A debut poet takes readers to rooms of the heart that they all know too well, but she manages to show something new in each familiar chamber.
This is a verse collection about a breakup. When Deka describes the day her partner explained why their relationship was over, she writes: “I wanted to crumple / his words, / toss them away.” This might be the first impulse of those reading this volume, too. More poetry about lost love? Haven’t readers been here a thousand times before? And isn’t this the tritest of poetry’s uses? But Deka continues: “I wanted to crumple / his words, / toss them away, / but he’d been so careful, / so precise / that they settled / in the creases of my palms.” The same is true of the author’s own verse, which, though it travels well-known terrain, does so with such care and precision that the reader can’t help but follow along. Deka succeeds because she knows—like Michelangelo—that art is about cutting away extraneous material, and her romantic poetry avoids common pitfalls of the genre, like mawkish sentiment and wordy rambling. And she has an eye for metaphors that are unique without being flamboyant. So shooting stars are “anchors being cast down / to keep the sky / from drifting away.” And love is neither rose nor battlefield; rather, it is an elephant, “tender, lumbering”; “Careful, / or it can knock you over.” Only occasionally does the author flirt with cliché, as when “his words fell heavy / into my consciousness / like stones into a well.” And a few of the shorter pieces—notably “Alone” and “Fantasy”—are throwaway verses better left on the cutting-room floor. But these are the exceptions, not the rule, and, overall, Deka remains a patient teacher in helping readers relearn a common lesson: breaking up is hard to do.
Humble, effective poems about love, loss, and rebirth.