Beautiful & Damned by R.M. Drake

Where the fantastic narrative meets realistic poetry

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Lately, there has been an influx of writers who write both fiction and poetry. However, there are rarely writers who feature both genres in one single publication.

R.M. Drake’s 2016 Beautiful & Damned collection of short stories and prose poetry represents the uniqueness of a combination of genres from a single author in one publication. Drake has self-published a total of seven books of poetry and fiction. His name may sound familiar because you’ve probably scrolled through his Instagram feed on one of those nights when nothing seemed to be making sense. Then somehow a poet you’ve never met described exactly what you were feeling in thirty words or less. Sound familiar? That was most likely R. M. Drake!

He’s known for the bite-size bits of poetry he posts on his ever-growing social media platforms. His work is simple, beautiful, and unbelievably relatable. So when I picked up my copy of Beautiful & Damned I had relatively high expectations and while my expectations weren’t necessarily met, I can still understand why Drake is such a modern sensation.

The book is split into two parts: the “beautiful” and the “damned.” The “beautiful” section is comprised of a few short stories while the “damned” features several pieces of prose poetry. And while the title is identical to F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s 1922 novel The Beautiful and Damned, there aren’t many allusions to the text aside from the collection beginning in the city of New York and the “damned” ultimately overpowering the “beautiful.”

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Photo credit: What Erica Reads

The stories begin in a fantastical way. The “beautiful” is filled with narratives about serendipity, magic, and surrealism. There’s love, death, animated djinns, and family reunions. Although the table of contents is filled with gloriously clever titles, the content was ultimately disappointing.

Unfortunately, the short stories were underdeveloped and littered with clichés. Drake fails to let readers imagine their own characters or discover endings independently, leaving readers feeling like they’ve been spoon-fed stories. Lines like “and then she remembered something crucial to her,” and “I had created these walls…and there was nothing in the world that could break them other than me” suggest that protagonists in the stories already understand the flaw in their character that needs to be resolved in order to conclude the narrative. The fact that they already knew what their issues were in the story made the text uninteresting because there was nothing left for readers to discover. The stories are told in such a matter-of-fact way that I often felt like I wasn’t reading a story, but a pitch to a story he was intending to write.

Drake’s short stories failed to meet my expectations of him, however, the content featured in the “damned” section was characteristically clever, creative, and original. Poetry truly is Drake’s strong suit. Although I appreciate his attempt to write fiction, his poetry flowed much more naturally. He tackled issues of loneliness, perception, and failure in different aspects of life. The second section is more personal to Drake. Pieces such as “Do not become the writer,” “Social Media,” and “Karma is a Bastard,” draw inspiration directly from his own experiences. Where the “beautiful” accentuated cliché fantasies, the “damned” embodied reality, the beauty and the ugliness of it all.

The combination of short stories and prose poetry in one collection was an interestingly innovative way for Drake to present his work. Regardless of my opinion of the short stories, the book’s creativity speaks volumes of Drake’s talent as a writer and a creator. Which is precisely why he has been so successful.

He is constantly creating fresh and unique content that is simple but entertaining. Part of the reason why his work is so relatable is because of the simple language and syntax consistent throughout his poetry. His audience continues to grow as his work combines personal experience and emotional expressiveness to create relatable simplicity.

You can purchase Beautiful & Damned here alongside his latest release, Broken Flowers.

Follow R.M. Drake on Twitter and Instagram to stay updated on his current and future projects.

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