Unopened by Doug Hoekstra is the writer’s first collection of poetry. Hoekstra is a Chicago-bred, Nashville-based writer and musician, educated at DePaul University (B.A.) and Belmont University (M.Ed.). His first book, Bothering the Coffee Drinkers (Canopic Publishing, April 2016) was an Independent Publisher Award Bronze Medal Finalist for Best Short Fiction.
It is very refreshing to see a new poet who is not an “Instagram poet.” I may just be getting old, but poetry is more than a few trite lines on a page. Hoekstra’s poems vary in style and format to even include a sonnet. There is a connection in the words that form art, images, and even memories in the reader’s mind. Unopened is divided into three sections. The first section, “On the Page,” represents the things that are close to us and ties us together. From the first poem “Memory,” the reader is connected with the poet. It is in these poems the reader realizes that I have experienced that too…that same exact moment. We look back with nostalgia at “The Teeterboard” or see a bit of ourselves years ago in young couples.
The second section “Off the Canvas (Out into the World) takes the reader into adulthood, sometimes alone, and sometimes with others. There may be a bit of nostalgia, but there is a healthy dose of questioning. “The Minimum” and “Officespeak” detail a touch of the reality of the real world. “The Claims Approver” brings to mind a Dickens-like drudgery and the thanklessness of modern employment. I was taken back to earlier days with the “Ode to the Sunday Paper.” That huge collection of newsprint where one can spend the entire day relaxing and reading while enjoying a pot of coffee. The memories of reporters working to provide that important story seem to have been replaced with internet news entertainment. The section closes with the poem “Stars.” It is a simply written poem with only one word on each line. We climb a hill to get a more unobstructed view to name the stars. Yet, many of these stars do not exist today as we are looking at the light they gave off millions of years ago.
The final section, “Between the Notes,” takes the reader further into life. The poem “Gravitas” is the opposite of “Stars.” Here complex electronics sounds, as music, are described in a mechanical way. Even the stanzas give the impression of a digital stereo spectrograph. The poet’s tone makes a noticeable change with the poem “Vinyl” — the antithesis of electronic music.
Hoekstra, being a musician, manages to include music in many of his poems — Sinatra, McCartney, Blues, and Jazz. He does this in a very natural manner that is not forced and does not come across as song lyrics posing as poetry. The variety of forms are work well. It is a nice mixture of free form with a few sedokas and a sonnet (about a radiator of all things). Unopened is a meaningful collection of poetry that will strike a chord with most readers. It is a reminder that although we are all different, we share many of the same experiences and sometimes it takes good poetry to remind us of that.