Full disclosure, I contributed to one of the twelve poems in this collection. Therefore, I recuse myself from reviewing the 8th poem. As for the rest of Jones Howell's debut book, however, I can unabashedly say my piece, free of any entanglements.
Know, first of all, that I can hardly shut up about this book. It picks its way into you and wears you like a person-suit. Each poem is a different shade of raw emotion, adeptly refined to be palatable. Be warned, some of these poems are bitter pills to swallow--you may ask yourself, at one point or another, how you could feel joy again after delving into a couple of these. But just as soon as you think hope and god are dead and buried, you are pulled from your stupor and injected with new life. And the world is renewed. And it all wasn't so bad, after all. Or, at least, you're ready to face what stepping outside of your door has to offer.
On an elemental level, Howell's book offers, in just 12 poems, all of the tossing and turning of the human condition, as seen through the lens of the winter/holiday season. The book brings you fear, loathing, joy, love, nostalgia, bitterness, regret, triumph... in just a few short pages.
This thrilling ride is an absolute steal at any price. (And, considering the proceeds go to charity, I enjoy being able to think, for once, "Ah, I did something charitable today" despite being broke as all hell.)
The structure follows/mimics/pays tribute to the 12-step program popularized by self-help programs for those recovering from addiction (Alcoholics Anonymous immediately sprung into my mind). Much more than just a gimmick, though, this structure is used by Howell to give us something familiar and ever-present and very much unlike anything we've seen before.
Having been an avid reader my whole life, and studying English in college, I have read a lot of poems and poetry collections. Many writers of this newest generation have attempted and are attempting to successfully write about the heavy subjects found in The Safest December.
If you have been searching, like I have, then look no further. Jones Howell has knocked it out of the park.
(reviewed 5 days after purchase)