Four Way. Sept. 2021. 116p. ISBN 9781945588884. pap. $16.95. POETRY
As multifaceted as the many languages in its pages, Mohabir’s latest collection (after The Cowherd’s Son) lyrically confronts history, homophobia, desire, tradition, colonialism, and place, grappling with identity on varied levels. The poem “May 5, 1838” commemorates the arrival of indentured servants from India to Guyana and deftly navigates the space between recognizing history and injustice (“On those first ships did they know their ash / applied evenly fertilizes the land-grant fields?”) and honoring diaspora (“We sow bits of ourselves in all corners: / flags on bamboo posts, milk poured into the sea.”). A refusal of erasure—whether of history, national identity, or sexuality—links many poems, and Mohabir repeatedly elevates the complexity of such themes. What does it mean to be “from” somewhere? What encompasses one’s culture or family, especially if elements of one’s identity are rejected within those structures? “Does wind stay trapped in a room when its windows / yawn? Without country it flows as river-water, / a traceless origin. How can this structure / of earth and bone be home?” Mohabir’s language is sharp and energetic, aware of the carving power of language, and often witty in its observations or address of weighty subjects (“O Ancestors, I’ve inherited passing”).
VERDICT Rich with history, layered, and likely to enthrall seasoned and newer readers of poetry. Highly recommended.
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