Here are some brief thoughts on the poems I selected for Issue 8 of Open Road Review:

‘Victorian Lampshade’
by Nancy Anne Miller

This is polished and well-crafted poem. I like the line breaks, which suspend and delay meaning, allowing the reader to go temporarily elsewhere in their mind before coming back to the poet’s control of meaning. There’s some startling visual images in the second stanza: ‘the moon’s udder’, ‘mollusks on a beach with silky legs.’ These images fit well with the subject of the poem, which is the disjunction of a Victorian lampshade on a tropical island — two worlds colliding, as they indeed did. The legacy of colonialism remains present, it cannot be erased, yet becomes something new as history continues. The final stanza successfully links the interior object of the lampshade with the outside world, where ‘the rain’s/ tassels droop long beads’.

‘Standoff’
by Li Huijia

A short and precise poem, blunt even. Again, there are well-placed line breaks. I like the image comparing words that ‘chase each other’ to a hamster running on a wheel — energetic, but going nowhere. There’s a sensuality to the “date night” setting, where ‘minds flit searchingly’ and ‘tongues do the work of the heart’, but the last lines set us back (altering our understanding of the previous lines, those wolves are now more ominous) and we’re left unsure as to whether the two protagonists are locked forever in this standoff (a stuck relationship) or if the failure of communication is only temporary and the keenness of the communication points to an underlying sympathy and compatibility.

‘The Saddest Poem in the World’
by Rumyana Mihaylova

A poem that maybe shouldn’t work, but there’s something about the over-the-top pathos of the title line and its explanation, ‘begins with a full stop/ and a moment of silence’, that I like. A life not started? A stillborn baby is a notion that comes to mind — not that this is what the poem is about. I like philosophical poems, ones that aren’t necessarily filled with clever wordplay, rhythmical music or memorable images, but they get you thinking.

‘The Drought’
by Uttaran Das Gupta

The “normal” occurrence of droughts is told by Uttaran in a straightforward narrative. There’s nothing too poetic. A scene and a story are presented almost matter-of-factly. However, within that narrative we’re made aware of the dichotomy of the human and natural worlds: “village”, “farmers”, “fields”, “mosque”, “temple stairs”, an “umbrella”, versus “jackals”, “vultures”, “bamboo forest” and “tigers”. The inability of prayers and rituals to change the course of the natural world is brought into focus by the village leper, disallowed from entering the shrine (thus outside of normal human society), who stands mockingly by the temple stairs with an open umbrella. An image that’s both futile and defiant. In the second stanza of the poem the power of the drought to “flatten” the human world is brought home by the description of the water that once flowed through the village, dividing Hindu from Muslim, is now just a thread of dirty water that can be walked across.

‘The Bells’
by RK Biswas

The images are odd, sometimes confusing (“bells attached to his name”), but the poem, flawed as it is, holds together in a passionate whole. Part of its success is the rhythm: short sentences, repeated words, occasional rhymes, which works to communicate a “mad rain dance”.

‘Going it Alone’
by Arthur Fairley

Poetry for me is often about moments where the poet writes down thoughts or expresses feelings that we all have when we’re alone. This poem has that sense of that ungraspable, uncommunicable peace we can experience, where we have a heightened awareness of the physical and natural world. Arthur Fairley captures something of that feeling in the two key visual images in this poem: “a dainty butterfly entertained by/ buoyant air” and “a frangipani petal floats in a tiled pool/ like a lyric glittering on water”. Beautiful, indeed.

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