we want provocative thoughts, and this is how this publication reads.

Personally, it doesn’t matter whether I agree with the politics or not, I can appreciate the voice and what is being described through poetry, as well as the humor and horror behind it. This is a writ of 2020 and it’s deeply relevant because of its collective moment.

On a purely poetic appreciation level, I really liked Mary Ellen Talley’s piece, ‘Fools Like Me’ for its simplicity, and jarring vernacular, it’s a classic resistance poem that could have been written in WW2 as easily as now, but has the edge of today, and the sorrow of loss etched all over it. I must really like Talley’s work because her second piece, ‘Veering from a Villanelle’ was equally haunting to me. The line: “Come again, USA, nation of truce, nation of trust” was chilling.

‘Love Letter to the President’, by John Milkereit, was another modern horror/humor mixture that I appreciated for its sardonic wit and deft amusement with reality. So many memorable lines like: “I can’t love you as much as I love a stranger, / or Joseph Stalin’s ghost might be watching.” It’s hard to go wrong with writing like that, veering on the classic.

Some pieces didn’t do anything for me, but I’m sure others could find a lot in them, it’s all about what you’re feeling as you read them and how they relate to your own ideas at the time, as much as how stellar they are literally. For example, I could see what Tom Montgomery was trying to do with ‘untitled’, but I felt ultimately it just read like a dull version of a children’s rhyme and it didn’t catch me beyond that. Compared to this, Marianne Weltman’s ‘Make America Great Again Songbook’ was incredibly clever and very funny, she really took the genre of a children’s rhyme and made it work with the idea of Trump’s campaign slogan as key theme. The lines I found most compelling; “This Land is Your land, This Land is My land / In a prison van to Riker’s Island / Ave Maria, Holy Mother take pity / On asylum seekers lost in this city.” A very, very smart blend of reality and children’s song, leaving you wondering and slightly horrified by the depiction. The core question Dustin Pickering begs in Snake/Shutdown “why did we nourish him? / why did our nation bend?” Lines like these will resonate with those seeking comrades in arms, or just an alternative voice to the mainstream narrative.

‘Summer in Trump’s America’ by Marianne Szlyk, is a haunting version of today’s emptied streets and whether you argue in favor of Trump being culpable in some way for Covid-19 or not, you can appreciate Szlyk’s portrayal of those abandoned streets – as we have all seen them. In Jim Cox’s poem, ‘Earth Day’, we see the other ways writers blame Trump for global-warming and his responses thus, and whilst I am not a huge fan of rhyming, Cox does a terrific job, making something awful, humorous and then reframing it and begging the question, when will it end? Leszek Chudziński’s beautiful poem, ‘Refills Are Free’, really struck a deep chord, it’s a classic poem you’ll think of long after you’ve finished reading with lines like: “Where food is good / And suffering discernible.”

Equally, any survivor will find much in Kelli Russell Agodon’s brave piece, ‘When I Look Into The Face Of The President Of The United States, What I See Is My Trauma Walking Around’. I won’t spoil everything by detailing what I appreciated in each, but there is a little bit for everyone and some enormously talented writers therein. Often when you read a collection of poetry by different poets, you wonder why half of them were included, not so here. The editor(s) have done a superb job of collating the very best, the very now of writing and if poems like Thomas Brush’s “Legacy, don’t stay in your head for hours afterward, percolating and querying at the deepest levels, I don’t know what would.”

I won’t go through all the poems, although I could, and I’d enjoy doing so, which in of itself proves the readability and relevance of this publication. Suffice to say, there are gems here that any vantage point will get something from, and stellar writers with sound awareness of what it takes to write a good poem, irrespective almost, of what you are writing about. Margaret Shafer Paul Shafer, in ‘January 1st’, give a voice to those who do not fit the label of ‘minority’ but feel as disenfranchised by recent events, Cheryl Latif in her blazing poem, ‘Searching for America’, really stunned me with an anthem of these times, so many Americans will relate to, I don’t want to say more, just read and you’ll see. If nothing else, this is half or more of America and what they are thinking, feeling, saying and it’s wise for everyone to listen, because to do less is to miss half of this country’s voices.

There’s even a manifesto at the end, I’ll leave that for you to find. I stand with Rose Drew on this salient last word; “Can’t watch the news but I’m not defeated.”


