“…torrent of vibrating words engulfing the reader in their powerful rhythm and heartfelt truth.”
The Trembling Tiber – When a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome, Neal Hall was stopped at gunpoint by a member of the Italian special forces. His offense: being black while walking about in an affluent white district. The soldier profiled him as an illegal African alien. By chance, the color-coded indignity fell on the Ides of March, the day Caesar was assassinated. This coincidence inspired Hall to take a deep dive into Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Thought the first of its kind, the hybrid poetic narratives emerging from this exploration interweave Shakespearean tools with those of Hall’s own craft and speak in direct, powerful new ways to universal contemporary issues of freedom and equality. The poems, by providing new prisms through which to view today’s power constructs, challenge the reader to recognize the coded and decoded socio-political-economic struggles of marginalized people today and to question for whom liberty’s bell truly tolls.
“If Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was a tightrope one could stretch between the idiosyncratically abysmal and the collectively political, then Neal Hall’s The Trembling Tiber is an elegant walk on this fragile tightrope. The poet’s voice is guttural yet soothing, lulling the reader into a timeless world of injustice, conflict and rage but also of hope, courage and inner freedom. Neal Hall’s poetry is a torrent of vibrating words engulfing the reader in their powerful rhythm and heartfelt truth.”
– Andriana Minou, Judge, Greece’s Eyelands International Poetry Book Award
Reviewed By: K.C. Finn
Review Rating: 5 Stars
The Trembling Tiber: A black poet’s musings on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a collection of work centered around poetry and critique, penned by author Neal Hall. After experiencing racial profiling and marginalization himself, which coincidentally fell upon Shakespeare’s fated Ides of March, Hall began to explore the context and messages within the thought-provoking play Julius Caesar. What results is a well-composed collection of poetry that employs traditional craft and modern perspectives in order to get some very eye-opening viewpoints across. Power, class structure, wealth, race, and many other factors are explored as the modern world is ripped open by an interpretation of the dark side of human nature from our past.
Author Neil Hall has crafted a superb work that utilizes a play many will know, but far fewer will have explored the intellectual depths that this collection allows for. As an avid fan of Shakespeare myself, it is always enlightening to see how voices and personal experiences shape new interpretations and perspectives of the bard’s original work, and the poems and considerations which spring from Hall’s experience are our stark reminder of the vast inequality that still remains in current human society. The lyrical prowess is admirable in terms of its rhythm and flow, as well as the image-inducing lexical choices that certainly stick with you long after reading the collection. Overall, I would highly recommend The Trembling Tiber to poetry and Shakespeare fans alike, especially those looking for thought-provoking socio-cultural work.
Reviewed By: Erin Nicole Cochran
Review Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed By Erin Nicole Cochran for Readers’ Favorite
The Trembling Tiber by Neal Hall is a poetry collection filled with his own personal experiences and how he relates and compares them to Shakespeare’s famous work, Julius Caesar. A narration like no other you’ve come across, The Trembling Tiber reveals a voice of innate intelligence that is covered in several layers of bygone style and modern perspective. There is a generational tone that permeates the pages of Neal Hall’s poetry collection. It has a brilliant way of taking a large expanse of history and coupling it with the present day to expose the universal failings that are still being endured by people of color.
Neal Hall’s The Trembling Tiber introduced me indirectly to Julius Caesar, one of Shakespeare’s works that I’ve never had the chance to read. Not only did his poems create a wealth of emotion within myself, but it presented me with a poetic style that I wish there was more of in this millennial world that we find ourselves in. In a world where five random words thrown together make a poem and get a million likes and shares on social media, Hall brings back substance to those who have desperately been searching for it. With lines like, “We point a finger on the water’s surface/and call it the moon” taken from page 14, it is easy to see what I mean by true substance. The Trembling Tiber by Neal Hall is a unique undertaking that stirs up the gravity of who and what the world still is.
Reviewed By: Mamta Madhavan
Review Rating: 5 Stars
The Trembling Tiber: A Black Poet’s Musings on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar by Neal Hall M.D. is a collection of poems that captures the richness of Julius Caesar’s content and the insights it gives into today’s world. The author knits in Shakespeare’s wordplay with his own and tackles universal issues around freedom and equality. The poet pushes the boundaries in his writings so that readers have the experience of seeing, knowing, and revealing in different ways, and he has used the word Caesar throughout the poems. The Tiber is the river that runs through Rome and how Caesar nearly drowned when Cassius challenged him to swim in a violent storm also connects with the cover of the book and the first poem, and exposes the vulnerability and struggle of the poet. The poems take Shakespeare’s metaphors, puns, puns, and quotations and make reading the collection a memorable experience for all poetry lovers.
The poems are raw, and the poet is unapologetic about being direct and straightforward when it comes to looking at the injustice and inhumanity that prevail in today’s society. They also reveal how the themes of Julius Caesar still exist because of greed and fear in society. Having elements of Julius Caesar woven into the poems and using hybrid poetic narratives is unique and different and adds to the richness and depth of the poems. Just like Shakespeare drew parallels between Elizabethan England and ancient Rome, the poems also speak about the current socio-political scene and the conflicts reveal how power is still not used to empower but to overpower.
