TEXT review

Romantic poetry for the non-poetic reader

review by Josephine Carzo


Eugen Bacon
Fiction4All, www.fiction4all.com 2018
ISBN: 9781786951618
Pb 69pp AUD22.99


As Saricks (1999: 244) indicates, romance is often defined by the characteristics that are important to the reader and have been developed from what they have previously read and enjoyed. As an avid reader of the romance genre, I often find myself immersed in the relationship development between heroes and heroines as they face off against contemporary social issues, or paranormal entities, the ton in the regency era or drug cartels. These books use these conflicts to also explore the relationships between the heroes and heroines, and their relationships with families and friends, ex-lovers, enemies and associates. They evoke feelings of excitement, intrigue, fear, and more than the occasional swoon.

Key elements I look for in a romance novel include, a meet-cute, banter, sexual chemistry, the moment where all seems lost between the hero and heroine (commonly called the ‘black’ moment), and the indelible Happily Ever After – all the hallmarks of a modern romance novel (Michaels 2007). However, because I want – and to a certain extent expect – these elements in romance novels, I previously assumed poetry would not be able to deliver them. I did not think a book of prose poetry could elicit the same feelings that a three-hundred-page romance can. loveSTRUCK by Eugen Bacon has shown me otherwise.

Bacon does not rely solely on the emotional journey of romantic relationships to build her prose. loveSTRUCK is broken up into three parts: ‘Eros’, ‘Agape’, and ‘Caritas’. Eros and agape are Greek terms: eros most commonly represents sexual and romantic love (Oord 2010: 46), while agape is likened to an unselfish love for others (Lindberg 2008: 160). Alternatively, caritas is Latin and refers to charity and a love for all humankind (Caine 2009: 140). To truly capture the relationship between these ideals and Bacon’s poetry would require a much longer discussion as these terms are far more complex than what I have defined here, and are not the focus of my review. If readers are interested though, I highly recommend further reading regarding eros, agape, and caritas prior to reading loveSTRUCK. Poetry can be understood by theme, as well as subject (Simecek & Ellis 2017: 101), and Bacon’s work is no exception. Two resources that explore these terms in greater depth are Shin Chiba’s article ‘Hannah Arendt on Love and the Political: Love, Friendship and Citizenship’ and ‘The Art of Love: A Roman Catholic Psychology of Love’ by Craig Steven Titus and Philip Scrofani.  

As a romance reader, I found Bacon’sstrongest writing is within ‘Eros’. These are the poems that speak to my partiality for this genre. The writing is striking, blatant, and weaves images of romance and love, taking these every day words and creating moments for the reader to vividly imagine: ‘Last night she was a moon goddess, all aglow and the gravity of her protoplanet pulling at his Earth; stirred up tides that bulged and dropped, lit his world as he came’ (21). Bacon’s prose is explicit and implicit, erotic and emotional. It is, quite simply, engaging and compelling.

Character development is also carefully delivered throughout loveSTRUCK: ‘Inside your walk-in: bespoke suits, T.M.Lewins, pastel polos, boot cuts and skinny fits’ (15), ‘Most of your lovers are eminently dumpable… Don’t stand there picking your arse. Give the rude finger, burn the old flame, discard the dogged ghost’ (37). These snippets reveal characters that are vividly imagined, if not necessarily dynamic. Ideas that might take pages to develop in a novel are brought forth with a carefully worded sentence.

Interestingly, while I also prefer alpha heroes of the strong-bodied, brooding variety, Bacon offers a very uncharacteristic hero at times. Saricks (1999: 244) highlights that characters must give up their ideals about the opposite sex before they can attain that elusive Happily Ever After. Bacon encourages me do this, too, as she writes: ‘Now he is juggling three oranges in my living room, his face intent like it is life and death, and I am dazzled by a moment of heartswell that pervades my world’ (19). Despite illustrating behaviours that may not epitomise a romance novel hero, the protagonist’s love for this man is confidently asserted in this passage.

It is also these poems that make me want to sit down at my own computer and build on these ideas, take the scenes captured on the page and develop them into a longer love story. This is not to say that Bacon’s poetry is incomplete, but rather it affords readers the opportunity to find inspiration and create intertextual connections within their own work. For example, ‘Dis/harmony’ ends with: ‘I don’t remember the colour of your voice, the texture of the first that put mauve the size of a grapefruit around my eye. Ice through my veins. A shard in my soul’ (35). This alone stirs several ideas in my creative well.

Alternatively, the poems found within ‘Agape’ and ‘Caritas’ focus on sibling and parental relationships, the meeting between strangers, and moments within one’s working life. The tone and style remain consistent throughout, and there are certainly lines and phrases Bacon uses in the latter half of the book that remain with the reader long after the book has been closed, such as: ‘…it happens and blood says thicker. Thinning my resolve’ (39), and ‘Oh, clandestine negotiations of reckless body language! I’m distracted by the infinity display smartphone in rough edged hands’ (51). Bacon’s poetry also has the ability to make light of the tedious affair that is the ethics application process, speaking to me as a romance reader and PhD candidate:

Success is … not enduring a terrible compulsion (for the love of it) to tear a note sticky-tacked to the door of a toilet cubicle with a direct line to fast, free and ethical research in some earnest call for participants (58).

For a non-poetic reader, this book captured my attention from the prose that makes up Bacon’s acknowledgements on the first page (I dare you to put this book down after reading lines such as: ‘It is a moment by the seaside at St Kilda Beach, luminescent sand between our toes, the poetics of a dawn tide pivotal to our playground, the hush of you and me in the whirligigs of the sea’ [8]). I read this at least half a dozen times, going back over the poems that stood out to me even more than that. Overall, loveSTRUCK is evocative and clever, and it does not shy away from being blunt and confronting. If you are also a romance reader, avoiding poetry because it seems unlikely to meet your romance reading needs, I have some advice: try this book. It will not be disappointing. And whilst I may not consider myself a reader of poetry now, I am most certainly a reader of Bacon’s poetry.


Works Cited



Josephine Carzo is a PhD candidate at the University of South Australia where she is currently researching the development and marketing of New Adult contemporary romance. Previously a social worker, she returned to university in 2014 to study Writing & Creative Communication, while also completing a Certificate in Writing Romance from the Australian College of Journalism. She achieved third place in the 2014 Write Stuff Contest held by the Romance Writers of America (Connecticut).


Return to Contents Page
Return to Home Page

Vol 23 No 1 April 2019
General Editor: Nigel Krauth. Editors: Julienne van Loon & Ross Watkins
Reviews editors: Pablo Muslera & Amelia Walker