Into the Sunset
A Review of Courtney A. Butler’s Wild Horses
By Beau Williams
Like the name suggests, Wild Horses is the struggle of an unbridled soul ready to escape from the reins. Courtney A. Butler dissects the intricacies of a fierce heart under stress and scatters them through this collection in twenty-two poems.
This collection is a frustrated soul screaming from behind a crumbling barrier. In the book’s introductory poem, “Words, Like Meat,” the first line reads:
“I scrape words
from the inside of my ribs
They have hung there
clinging desperately to what
oxygen they could”
This line summarizes why this book exists. Butler portrays a person that has had this “meat”, these weighing parts of her that needed to be released, and Wild Horses is that release. Butler tackles the delicate topics of loss of a loved one, being the “other” girl, carrying secrets, searching for love, and (like true wild horses) learning to break free. This collection has the longing and reflection of Plath, the fierceness of Ke$ha, the nature influences of Wordsworth, with a hint of zany like Lewis Carroll.
This book has hidden its structure quite well. There are no full-stops, though there are commas, hyphens, italics, and capitalized letters to subliminally guide the reader’s eye through the pages. The lack of full-stops gives the book a sense of uncertainty that Butler carries with grace; a slight unease that really sets the tone ahead of time and prepares the reader for the topics soon to follow. There are no sections, no interludes, and no quotes, Butler just gets straight to it and gives you exactly what you came there for.
As previously mentioned, the introductory poem seems to be Butler giving herself permission to write the rest of the work; “Words, like Meat” is Butler strapping the bomb to the dam, once the switch is flipped, whatever has been pushing itself against the walls will finally be released, and it was.
After that, the book really dives into relationships between the subject and the people closest to them. The second poem: “DNR,” lays out the concept of the book. It is about a person who is trying to come to terms with a situation in a relationship that neither of the participants have any control over. This is a recurring theme throughout the book. In “DNR,” the topic is death. In later poems the topics are love, lust, miscommunication, and distance.
It can be argued that one of the most intimate, relatable, and touching poems in the collection is “The Importance of Being Broken (Or Sitting in a Bathtub with Your Clothes On and the Lights Off).” Here, Butler describes the deafening moment of collapse; the moment where all the stress and all the worry has finally become too much.
“because all the shit has been hitting all the fans”
This poem gets into the mind of a person who has reached a breaking point and literally crumples into a ball, fully clothed, in their bathtub with the lights off; contemplating turning the water on, the light on, removing their clothes, finding strength but ultimately doing none of these. The content of this poem is relatable to nearly everyone. Everyone has hit rock bottom. Everyone has given up hope. Everyone has crawled into an unlikely place in an awkward fashion in search of any sort of comfort. Butler doesn’t sugarcoat anything about this mental state.
“Maybe you were pushed off that cliff
Maybe it was your fault
or maybe you got caught in the landslide
The reality is
everything you were was on that cliff
and now everything you are is
broken in a bathtub?”
Though raw and heavy, Butler ends the poem on a strong note; describing how, at the end of this, you will start to mold your new shape together like a carved bar of soap — highlighting the brand new you that will finally be able to stand up and turn on the light.
Butler also has a fun, cutesy side which is apparent in her poem “The Long Slow Huzzah! (or Tea Time Going Over a Cliff).” This one has a very surreal feel, like Salvador Dali meets Alice in Wonderland. In this poem, the author describes falling in love as a metaphor for having a tea party… while tumbling off a cliff.
“Pale yellow tablecloth rippling in the breeze
taking all the fine china with it (…)
Well then, I’ve gone and fallen in love with you ”
This might be the most animated piece in the collection. Short and sweet, “The Long Huzzah!” is quaint and joyful, with underlying tones of terror. There is no mention of fear, no imminent crash to end the plummet, just weightlessness. The mention of a cliff face insinuates it is connected to a ground and with no mention of the ground throughout the poem or plans to get out of this situation, one can only assume the postscript is bloody and riddled with shattered porcelain.
Wild Horses is a solid collection that would find home on the bookshelves of the strong-of-heart. “Closer to One” is one of the last poems in the book and sums up the target audience very well. Here, the subject considers themself as two people: the untamed animal in a cage, and the caregiver.
“Yes! I say, finally
Yes to your thirst
Yes a thousand times
to the nectar you crave (…)
You are right to thirst
and I will answer you”
This book is for any static heart who has ever felt tied down or unheard. This book is for the wild of spirit; for anyone who has needed to scream and doesn’t have the haven. Wild Horses lets you know that you are never alone in these places, and that others have been where you’ve been and (like you) survived to ride free.
Click here to help support Independent Bookstores during this time of social isolation by purchasing Wild Horses from Bookworks Albuquerque.
Review by Beau Williams:
Beau Williams is a fairly optimistic poet based out of Portland Maine. He co-runs a weekly poetry class at Sweetser Academy and facilitates workshops at high schools and colleges around the New England area. His work has been published in numerous poetry websites and journals.
Beau has performed internationally and nationally both as a solo artist and with the performance poetry collectives Uncomfortable Laughter and GUYSLIKEYOU. He was the Grand Slam Champion at Port Veritas in 2014 and was the Artist in Residence at Burren College in Ballyvaughan, Ireland in January of 2017. Beau’s book, Rumham, is available for purchase on Amazon.com.