Candice Louisa Daquin is a Sephardi immigrant from France who lives in the American Southwest. Formerly in publishing, Daquin is now a Psychotherapist and Editor, having worked in Europe, Canada and the USA. Daquins own work is also published widely, she has written five books of poetry, the last published by Finishing Line Press called Pinch the Lock. Her website is www




The Forever Abode

Book Review by Candice Louisa Daquin

Title: The Forever Abode
Author: Dustin Pickering
Publisher: Transcendent Zero Press

I’d not read a lot of Dustin Pickering before reading a draft copy of The Forever Abode. Pickering had mentioned this was a collection of poetry about a long-term relationship and thus, I found the idea intriguing. Poetry and love going so well together.

The first thing you notice reading Pickering is, he’s not a modern poet. His writing style and the emotional emphasis behind it, is very much inspired by, and in the genre of poetry from the 17th and 18th century poets.

For many this may be a little too classical, but I found it refreshing and ironically, original, because of its homage to the poetic form of old. What better genre in which to accomplish this than poetry about love or love in poetry?

Pickering is a huge romantic, that’s clear from the first few lines. Another thing in his favour. When men are romantic, I think they excel at it. It becomes their life blood and bleeds into their words effortlessly. Who better to be romantic about than a woman? She is the object of desire, whether we with our modern principles accept this or not.

The style is distinct. Pickering doesn’t title all his poetry. He has three sections. In 1. Baby, the first poem speaks of:

“because I honor you because love isn’t cheap— / my heart sequestered by phantom desires / and touch what soul?”

I love the use of his question(ing) in the lines, this reminds me of William Blake so much and is very poignant, working so well with the idea of asking (the desired one) whilst at the same time beseeching them.

“when darkness preens our bodies / flight like a whistle birds of stone we cannot eat / I lay quietly in your light.”

If you say this poem out loud, you can hear the skill with which it was wrought. There is a baseline melody and then an upper cadence, rhythmic throughout and the ‘voice’ is extremely predominant, almost begging you to usher it into existence. This accomplishes a sense of: the poet himself, the object of his desire, his emotions. In many ways this is a classical recipe when writing love poems and you either love them or hate them. I fall into the former category.

Beautiful wordplay also dominates almost effortlessly. One such example: the use of “phantom desires” saying so much in two words. And the ending – “I lay quietly in your light” such a brief ending, so perfectly crafted with the flow of words, and overall feeling of gentle love and adoration. The tenderness he is able to evoke using his mastery of language is evident from the first line.

Although it’s harder to navigate the book due to not having titles, I quite like the idea of titleless poems and a reliance instead on the meaning, the emotion, the swell so to speak. In the second poem of 1. Baby, the lines: “by design I am fatal/ horse of sleep / carrying you toward me / where dreams eviscerate the mind” stood out as being stocked with metaphor and glorious imagery. Sometimes when you write obliquely in some ways and at the same time, say so much through your use of image, you set a stage far more vividly than by deliberate illustration. Suffice to say, such lines appear classic in their magnificent deliberation, how Pickering is able to shift our reading by the choice of which line they appear on, is surely the poet at his finest.

Poem 3 in the same series states: “you inhabit this tender world/ with a majesty no one recognizes/ but me.” By using “tender” before world Pickering deliberately and artfully softens the tone. Again using “majesty” he reveres his subject without needing to say more, and so, in three lines, so much is given, and little is lost. Another poetic device few possess, for we are often tempted to spell out what can be self-evident if we know our craft well enough.

As I read on, I find lines like: “the efficacy of dawn / like hammers clutched to the skin—” . These are equal to lines you would recall from taking a poetry course, that’s how tight and well-woven they are, and remain long after reading. Few authors have the ability to bring two lines alive with such dexterity and it is to Pickering’s credit that he is able to do this throughout this collection again and again.

Then suddenly there is a titled poem – “We Are Descending Together (After Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2)” and from this, I learn, how Pickering is able to be the poet I find. He takes a snapshot of something beautiful and speaks on it. As he does here, as he does throughout, and it works with such a crescendo of evocative naturalness, you feel he’s the creator and the subject:

“I admit to my failure at lovemaking. / I don’t make love; I destroy it.”

