A Serene Study of Love: Review of A Particle of You

“To truly enjoy poetry, we must leave behind our preconceived notions of what the art form is supposed to be; and instead, let the words freely come and speak to us. The same goes for love, actually. The more we embrace it, the more we grow.”

Cendrine Marrouat

“Love can mean so many things to different people but it is one of the fundamental emotions in this world that has the power to connect us all…”

David Ellis

I don’t read much poetry. That admission is rather ironic because I used to write poetry in my twenties and even hosted poetry reading sessions when I was in college. It’s just as ironic that my first reaction was one of hesitation when Cendrine Marrouat offered me a review copy of A Particle of You, her latest collection with David Ellis. “Do I even know how to read poetry anymore?” I wondered.

I write fiction. I read fiction and some non-fiction. I hadn’t read a poetry collection in a while…until I got a copy of A Particle of You. This is the preface to my short review of a poetry collection that moved me in ways I didn’t expect.

A Particle of You, a wonderfully serene collection, encourages readers to question our assumptions about love. The collection contains two parts: a first set of poems by Cendrine and a second set by David. That division is important because the two authors offer very different takes on love, giving the collection a thoughtful balance and freshness.

On one hand, Cendrine gives readers a view of love as a force that is peaceful, eye-opening, and invigorating yet fleeting. Her earliest poems in the collection speak of love lost, sometimes with a melancholy tone (“We”) but often in a tone of gratefulness mingled with a sense of release (“Time Has Passed Us By” and “Sometimes”). She follows those with a few poems that touch on the excitement of love, the importance of taking a chance on the possibility of love, and of cherishing the love that we have in the present. “Similar Love” and “Moments” capture these themes effortlessly. I especially appreciated the playfulness of “Similar Love” and how it conveys the joy of love as one is experiencing it in the moment. Cendrine even explores the value of self-love and a child’s love in “My Shelter Is You,” perhaps the most moving poem from her in the collection. But my favorite poems from her are “A Particle of You” and “Loving You” because they capture the bittersweetness of love’s fleeting nature.

On the other hand, David presents a view of love that is magical (“The Garden Beyond the Looking Glass” and “Changed Into Wine”) and a journey (“Two Different Voyages”) to knowledge (“From the Last Sonata”). But at its core, love is joyful albeit a little chaotic and tense (“Pearls in the Midst of Night”), and deeply physical (“Hear A Woman” and “Inside Silky Souls Laid Bare”) for David. As Cendrine indicates in her earlier section, love should not be undervalued; David takes this a step further and lays out a selection of poems that urge us to treat love with the utmost seriousness, to recognize that it is a force capable of drowning us. I was struck by the significance of water imagery (rivers, oceans, rain, pools) in his poems, particularly in “The Gift of Today,” “Wait Until the Tide Takes Hold,” and “The Rivers Between Us.” The water imagery drills home the theme of love as something fierce and even dangerous that sometimes takes us to places we can’t know or understand…but we have to flow with it rather than push against it. My favorite poem in this section is “Two Different Voyages” because, although the water imagery is less direct in it, the poem elevates this notion of love as an overpowering force that can drown us but also asks us to question what is life without love?

I enjoyed A Particle of You for the questions and images it evokes. This collection by Cendrine Marrouat and David Elllis takes a balanced look at love, what it means to lose and find love, and what it means to grow and flow with love. I recommend A Particle of You for those who want to meditate on the idea of love from two very different but complementary perspectives.

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