Thursday, April 30, 2015
Love in a time of Technology
My friend Sasenariane Persaud sent me his latest collection of poems Love in a time of Technology (Tsar/Mawenzi 2014) several months ago.
I’m no literary critic, and my understanding and appreciation of poetry is non-academic. I like poetry that touches my heart and makes me misty eyed. And by those simple standards, Sase's latest collection is one of the most exquisite collections of poems I’ve read in recent times.
I read it and re-read it several times.
I wanted to review it in April, which is celebrated as poetry month in Toronto.
Divided into four parts, the poems are about love, longing, and belonging; about remembering, nostalgia, and memory; and about desires that are both carnal and chaste. The poet is on a journey and wants to take you on the ride of a lifetime.
In the first section – Love in a time of technology – the poems that stay with you for a long time are 'In Hickson Park: Tampa on the River,' and 'The Promise.'
In the first, the poet wants to take you “where laughter fills the night.” And in the second, the poet reminiscences longingly about the girl who has transformed, as he reminds her that “the apology wounding as much as it heals.”
In Hickson Park: Tampa on the River
I want to take you
where white lights
glow on deleafed winter
oaks like icicles,
where the dark river
floats a rubber slipper
inland – away from the bay
invading our souls,
where water erupts
like our love once
I want to take you
where laughter fills the night
The falling coin striking tiles
rolls into a corner
you have ceased looking at.
Where is the girl who gave
unreservedly whose eyes held
promises you could not keep;
where is she whose silence
freed and trapped you
in a sub-tropical garden?
The fallen disc rests on cold ceramic –
your pocket is laden with plastic
that slide in and out of readers
accepting your promise to pay tomorrow –
is today a circle cartwheeling out of reach,
the apology wounding as much as it heals.
The section Elsewhere is about places that the poet hails from and / or belongs to both physically and metaphorically. The poem 'In Our Heads' captures the ephemeral essence of the section.
In Our Heads
Fireflies light our heads
in an afternoon
when there are none
must be pre-festival fireworks
or the stars that light
journeys to other worlds
This feeling of an immigrant’s loneliness is exemplified manifold in the next section – Storm, where in 'Tulips,' the poet laments
And if in spring
I sing promises to tulips
instead of marigolds
daffodils instead of oleanders
or at my desk bite
an apple instead of a turmeric
mango – not concealed pleasure
on the side – it is because
I have no country
but the country of Gandhi’s Gita.
The two masterpieces in the collection are 'Returning to a Far Country' and 'Georgetown,' and both are about a time that has gone by, a time that won’t return. Although 'Far Country' concludes triumphantly, it’s a tragic remembrance of a time that won’t return:
and there was no greater rain
and there was no greater city
on no greater country
in no greater time
than this time of our love
Georgetown is the most evocative poem in the collection
For evenings on the seawall
drinking soup thickened with coconut milk,
melting cassava, sweet potatoes and plantains;
for your smile in the mornings, a wave
from your platform as we pass, the trade wind
in our faces; for parched peanuts jumping
out fingers unto sand and breakers exploding
on old brick groynes jutting into the Atlantic’s
belly and tempering tides as stars flick on;
for conversations on galaxies, or monologues,
what if we are from beyond beyond,
aliens in this space and the ocean spray
sprinkling spectacles and moistening lips;
for a first kiss, or second riding around
the bandstand, the dance of street lights
in your eyes, I would return. I would dare all gun-wielding bandits to walk, linked fingers
with your ghost on the sapodilla brown sand.