|Voices from around the world
AN interesting collection of poems, this slim volume reflects the various facets of sensitivity that existed within the literary world in general and in the psyche of young poets in particular, during the later part of the sixties decade. It was a time of ferment, free love, political fervour, and protest. At the same time there was emergence of a gradual awareness that the need existed to implement human rights, to protect the environment, to prefer love to war, and to seek peace. These were elements that found expression in mainstream as well as fringe literature, in music, in songs and painting.
Hasna Moudud has been associated with literature for over forty years. This has included a period in the sixties when she studied and taught literature in the US. The collection of poems under review includes pieces written by the poet when she attended the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. There are also contributions from other poets from all over the world -- Japan, Brazil, Hong Kong, Argentina, US, Iran, Ireland, Philippines, Belgium, Poland, Taiwan, Chile, and Sweden. The result is quite a mix. The poetical pieces demonstrate that the writers are young and still involved with raw emotion. Some of the poems are alliterative. Others include metaphors and symbols with hints of Robert Frost.
"Four Letter Words" by Affonso Anna from Brazil, in stark simplicity, refers to that era's concern over the war in Vietnam. "Love was All" by Karen Helsel from the US lovingly describes the passing away of an elderly woman. The poem is indeed very moving. I quote some of its lines: "Mother came home / without the antibiotics / because / love was all / grandma needed. / So we watched her / and she breathed / until the vein/ in her neck / stopped / moving."
Similarly, a fragment of the poem by Paul Engle (to whom this publication is dedicated) entitled "On a Photograph of Mrs. Martin Luther King" will also captivate the reader. Engle philosophically writes: "The black, transparent veil protects / the brown veil of your face, and that protects / the red veil of your heart, and that protects / these people and this country as nothing else protects."
Lindolf Bell from Brazil in "The Poem of the Betrayed Children" highlights the eternal quest of the human spirit to find meaning within the surrounding chaos of life. Written originally in Portuguese and translated later into English, it captures the psyche of a parched soul. The poem "Death, You Need Only Forty-Two Seconds" by Mary C Ching from Philippines has been greatly influenced by the English metaphysical poet John Donne. This is interesting given the fact that death and life are so closely inter-woven in the mind of the poet.
Any review of this book will however be incomplete without reference to Hasna Jasimuddin's nine pieces in this collection. I have no hesitation in singling out "To a Girl in Iowa" as being the best of her entries. It was interesting to notice the mix of East and the West in her work. There are also metaphors that reflect her passion for rural Bangladesh. "Dating in Iowa City" and "Love in Iowa City" also mirror the symbolic matrix life-style that she experienced during her association with the educational institutions in the US.
"Forest in Cloud" is a departure from normal publications. It will add to the cultural horizon that exists within the English writing poetic community in this country.
Muhammad Zamir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org