Book Reviews: Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Universe by Nick Hawkins

I have another book to bring to you today, this time a short collection of poetry and prose called Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Universe: A Collection of Poetry & Prose by Nick F. Hawkins. If you’re looking for writing which is transcendental and abstract, this work might be for you.

Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Universe begins with an introduction from Hawkins himself, explaining how we have gone almost as far as we can as humans but not as parts of a much more expansive universe. He describes how we do not—perhaps even cannot—see and hear everything in the universe but must still try, as well as his own efforts to see and hear beyond what he can detect with his senses. From there Hawkins takes the reader on an emotional journey of poetry, both traditional and nontraditional, and ends it with a fascinating short story and another note from the author.

Image retrieved from Amazon

Hawkins’s collection packs a powerful punch for only being 86 pages. I think much of this is due to the fact that each poem is quite literally two poems in one. Through the use of red highlights, Hawkins hides the words for a second poem within the lines of the first; it’s up to the reader to figure out how to put them together.

I found this element of the poetry to be very refreshing. Many poems-within-poems, when they are published, do not so obviously indicate how to string together a second poem. The red lettering here presents a reasonable challenge for the modern reader: not so difficult to spot that readers will either blow past it or give up yet not so easy as to bore them.

Better still, Hawkins’s poems-within-poems adds extra layers to the original poems. Sometimes they enhance the meaning, and sometimes they contradict it. The fun is in trying to piece together the second poem and decipher how it connects to the original poem.

If you like a mix of rhyming and un-rhyming poetry, you’ll like this collection. Not everything rhymes, a fact which I’m personally grateful for. However, some lines rhyme and many of those do not come off as cheesy. One such example is the poem “Soothing Night Skies”:


I desire the soothing night skies,

The stars intrigue my mind

Like beautiful submissive eyes,

A gaze that’s only

Tarnished by the sun rise,

Cosmic frequency arise

Making me feel more alive,

I decide my vibe

To feel the beauty of life,

Avoiding patronizing parasites

That cultivates a futile demise,

I’m honored by the night skies,

An endless space and time

Defined by intricate signs


Still, my favorite poem from this collection is actually “Our Love Was a Typo”. I especially found the last four lines touching and beautiful:


If only our love story

Was written with a typewriter,

Maybe the ending would have

Turned out to be joyful


Considering I’m a writer, I typically enjoy any reference to writing within writing, so this poem and its message about lost love really captured my attention.

The collection isn’t perfect, though. I can usually brush off what I perceive to be typos or grammatical errors in poetry because of the very nature of this art. However, there were moments in which the wrong word was used (“compliment” for “complement”) and the singular form of a verb was used when the plural version was needed, even for the poem-within-the-poem. While most of the illustrations were simplistically elegant and fit the poems, but some seemed random to me. Perhaps I’ll see the reason in a future reading, but as of right now, I don’t see the purpose for all of them.

I also think that the short story is the collection’s weakest link. I felt compelled to read it because of the premise, and I think that alternate world Hawkins built is worth pursuing. The theme also fits with the introduction and the poems. Regardless, I don’t think that he develops the story well enough. I felt ripped off by the end of the story, as though someone had dangled a Twinkie in my face but only gave me the exterior without the cream. Very short surrealist stories can be very effective. In this case, I think Hawkins needs more space to achieve his goal for the story.

Overall, Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Universe is an enjoyable and spiritual read. I can connect with the messages of Hawkins’s poems, and I think that anyone could benefit from them. I also think that more proofreading is in order, especially in the short story. While it fits thematically, the short story might do better to be expanded and then released on its own. A mix of poetry and prose can be interesting, but in this case I think that the story distracts readers from the wonderful poems.

Nick Hawkins, poet

You can get a Kindle copy of Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Universe by Nick F. Hawkins on Amazon. Also be sure to check the author out on Instagram, Twitter, and his website.

Do you know of any books I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

eBooks vs. Print: Which Will Win?

It seems that our world is becoming more and more electronically-based. Online shopping, Netflix binging, cryptocurrency, it seems that virtually anything can be done with electronics. Heck, we can even live-stream footage from hidden security cameras and yell at potential thieves. There is one particular form of technology which has proven to be a mixed-blessing for writers: eBooks.

Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and now Walmart-Kobo, eBooks and eReaders are everywhere. Why not? You can carry hundreds of books on one device and, so long as your battery is charged, you can access them anywhere. eBooks seem like a reader’s paradise.

Writers can also benefit from this technology. It’s easier now than ever to self-publish works. You can still self-publish print books, but it’s easier and more convenient to set up books online. That’s not to mention that it’s easier to make changes in case of typos or release a new edition based on feedback from reviews. (I’m sure Walt Whitman would have loved to have access to this technology while writing and rewriting Leaves of Grass.)

Image retrieved from Causes

But does that make eBooks superior to hard copies? Will the electronic phase out print? I wouldn’t go that far.

In fact, the Golden Age of eBooks may have reached a plateau, if not a decline. Let’s look at some statistics from the Association of American Publishers:

  • In 2016, eBook revenue declined by 32.6% for trade books in the genre of children’s and YA books; adult trade eBooks saw a decline of 13.9%.
  • That same year, paperback revenue for children’s and YA books was up 0.9% with hardback revenue increasing by 10.7%; hardback revenue was down for adult trade books by 3.7%, but paperback revenue increased by 5.3%.
  • The AAP itself noted, “Reading preferences continue to shift. Print books saw growth, and for the second consecutive year publisher revenues from eBook sales declined and downloaded audio books grew.”

These trends show a decline in the sale of eBooks and a growth for paperbacks (hardbacks aren’t fairing quite as well). The audiobook rise is also an interesting pattern to explore, but that’s for another time.

Near the beginning of the eBook and eReader craze, the industry seemed so certain that electronic copies would win out. So, what happened? What’s pulling readers back to the print side?

The answer’s quite simple, really: fatigue. The light from LED screens are killing people’s eyes. Doctors have been hounding us about this issue for ages, and people are finally realizing the consequences. They pick up print books in order to give their eyes a rest from phone, computer, and tablet screens. We should’ve seen it coming, considering how we now have our faces in one screen or another close to 24/7.

Of course, some people will argue that it’s just because readers like the feel of print books better. They love to feel the paper run through their fingers, the smell of a new book is intoxicating. That very well may be true for some readers. Others, however, especially in the general population, just need to give their eyes a rest. Frankly, I don’t blame them. (I read eBooks a lot but much prefer print books.)

What does this mean for writers? I think it makes the decision between e-publishing and print publishing a lot harder.

On the one hand, print books are clearly selling better. On the other hand, readers may not want to buy a physical copy of book by a new or little-known writer. Personally, I don’t want to clutter my bookshelves unless the writer has been proven to be worth while, which is why I buy eBooks from new writers more often than their print books.

So, while eBooks may not win in the end, I think that they’re still a new writer’s best bet. This is especially true if they’re self-publishing. Not only is it (relatively) easier to both publish and revise this way, readers may be more likely to buy an eBook by a writer they haven’t heard of. Print will (probably) never die, but eBooks are a great tool that debut writers need to take advantage of.

What do you think? Will eBooks win over the reading population? Or will print keep its title? Which do you prefer? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011