Birri Sangha’s Canto Libri is a collection of poetry written in the spirit of a hymnal that explores the author’s relationship with God and other important figures in his life.
Sangha spends most of this collection grappling with questions of faith and religion. In “21 grams,” he writes, “When we die … What exactly dies? / I am searching for truth in an ocean of lies … ” and in “Fusion,” he ponders, “How do we think? / All my dreams and thoughts . . . Just who holds the links?” These are complex, largely unanswerable questions, and Sangha approaches them with the sincerity and openness of someone in the midst of an ongoing spiritual journey.
Bringing the reader along on his quest proves challenging, however, as the abstract nature of these concepts offers few emotional footholds. In “Which Road,” the author writes, “Which road? / Which way? / I am at the crossroads again … so soon … Which way?” Sangha never reveals the decision he’s trying to make. The rest of the poem seems to indicate an existential crisis, but it would be much easier to connect to if he had presented a specific source of his angst.
Despite the book’s title, few of these poems have a melodic quality. Although all the poems rhyme, it’s often difficult or impossible to identify their rhyme scheme. Sangha also has a tendency to rhyme several simple, monosyllabic words to each other. In “Leave a Candle,” he writes, “before this day is thru’ / I thought I knew / what I clearly never knew … / What should I do? / Who should I turn to?” This lends the poem an unsophisticated quality that undermines the seemingly complex nature of the author’s concerns.
Ultimately, the collection falls flat, unduly hampered by a lack of creative language and concrete subject matter.
Also available as an ebook.