Author—LA SHAWNA GRIFFITH
Price- US$ 12/ pages 90.
Reviewer- K.K. SRIVASTAVA
La Shawna lives in Barbados, is twenty-two years old, and is a final year student at University with a view to “become a voice for the voiceless, a hope and an inspiration”. Further, to “promote change in the world”, she has brought out her first poetry collection — Unlock the Door, which is available on Kindle and Amazon stores worldwide. She expresses her raison d’etre for being a poet in this poem:
I Have To Be Poet
I have to be a poet
I cannot sit and see
We are different
We think and analyse differently
The world to sum is just a world
To me a poet
It is a collection of ideas
All pleading to be a colour in my masterpiece
Her poetry is relentlessly detailed; summing up the challenges faced by the poet in her life and circumstances. Her book encompasses an overwhelming amount of precisely observed details which take care to refrain from overt declarations of meaning. It is prudent to argue that poems invite the reader to find and interpret the patterns that link the details. The poet as a speaker is nowhere to be found, yet present everywhere. They are saturated with an assertive sensibility. The precise descriptions and shifts of perspective attest to the fineness of the observer as in her poem:
I Am Tired:
I’ve had happiness and sadness
I swear it has been tough
But you don’t realize that . . .
I have grown
Or are they still looking for
The little girl that they have always known . . .
The proliferation of details signal the pleasures of her poetry while her ability to contextualize the poems in relation to life without indulging in over-interpretation is laudable. There is a feeling a reader may get that her poems are forced into a confessional mode. Elements of the poet’s interior life, especially in relation to responses to circumstances assume an indelible importance.
Where screams are the only things known
These feelings are so dangerous
I keep them hidden
I want to explore them
And be a slave to your passion
Poetry is her refuge; she turns the limitations of alienation imposed upon her poetic thoughts by the tiredness of being alone — I have no family/I am alone/With myself/With no identity/No culture no anything — into a source of strength. Most crucial circumstances against which La Shawna struggles is her relationship with her psychological and emotional frame which in turn is driven by a psychological necessity.
If This Was A Dream Do Not EVER WAKE ME!
My fantasies about you are so strong
They cloud my reality
I don’t know what is real from what is fiction
Did you just kiss me?
La Shawna tends to be a poet of history, love and yearning; she is wistfully passionate about these. Unfortunately, these exist in the realm of suffering and change; the dilemma of a poet.
I Love you Dianna — Damien’s Reply
The scents of your hair as you hold me at night
The way nothing else mattered but you
Being in my arms all night
Desires we shared on my bed
Don’t you remember the first time?
I undressed you?
She expresses her feelings through sparse poetry — an attribute which is contrary to what is considered a sound pillar of mature poetry, i.e. condensed poetry — saying a little, conveying a great deal. She is hidden within her poems, which represent celebrations of instincts and resistance to tyranny.
I am fearless!
Fear is an unknown emotion
As we are trained assassins
It’s metallic and heavy
It lashes unto my body
Holding me in place
A smirk escapes from my face
With her voice contemporary but skeptical, the bulk of the book overwhelms with components like “unlock the door of love”; “unlock the door of darkness and light”; “unlock the issues” and “shut the door”, but the poet, it seems from a reading of her first book, will mature with the passage of time in terms of her poetic ruminations and style, as in the present one, her “pen” is really, as she admits, “behaving maliciously” and is more like a running commentary with occasional outbursts of ecstasy. The rare stuff, i.e. the stanzas that bring unmeasurable bliss, and which strike a reader of poetry like lightning is what young poets aspire for and the next book of La Shawna, it is hoped, will meet that criterion. Good poetry should have vision and wisdom without which the literary world would be greatly impoverished. La Shawna’s first book gives the assurance that her next one would be illuminating and also baffling.
K. K. Srivastava is an Indian Civil Servant and an acclaimed poet and literary reviewer with three poetry collections — Ineluctable Stillness (2005); An Armless Hand Writes (2008 & 2012) and Shadows of the Real (2012). He reviews for The Pioneer, Kitaab Singapore, Daily Star and Bureaucracy Today.