These lines are shattering. Their purity is staggering and I am reverent in my appreciation of Pickering’s high feeling like I have never been before.
I become aware that maybe I have mis-stepped, that this format is actually more deliberate than I even realised. I think of Duchamp’s staircase and then see the way these poems are arranged, with title or section title it matters not, these are meant to be read as one would fall down or climb up a staircase. You can hear it in the arrangement, as if Pickering were a composer writing music. That is exactly how this collection reads and I have never read a book of poetry that did this, not even Rossetti’s Goblin Market.
Within this, lines stand out like stars: “in empty fear there is an impulse to love—”. A mature and eerie understanding of human beings, emotions, desire, compulsion: “bolt the doors, rinse your wings: / every fear is justified. / nightingale slit throat, stolen honey.” It is a veritable glut of homage to every poet from Keats, the Brontë’s, through to Sappho, but done so naturally that it is in no way pretentious or seeking acclaim on the back of another. No, this is informed writing at its best.

Whether you are fan of poetry en masse or classical poetry, you will sink into lines like: “how do worms canker the flower? / envy’s sweet bud purses its lips in song.” I expect at times you may find this removed from the modern world and that will be a delight, because poetry isn’t of this world and a real poet will not conjure our world but a mirror of it, and reflect it back. Pickering has accomplished this through his breadth of knowledge about the world of literature and his own heart, that lives among those airy lines.

In the second section, ‘II Adult.’, Pickering shows his virtuoso as a philosopher of poetry with lines like; “What is known is not what we are certain of” and “heaven is anonymous and there are raging flags / above us”. And “nothing is senseless. Only the lack of sense.” (‘Intuition and Destiny’). Lines like those make me envy the quiet mind Pickering possesses, how he intuitively gleans beneath surfaces and remains in his imagination in ways that bring redolent colour and depth to his language.

The irony of when Pickering states: “you will be born forever into my tired stanzas.” Is that nothing could be further from the truth. These stanzas are anything but tired, they are fresh with intensity and passion and for those who love poetry, they are a welcome boon from the lackluster world beyond. If you find yourself envying his muse, then you know his work as a true romantic poet is accomplished.

Section Three is called ‘Walking Stick’ and symbolically I felt this line spoke of its meaning: “if I was perfect your stars would engage me.” This is the last part of the journey, where love slips through his hands, as beautifully as tragedy can be:

“if a monster I am, let me galvanize the pretty flux of death. / rapid sleep, dream in agency, I will not forgive.”

As an ardent fan of tragic love as well, I found Pickering’s handling of this delicate grief remarkable. It is far, far too easy as a writer to slip into maudlin self-pity and to retain that flourish of poetry whilst writing such despair is extremely challenging. Pickering succeeds in making tragedy beautiful and this is when you know, yes, he’s got that bittersweet magic in his soul:

“if prayer and fortune are no better than chance, / sublime randomness rules the punch— / we dig in, we live, the banquet of folly.”

It sounds pretentious of me to say this, but I have to because it’s what I thought reading The Forever Abode. Dustin Pickering’s writing reminds me of Shakespeare in his dexterous handling of tragedy especially and John Keats or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in his wild submergence into love. With lines like:

“I will not forget my love, for she is silver / to gestalt eyes.”

What else can come to mind but those greats, who know how to pick silver from the darkness and make it see? Equally, as a writer of poetry I have learned so much about the importance of line breaks, something so seemingly obvious and yet, Pickering could give seminars on it in his sleep.

Two final points necessary to make mention of. Firstly, that Pickering may use old-world language in such a way we have seen and grown bored of before, but he does it with intelligence. He doesn’t just borrow the words; he inhabits and understands them. Many times, I read words like ‘o-er’ and know the author doesn’t really understand more than the obvious meaning behind them, and not how to employ the rhythm and romance of those old words into song. Pickering is dexterous in his awareness of these words, both then and now, and as such they are not just symbols, he is bringing the past into the future.

Lastly, Pickering has wrought a beautiful creation with The Forever Abode. He has reminded me why I was drawn to poetry way back when I first read it. He has tapped me on the shoulder and let me know it’s okay to be a hopeless romantic. He has let it be okay to love language and wordplay without needing a modern twist. For this I owe him a debt of gratitude. Reading The Forever Abode has been an awakening into my own love affair with poetry and how no matter what, it endures within us, without us and throughout us, in its ability to make us feel … everything.

“Gold chalices are floating in an array of fleecy torpor: / wind puts the candle to its test. Failure is only a game./ It doesn’t matter how or when— / love will sink into you like a raw fruit / seeded by memory. / The thought of you reconciles me to death.”

Candice Louisa Daquin is a Sephardi immigrant from France who lives in the American Southwest. Formerly in publishing, Daquin is now a Psychotherapist and Editor, having worked in Europe, Canada and the USA. Daquins own work is also published widely, she has written five books of poetry, the last published by Finishing Line Press called Pinch the Lock. Her website is www