Poetry Book Review

As If Anything Can Happen
By Rasma Haidri

66 Pages, Kelsay Books (16 Aug. 2017)
A Review by Pratibha Kelapure

Family relationships are complex. You love your parents, siblings, spouses, children one moment and are ready to disown them at the next, and love them again. In short, anything can happen. Rasma Haidri explores this ambiguity of emotions in As If Anything Can Happen. She is “seeking some kind of beauty” in this family landscape. As a witness, she is keeping the stories of family drama alive through these poems. But she is not focused exclusively on this drama. With a poet’s curiosity and a keen, inquiring mind, she also questions the nature of the physical world around her.

The collection is divided into three sections. In the first section, the readers are introduced to the nuclear family of six and the hints of conflicts in their relationships. The narrator navigates the childhood years in Detroit, wondering about “Whose fault would it be?”  Childhood anxieties, small disappointments, and would eventually lead to the realization,

“Only later did I learn how we turn off the camera, walk away,
reappear in new scenes, clicking our heels and starting over,
as if anything can happen.” [15]

The narrator finds significance in small objects, like a drop of water on a hot pan, in her world. In an anthropomorphic feat, here is how she describes it.

Another swollen drop fell
from his finger—dancing, he said.

I saw no choreography,
only death throes, spastic twirls,
gray blobs in futile defiance
of diminishing.” [19]

And later in the same poem,

“Each drop hung, gathering courage,
and I worried about something I had no word for,
but learned to call oblivion.”

This kind of acute observation lends this collection a lasting power.

In the second section, the narrator sees the world through a mature adult lens. The voice now is that of an adult recalling the events from several stages of life. We encounter some defiance and determination in the fictional persona. The following lines sum up the nature of family relationships, specifically a mother-daughter bond.

“[…]the unbreakable wire
that links our shoulder blades—
it is short when we are near,
and stretches to infinity. [42]

The third section addresses issues like illness, death, remembrances, and possibilities for future.

“This is the beginning of the painting
in which they will show you
who you are.” [56]

Then, there are the poems such as “Raccoon,” “Omen,”  “Friends and Apparitions,”  about interactions with animals, that question the place of all things in Nature, even air.

“I see it—the air! It’s everywhere,
shiny, wobbling like a see-through ripple—it’s a sign,
a miracle—I know more than science,
the invisible can be seen!”

The tender tone of these poems suggests to me the poet’s attitude towards the animals and Nature.

This collection expertly captures the relationship absurdities, relationships between humans, between humans and animals, between humans and objects with wry humor and tenderness.

The book is published by Kelasy Books and is currently available on Amazon (UK).

 Rasma Haidri grew up in Tennessee and makes her home on the Arctic seacoast of Norway where she teaches British and American studies. Her poems and essays have been anthologized by Seal Press, Puddinghouse, Bayeux Arts, Chicago Review Press and Grayson Books, among other independent publishers, and appeared in literary journals such as Sycamore Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, Runes, Kalliope and I-70 Review. Distinctions for her writing include the Southern Women Writers Association Emerging Writer Award in Creative Non-fiction, the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters & Science Poetry Award, and the nomination for Best of the Net award by The New Verse News. She is the co-author of three college textbooks. More about Rasma can be found at http://www.rasma.org.


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