Pro/Con: Soak by Kerri Cull


Soak by Kerri Cull (Breakwater Books, 2012)


  • As a first collection, these poems strive towards some level of depth in their assessment of youth and the process of maturing. Memories burn intensely throughout the work, often with a social impetus that reaches adulthood in the latter pages of the book. A variety of relationships, familial and otherwise, are treated throughout the collection.
  • The style is uncluttered and refuses to ramble; Cull instead writes shorter lyrics that work best when the fat has been trimmed. e.g.: “Skating” has a mere thirty-three words organized into fifteen short lines, but the images of an aged father nearing death watching figure-skating and the connection to the “fragile / frozen ponds” of his youth are to the point and capture the subject beautifully.
  • The poems that deal with loss of loved ones (literal or figurative) are the strongest. “Miles” is a heartbreaking poem that elegantly handles the speaker’s meeting with one who has Alzheimer’s. The honesty of feeling and expression present is refreshing and hard-hitting.
  • Poems of note: “Soak”, “After that Argument”, “Skating”, “Miles”.


  • Some poems illustrate a use of overmodification by employing to excess adjectives and other superfluous words, which evoke the “show, don’t tell” response. For example, “Apartment” begins, “You always slept on our unforgiving couch”, which, besides the awkward sound placement in the line, tells the reader what the following two lines show in a much more effective way: “It was faded to a feverish sand on the arms / and where bottoms sat the most”. Other poems illustrate a movement away from this element in the writing, and hint at promise in Cull’s future as a poet.
  • The first section of poems, while intended to play with an immaturity that will blossom later, makes for the least engaging in the book and runs the risk of reader disinterest before meatier poems are found further into the work.
  • The inclusion of suggested book club topics/questions at the end of the volume is unnecessary and serves to guide the reader too stringiently. The best volumes of poetry are those that lay the poems bare to the reader without any suggestion of what’s important or noteworthy in the work. Let the reader decide.

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