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Book Review: One Innocent and Ordinary Life: Short Stories and Poems (Volume 1) by Brian Wayne Maki

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Despite being a computer instructor, Brian Wayne Maki believes that technology has its place and should not intrude into all areas of our lives. In One Innocent and Ordinary Life, he recalls special moments from his childhood and young adult years—from playing basketball to building forts and moments with his parents—none of which refer to computers or the digital life.

Maki highlights a certain innocence that has been lost in the last twenty years which coincides with his own loss of childhood, the loss of his father, and the intrusion of technology. But while many of Maki’s poems are nostalgic, they are never really sad. Many are very hopeful and they focus on happy experiences, moments of insight, and lessons learned.
The book alternates between non-fiction short stories and poems. The stories recall lessons learned in childhood and as a basketball player or referee, while the poems, which make up the majority of the book, focus on a wide range of themes, including growing up, Nature, death, pets, and love.

An example of how Maki looks at the world can be found in “The Two Trees of Meadow Grove” where he watches two trees growing up beside one another over the years until:

Each set of branches entwined with the other
Sharing in a bond few shall ever live
Until time parts them with a gentle breeze.

Maki is also one who believes in the need to be the best we can be. He demonstrates that personal desire in his basketball stories as well as his daring to become an entrepreneur, stating in “While No One Watches Me”:

For it is in the giving of one’s self
That I think makes the difference

Between a winner and a loser
Someone who never stops trying
While no one watches me.

The poems and stories all have accompanying photographs; many are of Nature, but the ones I like best are of Maki himself, including him sitting in his first office or him playing basketball as a boy; the photographs add to the sense of innocence, nostalgia, and hopefulness, and allow the reader to feel a more personal connection to the author.

Finally, I especially appreciated Maki’s insight and reminders to us about technology’s current role in our lives and how it has often separated, rather than brought people together. In the book’s title poem, “The Ordinary Life,” he states:

We are now dominated by separation anxiety
Sitting alone in a room, hall, meadow, or street
Using devices to relate feelings and emotions
For what we believed would bring us closer together
Has, in reality, driven us further apart than ever before.

Maki’s style is easy to read, his topics are not complicated, but beneath them lies a challenge to appreciate and be more conscious of the world around us and the magic it holds, as well as to appreciate the people in our lives, and to believe in our own abilities. In today’s stressful world, spending a couple of hours reflecting on these things through the pages of One Innocent and Ordinary Life can make a difference.

For more information about Brian Wayne Maki and One Innocent and Ordinary Life the author website or Amazon.com.

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About Tyler Tichelaar