Matt Forney
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Heroes and Hedonists by William Rome

heroes-and-hedonistsHeroes and Hedonists is a second poetry collection from Legend of the Great Trek author William Rome, consisting of shorter poems he had originally planned to include in that volume but had to excise in order to keep the price down. I’m not sure if this was the wisest course of action, because while Rome has a knack for poetry, Heroes and Hedonists isn’t strong enough to stand as an independent work.

It’s not bad, mind you, but unless you’re already a fan of Rome’s, this book will leave you cold.

As he explains in his introduction, Heroes and Hedonists is a brief collection of various short poems he’s written over the years. Unlike the poetry collections of John Dolan, Rome’s book has no real unifying themes or motifs, jumping around from doggerel about smoking hookahs to mini-epics such as “The Ballad of the Lost Knight”:

Dropping beside my victim in the grass
I saw my attacker and my life to pass.
Suddenly an arrow flew through his head
And he fell atop me cold and dead.
I saw our home in flames that spread and swell,
How many still alive? I could not tell.
Shadows grew as my eyes started to slip;
Losing blood, my mind started to trip.

Rome’s constant reliance on the AABB rhyme format, tolerable in The Legend of the Great Trek, becomes grating in this book as he clumsily tries to ram the square peg of the English language into his round hole. Additionally, the clash between the weightier subject matter of poems like “The Wandering Prisoner” and “The Ballad of the Lost Knight” and the more lighthearted poems like “In a Sauna” gives Heroes and Hedonists an almost schizophrenic feel at times:

Through the glass door I watch
children splash about in the pool
and old fat men in the spa
“Close the door you’re letting the heat out!”
I joke with the 19 year old lifeguard
checking to see if anyone passed out…
she’s so cute with her olive skin and glasses
I’ll flirt with her again before
jumping in the pool to cool down

If there’s one quality about Rome’s poetry I like, a quality that kept me reading Heroes and Hedonists, it’s his earnestness. Even in his most embarrassing moments, his verse has a frankness and honesty that I find refreshing. Unlike the clunky free verse of modern, Iowa Writers Workshop-supported hacks, Heroes and Hedonists is steeped in sincerity, if nothing else.

Some of Rome’s lines may make you groan, but at least he’s not faking.

Overall, if you enjoyed The Legend of the Great Trek, Heroes and Hedonists is worth buying as it’s basically more of the same. If you haven’t read that book—or you didn’t like it—don’t bother.

Click here to buy Heroes and Hedonists.

Read Next: The Legend of the Great Trek by William Rome