Chamber Music (Book Review)

Chamber Music By James Joyce

So here I go writing my first review for a small poetry collection. By the infamous James Joyce, I have yet to learn of that infamy since this is his first book and the first that I have read of his. I will try my best critique his work here, but I must admit, I generally don’t like poetry mainly because I do not understand it well and my experience with poetry is elementary at best. But like all my reviews the main purpose is for me to try and squeeze out what I think and what I feel about it. So please bear with me as this will be a terrible review of poems. And I intend to re-review this collection once I have a better understanding of poetry later in life.

36 poems are contained in this collection I’m not sure exactly how to review this collection, I will review the collection as a whole and then also review my favorites more in-depth towards the bottom, so spoilers for those.

So, the first thing I noticed is the title of this collection, chamber music, which a title most of the time doesn’t mean much, but for me, I’m in love with titles. And for a collection of literally nameless poems. It offers me a glimpse into this collection, it very much is a bulge of ideas, mainly concerning love and the things that come with it. So, it’s noteworthy to me at least that Joyce would name a collection after a phrase meant to be music for the pisser. Which is telling considering how this collection ends.

I will be honest in saying that the poems in the collection didn’t capture my imagination or push me to consider things at a deeper level. That might be my ignorant stance on poetry or a lack from Joyce himself, but again those poems don’t feel like they even want to be taken so seriously, they seem almost lighthearted, or whimsical in passing like a cool breeze offering notes of a familiar smell but never lingering long enough to really capture your senses. Another way I see it is that they feel like journal entries not intended to be broken down and enjoyed but just faint reminders of what was. In that sense they are good, yet I still wanted more I want the entire smell, not just the notes. I reread the collection in its entirety almost ten times and also many poems individually. And I came to realize that they are most enjoyable at leisure when you’re just sipping on some coffee or tea outside admiring the simplicity of the world. I believe Joyce tapped into this, and obviously, the main theme is of a young man truly feeling that he will never find true love, and that aspect did resonate with me, I was that boy wandering the streets and woods wondering if anyone would ever love me. This collection almost defines that sensation, none of the poems feel real, they feel imagined and wishful. yet this collection like I said above offers faint glimpses of that, not the full memory.

Again this is the first poetry collection I have ever read, so my opinion is biased and more than likely ignorant, I’d love to hear feedback on what you think about this. I’d love to see different perspectives on this collection and learn from it.

Let me reiterate, The poems are in no way bad, they are simply, uncaptivating to me. They are wonderfully sharp in their prose and his wordcraft is fantastic. It truly feels like a first book, light and dreamlike, hinting at a great future of creation.

--- 6/10 - Average -

I spent some time searching for good reviews of this collection to link to for further reading but I couldn’t find anything worth mentioning, I did find an interesting website detailing his intentions and his thoughts on the collection through letters he sent to colleagues and his wife. Interestingly they almost reinforce my original review.

https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/james-joyces-chamber-music-1918-american-edition/

Thank you for reading my review I hope to hear your thoughts and opinions as well, as I would love to learn new perspectives of this book.