I was asked by a Goodreads author to review their book of poetry honestly, so here are my thoughts on Card of Fate by Duke of Quails.
This collection of poetry deals with the subject of gambling addiction, mostly from the perspective of the addict. Each poem reiterates the vicious cycle of one more hit, one more time, just one more try, portraying how easy it is to fall into a self-destructive pattern.
That being said, I did want more poems from other perspectives, like the piece called “What Me and Dad Did On Spring Break.” This poem is told from the perspective of a son who is watching his dad make bad decisions, but due to his innocence, he doesn’t recognize what his father was doing as wrong. I think the collection could have had a stronger impact with more poems of this variety, showing how addiction affects those around the addict as well as the addicts themselves. However, it can be argued that the point of such repetition in the poems conveys the nature of addiction, in that it’s a person making the same choices over and over again, never recognizing the consequences of his or her actions.
Duke includes a heavy use of punctuation throughout the poems, and that sometimes works well as it creates a manic feeling emanating from the lines, like someone breathing fast and talking to themselves desperately, such as in the opening poem “Gambling Temptation.” In some cases though, like in “Innocent Ticket,” the use of so many commas, periods and semi-colons is overwhelming and becomes a distraction.
The concept of innocence is threaded throughout the collection, with the use of the word often attributed by the speaker of each poem giving themselves excuses or reasons for the gambling addiction. I think it’s interesting especially as with the previously-mentioned poem about the father and son, how a little boy can be innocent to what his father is doing but that same man can also see himself as an innocent victim fallen prey to the predator that is addiction. Many of the speakers see themselves this way, arguing with the reader that if only the slot machines didn’t entice them, if only the cards had been dealt differently, if only, if only, if only. The consistent diction choice with this idea establishes a strong voice throughout the poems.
Duke’s poems don’t rely heavily on imagery and flowery language as one would expect with poetry, but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. While there are occasional lines like, “My little mouse I used to call him,/Now a scared rat before my eyes he’s grown to be,” (“How Did We End Up Hiding?”) to portray the corruption of innocence, the poems mostly use plain, simple language more in the form of conversation. This choice makes it clear that a constant inner monologue is going on in the addicts’ heads as they struggle to break free from the dangerous cycle.
I’m going to wrap up with this final observation. The collection utilizes rhyme schemes through every piece, some of which are successful, and some of which fall flat. In “Mommy Can I Have a Dollar?” the rhyming feels forced and detracts from the poem as a whole. However, in “A Gamble’s Story,” Duke employs slant rhyme beautifully with the lines, “It’s a graduation,/A sure step up from an inauguration./Scratch-Offs no longer valid;/Lottery ticket can’t kick the habit,/But the place itself, the casino’s buzz./The smell of the table is a sick drug.” The mix of short, punchy lines and rhyme scheme here creates a feeling of anxiety and urgency that comes with addiction.
Overall, a fair collection of poems that may resonate strongly with those who have undergone addiction struggle themselves or for readers looking to broaden their minds.