Imperfections of Beauty
This thought-provoking collection of poems asks big questions of readers. T.C. Monk grapples with universal questions regarding how we as individuals make meaning, and what matters to us. What makes Monk’s poetry stand out from the works of other incarcerated writers is his ability to transcend the very concrete constraints of his life and not dwell in the past. Like flowers blooming through cracked sidewalks, his poetry is evidence of how beauty, freedom, and light can emerge from the harsh environment of containment, restraint, and unnatural shadows. Assembled over a more than 20-year period, the collection is an intellectual and emotional cartography of one man’s search for emotional wisdom, truth, and peace.
His poetry is deliberate, the words and images are chosen. Monk’s poems are not for those who are easily intimidated or want to read poetry without effort. They are not cerebral poems, nor are they “a spontaneous eruption of powerful feelings,” nor lines of rhymes as an end in itself, nor a wild landscape of words and letters thrown haphazardly into the wind to land and sprout as they would, independent of one another. The poems are built with care. They are a scaffold upon which Monk builds a spiritual lighthouse, a place to muse, to imagine, to create, conject, and conjure incantations and songs, as well as an effort to explore and defy dimensions of time, space, and spirit. In doing so, he lays bare not only the shadow and light of his soul, but the essential human spirit that binds us all. They teach us something about our shared humanity, that what we love, fear, hate, and desire are inextricably and intimately related. In their relative proximity, these emotional dimensions of our lives reveal our fragility even as they are testimony to human resilience.