This is how William Seward Bonnie opens his collection, appropriately titled Studies. The concept of studying certainly applies to the 100 numbered poems that make up this book. There is a sincere concept throughout to understand loss, anger, love, fear, and other primal emotions, and to understand the motivations behind them, as well. This is done on a level that can be best described personal. Yet Bonnie also tries to make each of the 100 poems relatable in some way. The effort in Studies isn’t ultimately designed to make sense of everything. It’s simply trying to better understand why things are the way they are. Whether or not it succeeds in this endeavor depends entirely on how the reader feels. That’s easily one of the most appealing things about these short, insightful poems.
Each poem in Studies exists entirely on its own. The brilliance of the collection is in how it accomplishes this. An individual poem reveals Bonnie’s wisdom and blunt observation through sparse-yet-detailed imagery. Taking the poems as 100 pieces of a single image, and the results is a unique accomplishment. Without ever becoming overly sentimental, these poems celebrate life, and understand that this is something that cannot be neatly explained. It’s important to note again that the poems do not strive to explain everything. We’re not going to finish the book with a feeling that everything worked out for the better. Everything is not pretty wonderful at the end of the day.Studies has been written by a man who believes that the good in life deserves as much recognition and awareness as the horrible things. So much ground is covered with poems that each barely fills the page. The book is not about solving the mysteries of our humanity, our dreams, our best moment, and our most disturbing patterns. It is simply trying to comprehend, and in doing so hopes to discover just how much control one really has over their destiny. It’s an ambitious pursuit for any type of writing. Other poets would perhaps be tempted to go into elaborate detail, to break things down until none of the thoughts and feelings from the beginning remain. This approach can be a fine one, but it’s good to know that writers like Bonnie are capable of going in the opposite direction.Studies is certainly keen to engage in deconstruction, but the fate of existence as these poems depict such a thing isn’t hinging on closure. There is a suggestion throughout Studies that there really isn’t such a thing as a closure. At least, there isn’t such a thing on a scale of Studies’examination of the individual in the larger world.
We can’t save everyone. Most of us know this, but we also severely doubt at times whether or not we can even save ourselves. Studies doesn’t necessarily tell you that you can. It does suggest that almost anything is possible, if you’re willing to hit the darkest, ugliest streets that support the warped skyscrapers and shantytown palaces of your mind. There are a lot of different things to take from these wonderful poems. If you happen to consider taking the hope that introspection and observation can make a difference, it’s unlikely that William S. Bonnie is going to tell you that you’re wrong for doing so.