Dark Eyes and Other Poems is described on the back cover as “a collection of poems that reflects love, death, hope, patriotism, frustrations and other intricacies of life.” From a reader’s perspective, the two most prominent themes are romantic love, which dominates the collection, and patriotism, which is explicitly addressed in poems such as “Let’s Celebrate the Nation’s Success Story” and “Celebrating Malaysia’s Golden Anniversary” near the book’s end.
Author R. Udaya Bhanu relies on elevated and antiquated diction throughout this free-verse collection. For instance, in the poem “The Nuptial Night,” the speaker sings, “The nuptial apparel drops./ The rays falling on her bare bosom/ cast a shadow.” While many times, such language provides intriguing ambiance, in some love poems such as “Sensations,” the imagery is more confusing than erotic: “Purple orgasm/ etches like mildews/ on everything placid./ Flashy flushes.”
In general, these poems are over-modified, relying on a deluge of adjectives rather than a few specific nouns and active verbs. One representative example of this phenomenon is “Catch Spiders in Their Own Webs,” which begins: “Ill-assorted ignoble iguanas/ instigated incautious spiders/ to spin impish, immature webs/ to impede nature’s progress.” There is also a tendency toward hyperbolic declarations on the part of the speaker, as in “Ceasefire 1989,” where the speaker proclaims, “Religious fanatics,/ parochial paraplagics [sic] / […] The world is a satanic cauldron/ where megalomaniacs/ commit heinous crimes/ and politicians sing elegies.” Such over-modification and grandiose generalizations tend to overwhelm and alienate readers.
Bhanu’s love of language comes through in these poems, but he too often avoids concrete detail and fresh imagery in favor of protracted abstraction, which dampens the emotional impact of his work. The author is encouraged to focus on clearer diction that more fully engages the senses in future collections.
Also available as an ebook.