When I reviewed William Seward Bonnie’s Studies last year, I didn’t think to myself “I can’t wait for the sequel to come out!” That’s not a knock on Studies, which presented a wondrous range of beautiful, short poems. I just never imagined that Bonnie would be game to put together a collection that was specifically intended to be a follow-up. Something that is quite clear throughout both Studies, as well as this new collection entitled Subtleties, is the presentation of a restless spirit. Bonnie is a writer who constantly questions and challenges, particularly in terms of his perception of the world. Subtleties is about a lot of things, but many of the poems fall under an interesting notion: Continue moving forward, and keep an open mind as far along the way as possible, or suffer the consequences. The consequences can vary. If nothing else, you won’t have nearly as an interesting life as you deserve to have.
That is not to say that Subtleties is depressing. It most certainly is not, although at least some of the pieces assume a gentle, sorrowful tone. What these poems try to explain is that the journey is an ongoing one. What that journey consists of is left entirely up to the individual. Bonnie is at least aware of this much, but suggests throughout this collection that he is as lost as the rest of us. This rarely bothers him. It actually gives him a sense of hope and optimism, which he expresses frequently here. The journey is strange, multifaceted, and consistently in the thick of the uncertain. Judging from the hopefulness of certain poems and lines in this book, Bonnie wouldn’t have it any other way.
Subtleties makes perfect sense as a direct follow-up to Studies. Both are part of that ongoing journey to make sense of things, while simultaneously realizing that in many circumstances, that is something that simply can’t be done. Some writers stick to what they know, or fail to convey that the journey is its own singular reward. Seward’s talent for being able to create such evocative visuals and thoughts with so few words per poem is clear throughout every piece. When it comes to the fact that not everything is clearly definable, he endeavors to write about it anyway, as best he can. Thankfully, he doesn’t need a complete understanding of what he is trying to convey, in order to write about it with talent and sincerity. His skill as a writer remains refreshingly consistent from the first poem to the last one. That is commendable in of itself, but it’s even better when it is combined with William Seward Bonnie’s talents as a writer.
Fearlessness is great in a writer. The restless spirit is still one that can drive a novel, book of stories, collection of poems, or whatever else someone has in mind. However, it’s nice when these things are just beautiful pieces of creativity that can be enjoyed as such. Studies is a great example of these thoughts. Understanding this adds another layer to Subtleties being a brilliant sequel.