OF MYRIAD PATHS by Saal Baraan


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Baraan’s debut poetry collection dramatizes marginalized lives.

The poem “8 mm” depicts a stroke from the point of view of a blood clot that was only looking to take a break: “Let me rest in a tiny bend / A respite, a hideout, shhh! / Let the manic rush pass by // But more join me soon.” In another poem, the wife of a man with bipolar disorder awakens each morning, wondering what her husband’s mood will bring. In “Mine or Yours,” an immigrant loses his store to an anti-immigrant arsonist, and is forced to watch the criminal’s taunting eyes as he’s taken away by police: “You surrendered when caught / The deed done, you submitted / You smirked at me and then I asked, / ‘This is my country, where is yours?’ ” These poems are populated by the catatonic, the homeless, the incarcerated, and other people who find themselves somehow outside of mainstream society. Baraan seeks to put the reader into the minds of quiet sufferers and show how their lives arrived at their current states. In the title poem, for instance, an elderly woman whose husband and children are long dead thinks back on her life choices: “Was it ever hers, her so-called dream? / Was she right in holding onto it? / Of myriad paths, she chose the one to this port, / Like autumn’s leaves, she shows resilience.” Some of Baraan’s profiles are clever in their framing. However, he lacks the space to dig deeply into his subjects, and as a result, they feel more like types more than lifelike people. Also, although the poems are generally free verse, some, such as “Hills to Conquer,” experiment with end rhymes, which gives them a nursery-rhyme sensibility: “Thirty-four, single and worry free / I have mastered the art of the ski / Haven’t I proved my mettle yet? / Why this angst within the chest?” Debut artist Marinić’s expressive, full-color illustrations do much to soften the poems’ somewhat stilted, abstracted portrayals.

An illustrated collection of accessible, if rarely moving, persona poems.

Pub Date: July 11th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-73327-081-6
Page count: 88pp
Publisher: XYZ Parenting
Program: Kirkus Indie
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