The style of writing is minimalist and that makes the poems effective and strong, yet there is an element of fragility that will make readers love them. It is definitely a collection that all poetry lovers should read to understand the injustice and conflict associated with the hope, courage, and freedom in the world. Neal Hall’s words are powerful and impactful and they leave a distinct and permanent mark about the universality of man’s behavior in the minds of readers.
Reviewed By: Romuald Dzemo
Review Rating- 5 Stars
The Trembling Tiber: A Black Poet’s Musings on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar by Neal Hall M.D. is a wonderful collection of poems that are written under a painful experience. In the introduction, the author shares his experience of how this collection came to be written. While visiting the American Academy of Rome as an artist and scholar, he endures an act of racism from a member of the Italian Special Forces, who simply profiled him as walking in the wrong place because of his “skin color,” a realization that hit him while in detainment. Thus began the journey that would produce the excellent work of protest poetry that is this collection.
The Trembling Tiber is a gorgeous collection of poems that capture, mostly, the experience of alienation and explores very strong themes, including racism, life and death, resistance, and a lot more. With strong allusions to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the author weaves lines that stand out in their portrayal of protest. “I am not provocative/I am the response to/Your provocations.”
Neal Hall M.D. is a gifted poet whose poetry is filled with strong imagery and it employs a style that is rhythmic and evocative. At times, it reads like the free wind, yet it speaks about an experience of isolation, of indignity, and pain. While the poetry bears strong shades of Shakespeare, it fails to conceal its originality, and bursts forth like a song of freedom in captivity. It is rich, at times meditative, and filled with thought-provoking lines. The Trembling Tiber is a great offering to fans of poetry and those who enjoy Shakespeare. But it is a work that carries its own unique mark.
The Trembling Tiber: A Black Poet’s Musings on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar by Neal Hall is a collection of poems that gives a very unique yet eye-opening look at life for minorities who are oppressed and marginalized. Fueled by the author’s personal experiences, this collection of poems compares the traumatic experience with Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The author gives us a perfect amalgamation of modernity with the classic style of rhythm in the poems he decided to share with readers. From the opening poem “The Trembling Tiber” to the very last “Yet I Know Not,” the author uses Shakespeare and the current situation in society to make the reader understand the gravity of the situation. Caesar is the source of inspiration for these poems and sometimes you will be unable to tell if he was a friend of the author or the cause of his downfall. But at the same time, you will follow Caesar’s journey to find out what happens next.
It isn’t often that you come across literary gems like this The Trembling Tiber. I was excited to get my hands on this collection and I am glad that all my expectations were rewarded. As a literature major, I have a special kind of love for Shakespeare and Julius Caesar. To find this collection and how it goes just a little bit deeper makes me very happy. The author interprets the classic play, derives his interpretations, and turns them into beautiful pieces of art. Neal Hall shares his lyrical prowess while at the same time presents sound commentary on current racial discrimination and how it still affects lives. The flow and rhythm are beautiful, some of the poems were almost lyrical while some shook me a little. When you read this collection, make sure you pay extra attention to “Cheap Street Dope,” “Darkened Fools,” “His Bellow, Nigger” and “Slave Trade.” You will know what I mean!
Rabia Tanveer, – 5 Stars
The Trembling Tiber: A Black Poet’s Musings on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar by Neal Hall is a compilation of poetry that resuscitates the narrative of one of the most renowned playwrights and applies it to a contemporary examination of parallel themes. The book begins with an origin story that sets the tone for the collection, one in which Hall is confronted with blatant and unashamed racism on a coincidentally unique date while living in Italy. In a blend of hybrid application of five distinct methods, Hall intersects his work in poems such as Democracy II wherein he correlates the historical oppression through slavery and the residual persecution by a tyrannical ruling class with the fear expressed by Portia in Act 2 as she relays the futility of her husband’s naive hope. In Hall’s poem Probable Cause—III-XV, MMXVI, the face of Othello is invoked, a similarity to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in its tragedy and the characters of Brutus and Othello who are both manipulated by leaders they believe are genuine and trustworthy. The obvious comparison that Hall exposes is the same prejudice and corruption that those who share the same skin color as the Moorish General are set up for a spectacular fall through the machinisms of persons in authority.
I just feel so grateful that poets such as Neal Hall are sharing their work. The timeliness is almost eerie with the recurring prevalence of racial injustice starting to make headlines with a fervor that hasn’t been highlighted as purposefully in recent history. The Trembling Tiber pushes through the proverbial red tape and delivers a beauty in the stanzas and verses that stand in contrast to the themes, a delicate and well-executed balance that is difficult to render and requires the same level of skilled writing to which the distinguished author Hall ascribes the book’s influence. My personal favorite is the third poem, Again and Again, which addresses the disproportionate phenomenon of gun violence in America – the conflict between constitutional amendments and the repetitive fawning over first responders as unmoved leaders offer nothing more than thoughts and prayers. Here Caesar is invoked in his death, whose transgressions are almost instantly brushed aside when he bleeds and dies for Rome, and the shouting of Plebeians to Antony as he employs the eloquent power of rhetoric to persuade a mob. This entire book is a moving, intelligent, and beautifully written compilation that I would give an entire bucket of stars to if I could.
Jamie Michele, – 5 Stars