Review by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77)
If you, like me, have been struggling to find your voice during the presidency of Donald Trump, this little volume of poetry may help. As the title suggests, author Dorothy Crews Herzberg has not only found her voice, she is using it to express her sentiments toward the President and his unconventional and often decidedly unpresidential behavior.
Herzberg was born in 1935, so she has been observing our democracy for a very long time, and through many crises, including World War II. In the Preface to this book of poems she states, “I feel the election of 2016 has profoundly shaken the values, structure, and essence of democracy.” While she states her belief that our democracy will survive Trump’s presidency, she says writing poetry helps her cope with the current situation, and she hopes reading it will help others cope.
She begins with a poem about Susan B. Anthony titled “Susan B. Set Us Free,” and continues with poems that criticize both the President’s actions and his demeanor.
The problem with political poetry, no matter how incisive and on-target, is that it is stuck in the current situation being described and therefore often lacks long-term appeal. However, the second section of this collection, titled simply “More” consists of poems about other aspects of the author’s life. The first reflects on her service in the Peace Corps and is titled “What Does It Mean To Be a PCV.” The final poem is aptly titled “The Last Part” and contains reflections by the author on how she should spend the rest of her life.
Use Your Voice is one thoughtful person’s effort to cope with troubling times. Perhaps it will help readers to also find their voices and navigate these divisive days.
D.W. Jefferson was a Peace Corps agriculture volunteer in El Salvador (1974-76) and Costa Rica (1976-77). A blog about his Peace Corps years is at dwjefferson.blogspot.com He is currently retired from a career in computer software engineering.