R.U. A’Dean’s book My Master’s Voice: A Collection of Sufi Poems keenly focuses on the author’s love of God, or as he most often names Him, his “Master.” These short poems are written in the first person, rhyme, and have titles such as “In My Master’s Mirror I See My Face” and “You Are My Lifeline.”
The tone is highly mystical and the imagery shifts between the celestial, the interior landscape of emotions, and the ecstasy of the body. For example, the middle stanza of “I Ask My Master” reads: “I saw his face from far away/And I felt the gush of divine light/I swooned and fell down on the ground/My head hit the tree stump plain in sight.”
A’Dean’s God is an extremely powerful one, a supreme leader who “leads the path, holds evil at bay,” but one who does not solve humans’ problems or relieve their suffering directly. In the poem “My Master Giveth,” the speaker proclaims, “I was thirsty/I asked for water/My master gave me/A rugged ladder.” (A’Dean often employs perfect rhymes in the book but here, “water” and “ladder” create a pleasant surprise for the ear.)
While one of the book’s strengths is its internal consistency of theme, it also suffers from an excess of abstraction. In the poem “My Master is Purity,” rather than use intriguing figurative language or imagery to explore aspects of purity, A’Dean falls back on a long list of vague platitudes: “purity/Sublimity/And beauty/Divine adoration/Adulation/Speculation in anonymity/All humility/Pure bliss and felicity.” Additionally, the work can feel repetitive with its overuse of words such as “Master,” “mercy” and “light.”
Nonetheless, the book is inspiring in some sense because of the joyous and humble devotion of the author. General readers won’t find enough pleasure or surprise here, but those who share A’Dean’s Sufism or religious piety may value in My Master’s Voice.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.