They Say the Sirens Left the Seas

by James Hutchings

Reviewed by Scott T. Barnes

New Myths doesn’t normally review books of poetry but there’s an exception to everything. They Say the Sirens Left the Seas by James Hutchings is a fun, eclectic mix of 46 poems that is both fun and relevant to everything about modern life. “The Assignation,” one of the poems in the collection, was first published back in New Myths Issue 19, in 2012. It was inspired by one of my favorite authors, Lord Dunsany.

The poems within are mostly short, 8-30 lines or so, and for the most part adhere to a strict rhythm and meter. As someone who has read a lot of modern poetry, I can tell you this is rare. In my opinion, form should be chosen based on function. Some poems should definitely be in free verse, others in strict meter and rhythm, others somewhere in between. But what I see most often is poets putting everything in free form…and not bothering to even learn the classical forms. The loss belongs both to reader and writer. Imagine trying to write a rumba without first learning Latin rhythms. 

Hutchings doesn’t have this problem. The rhyming here may be a bit limerick-like for some, but it works in most cases. Hutchings is at his best when dipping into the comic vein. The endings of his poems are often “surprising but inevitable,” and cause a belly laugh or a knowing nod, maybe a sigh. 

Some of the poems deal with fantasy, and some with science fiction, others with modern life, growing old, and relationships. If there is a disappointment it’s that the title comes from a single, beautiful poem, but sirens and seas are not a theme throughout the pages. I’m fine with the eclectic mix; others won’t be.

They Say the Sirens Left the Seas may not be Pulitzer Prize winning poetry but it kept me reading from beginning to end. It’s the best 99 cents I have invested in some time.

I’ll leave you with this ditty, reproduced with the author’s permission:


There’s a phone that’s so smart it captures your heart
then it leaves you without any warning.
There’s a program that’s free and it’s got HIV
and it tiptoes away in the morning.
The’ve invented an app that can treat you like crap
with a voice that’s abrasive and grating
then you find in the end that it slept with your friend
so, in short, you don’t need to be dating.