Black Authors,  Book Reviews,  Poetry,  Self-Help

Book Review: Whose Fault, Kismet or Impediment?

Earlier this year, Peter Okonkwo published Fate, In The Dungeon of Doom, a collection of poetry which questions the power destiny and fate have over our lives. Now comes Whose Fault, Kismet or Impediment? These two books should be considered as companion pieces to each other. If you find help and enlightenment in one, I recommend you get a copy of the other, as well.

Whose Fault, Kismet or Impediment? carries the subtitle, “Difficult queries about the realness of the human fate amidst obstacles“, which is an accurate summing-up of the poetry you will be reading.

Obstacles. Every human who’s ever lived has faced them at some point in their lives. While some people are able to step easily around their obstacles and continue their journey, others find themselves trapped with no means of escape. Why is it that some have it easy and others have it hard? Could these obstacles be tied in with our fate? This is but one of many questions the author asks you to ask of yourself.

The narrator immediately starts our poetic journey by addressing obstacles head-on. “Hello, obstacle, / How are you getting on? / I’ve long to have some discussion with you, / I’ve got a lot of gnarly questions to ask you;” (A Conversation with Obstacle, lines 1-5). It begins with a confrontational attitude. It’s cocky, it taunts, it’s hoping to provoke a reaction.  But soon, the tone changes. The narrator begins to wonder why Obstacle behaves this way. Is Obstacle even aware of its effect on mankind? Next, it becomes personal, as the narrator tells Obstacle about his own experiences. And on it goes, with the narrator pivoting from one approach to another. He works his way through bouts of anger, blame, begging, understanding… it’s clear that he will not be satisfied until he reaches understanding.

Is this the narrator’s best approach? Will Obstacle listen? Is it even able to listen? Could the narrator be giving more power to Obstacle through his confession? As a multitude of questions are asked, you might start adding your own questions, too.

Each poem takes us further into the exploration of  impediment and obstacles. The narrator is very persistent—and clever. He tries to see the bigger picture. At one point he wonders if his chosen path is dangerous, maybe a delay is necessary for the ultimate goal. Could Impediment be merely a tool of Fate to accomplish this?

“Intercession” is a poignant prayer to God by a worried man, who fears the impediments in his friend’s life are steering him towards suicide. I found this poem to be achingly beautiful, as I wished the man in torment knew what a good friend he has, one that cares so desperately about his fate.

“Destiny or Obstacle” brings up an interesting point. If one doesn’t know their own destiny, how can they know if there’s an impediment to it? As I contemplated this concept, my thoughts turned to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, where I grew up in its foothills. Travelers from the east who encounter these mountains for the first time may groan and complain about having to take difficult roads to get through them. Hundreds of years ago, that trip involved covered wagons and harsh weather conditions. Not everyone survived. Many gave up and turned back. But those that stayed the course were eventually rewarded. Many even learned to love those mountains for all the wonders and bounty they offer. I paused in my contemplation to focus on the point again. If you don’t truly know your the goal, how can you understand what you encounter along the way?

“Despite Obstacle” brings us to a turning point in our journey. The narrator declares his resolve. It’s a positive, encouraging poem, and I will not quote it here because it’s better if the final lines sneak up on you. You might even smile a little.

Part two of the book contains other poetry by the author. Some of it is loosely connected with the Impediment series from part one. Other poems deal with death, grief, suicide, the afterlife, vanity, and negativity. This collection may enhance what you’ve thought about during the first part of the book, or it may stand alone as separate contemplations.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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