Ollie Marshall-Rico’s Commander-in-Chief (The 44th President) gives the readers an intimate glimpse of US president, Barack Obama’s legacy as a father of the nation through an intriguing collection of free verse poems. Obama enthusiasts and cynics alike will appreciate the way the candid genius of the author’s poetry perfectly captured the triumphs and turbulence of the Obama administration. Breaking into a fast start, the author immediately puts Obama’s origins through a narrow lens in the chapter titled “The Torch”. The poem, “Mr. President” with forthright directness asks about his intentions while in office, “Mr. President, how are you leaning, forward or backward?” His mother’s strong influence was plain to see in the 5-stanza “His Mother” where the author belts out the lines, “Yes, he’s black, but his birth was through a powerful white mother/She taught him well surrounded by ideas to ravage his mind”. In “Kenya-The Man”, the author spoke with admiration about Obama’s father, “His brilliance lies within the President/The gifted auditor speaks, and the crowd roars with approval”.
The succeeding sections present a vivid view of the issues hounding the Obama presidency and his Herculean journey towards re-election. In the poem, “Racism”, the never-ending racial struggle is laid bare for all to see. In “Changing Times”, the author makes an appeal to the president for a more cerebral approach to the racism and discrimination that continue to divide the country. Relief and exultation at Obama’s re-election as president are evident in “River of Hope”.
The author did not mince verses in describing the up and down odyssey of President Obama. A non-poet can only imagine how intimidating it must have been for the author to put her thoughts and ideas into rhyme and imagery. That she managed to pull it off with aplomb is a tribute to her poetic skill.
Rico’s forceful, opinionated, and unbiased rendering of the Obama years gift-wrapped in poetic artistry should be on top of everyone’s reading list.
– The Moving Words Review
Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 2, 2023
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