Erlor Dean’s love of her family, friends, community and native land, Bermuda, shines through the poems in Mother’s Whispers.
The poems that work best in this slim collection are those that take us into the poet’s vibrant and colorful everyday island life. Dean introduces readers to her homeland with “Colour Coding In Our Island,” where she notes that though “In Bermuda there are no brilliant hot air balloons… there’s no shortage of colour.” She writes that arriving by air “Will lead you to think of a prism,” through which you see “The azure, blue water and the snowy white roofs,” “pink oleander,” a “yellow-breasted kiskadee,” and “pink and blue buses,” all of which are “a part of God’s magnificent plan / To make Bermuda, ‘Paradise Found’.”
This use of vivid, concrete detail and imagery serves some of the poems well, whether the subject is exotic or more down-to-earth. There are also poems of inspiration, social awareness, consciousness-raising and plain old good humor.
The problem, however, is that regardless of how heartfelt and sincere these expressions might be, the pieces do not always rise to the level of poetry. Too often the writing is flat, cliched and sentimental, written with enthusiasm but without the spark of real life. While no one can argue with the admonition in “Homelessness Is So Common” that “If you should see a homeless man / Don’t scoff at him, be as kind as you can,” to follow this with, “He is someone’s father, brother or even a son / And living this way really hasn’t been any fun” is trite and perhaps even unintentionally condescending.
Dean, who taught for 25 years at a primary school and now teaches English at a Bermuda correctional facility, appears to have a rich, deep and complex life to draw upon for her writing. Her poetry would gain substantially from a greater focus on the vivid particulars that make all that experience unique.
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