Review: The Last Time We Saw Strangers by Christopher Hopkins

I was lucky enough to be an early reader of Christopher Hopkins' second chapbook with Clare Songbirds Publishing House, my own publisher for my upcoming collection!

A bit about Chris...

Christopher Hopkins was born and raised in Neath, South Wales. He currently resides in the Canterbury area of Kent with his wife and daughter.

His debut poetry chapbook ‘Take Your Journeys Home’ was published by Clare Songbirds Publishing House in November 2017 and has received a nomination for the IPPY book award

for poetry and two of its poems ‘Sorrow on the Hill’ and ‘Smoke and Whiskey’ have also received nominations for the Pushcart Prize.

My review: 4 1/2 Stars

This is the work of a seasoned poet who is able to take his own experiences of life, decide what it is important to him, and relate it to the world around him. In this collection, Hopkins takes inspiration from nature, and explores what is important to 'live'. The conclusion I would say he reaches, if any, is that there is a familiarity in family and our 'roots' which will bring us happiness, if we will only let it.

'He took his heart out of his chest/and planted it in the earth.'

- I really like this metaphor for where our roots are; where our hearts lie. That we decide where to plant these roots.

'and although I have chewed on my cord so often to somehow rid me of legends or on a day where I forget the name for heart/I see the sky is brightest in the western arch of home'

- The pull and tug against 'home'. Chris explores his family ties and the phrase 'the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree' springs to my mind - this phrase does not always have to have negative connotations.

From the poem: 'God and Work':

'We have a habit of stoning prophets from time to time here in Jerusalem'

- This poem seems to hold its own within the collection. What I got from this poem, was the idea of a small town with small minds, and the death of religion in our society.

This collection also features 'Simple Physics', which was originally published in Please Hear What I'm Not Saying. Initially, and now, I am struck by the beautiful simplicity of these lines:

'There have been day when oceans have been/dripping off my wings/my stomach singing tunes./Then I was fed by you.'

There is a sense of hope in this collection that love can see us through a dark day; that family will always be around the corner. There is also an exploration of nature and particularly the animals in it - whales and birds feature the most. The metaphor of life being like an ocean seems to apply to this poetry chapbook: 'I am soaked in life'

It was full of little descriptions which appealed to me, like this one:

'The stars shone on our limbs/on our lilac pale skins.We fell/into the wells/of our button eyes.'

This is a collection which will make you reflect on the world around you, and that is a powerful ability which cannot be underestimated.

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