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Bajwa (The Flute Player, 2016, etc.) seeks to thrill and inspire with an eclectic volume of poetry.

The poet opens his fourth collection with a quote from the 1998 film Meet Joe Black. In it, a father urges his daughter to “find someone you can love like crazy, that will love you the same way back.” From this line, one might think the book will be about romantic love; however, Bajwa instead takes on an ambitious variety of disparate topics. For example, the collection features poems on the atrocities of the Islamic State group, the joys of “Dungeons and Dragons”—a reference to the role-playing game, presumably—the thrill of riding a motorcycle, and the bravery of soldiers. If there’s a single throughline, it’s that Bajwa is trying to create poetry “to sweep you away,” as he states in the preface. At its best, his verse succeeds ably, as in the collection’s title poem, which ends, “The light within like a candle burns; / With each failure, more wisdom you earn. / Some call it a rat wheel, some a sad spectacle / With faith, attitude, and prayers, life is a miracle!” Like many other works in the volume, this poem about humanity’s inner spark is infused with an infectious energy, and the fact that Bajwa relies on commonplace images—a candle, a hamster wheel—doesn’t detract from his message. Throughout, the author deploys potent but non-ostentatious rhyme schemes, yet he wisely discards them when they no longer serve his purpose. For instance, in “Secret Garden,” a thoughtful exploration of privacy, “peek” leads to “sneak” and “need” to “lead,” but Bajwa is canny enough to let the scheme go at the end, closing the poem on the near-rhyme “tread.”

A set of poetic works with subtle moves that show the intricacy of the author’s craft and his increasing mastery of the form.

Pub Date: July 17th, 2019
Page count: 237pp
Publisher: Inkstate Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2019