Book Review: The Cotton Tree by Sahr Sankoh

In The Cotton Tree, Sahr Sankoh uses brutal honesty, sarcasm and satire to bring light to the pressing political issues of our times. The book contains 57 poems filled with wit and sarcasm about things we have all probably wanted to say at one time or another, but wouldn’t dare to put into words. Sankoh’s brilliant use of alliteration brings world events to new heights, poking light fun at a wide array of topics ranging from public transportation to Japanese horror movies to rap music and even touches on controversial topics such as the missing Malaysian flight. Sankoh provides extremely thoughtful, yet humorous insights into pressing issues in today’s society as well as pop culture, using light sarcasm and wit without being distasteful or tactless.

The Cotton Tree is different from most poetry books in that the poems aren’t the typical eight line rhyming poem that we were taught to compose in elementary school. Rather it is a unique collection of poems ranging of various lengths making light of often controversial topics of today’s culture. I especially like how Sankoh is brutally honest in the Forward section of the book, letting us know that we needn’t bother dissecting every line of every poem to find some deep and “hidden meaning.” His poetry is more of “what you see is what you get.” nature. However, there is a brief synopsis of each poem at the end of the book, which in my opinion,, only provides further insight into the brilliant workings of Sankoh enlightened imagination.

One poem that stands out for me is entitled “Starbucks Demeanor” in which Sankoh pokes fun at the popular coffee shop, and the type of clientele that most frequent that iconic coffee establishment, including what type of coffee each “genre” prefers. Another favorite is “The Cassette Tape Culture” which starts out as walk down memory lane about the simplicity of teenage years and how music was such a part of that culture then suddenly takes an unsurprised turn (but I won’t spoil it). If I have to choose a poem I liked the least I would say it would be “God Save the Wolf.” I personally felt this one was just a tad too distasteful and a bit over the top, in my opinion, but then I wouldn’t recommend The Cotton Tree to anyone under the age of sixteen as it touches on some rather adult topics at times.

Overall, The Cotton Tree is a delightfully humorous satirical journey into the world we live in today. One must take these poems with a grain of salt and know that they are meant to shed light and humor on sometimes otherwise dark and morbid topics. This book is not for those who are extremely sensitive or highly moral. It is a brilliant parody of today’s hot topics and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sahr Sankoh has a way of making controversial topics seem less daunting. I definitely recommend this book if you have an open mind and a good sense of humor.