Anjou Giri Kwan is from Kalimpong in West Bengal (in the Northern region of India) and calls herself, among other things, a wayfarer. That spirit of movement and observation animates this airy collection.
Most of the poems are just one or two pages and at least half of the book consists of positive statements or aphorisms that are one or two sentences, such as: “YOGA IS DEVELOPMENT OF THE SPIRITUAL MIND, ALL CONTORTIONS OF YOUR NATURE SHOULD BE PERFECTED FOR THE ‘I AM.’” (All of the writing is capitalized, which is a definite distraction.)
Much of the book espouses a warm embrace of life’s pleasures, such as in the poem “Mumbai Music” which begins, “MUSIC IS THE LANDSCAPE OF MY LIFE, / IT PREVAILS ON MOMENTARY SPILLS OF LAUGHTER / WHEN WINE GLASSES CLINK, / THE RAIN HUMS ME TO ANOTHER NIGHT.” Even pieces that are not celebratory focus on renewal: “GRIEF SHOULD BE VOMITED OUT, REMOVING EVERY REMNANT OF SORROW, SO YOU CAN START AFRESH AGAIN, FEELING A WHOLE LOAD LIGHTER.”
Culturally specific details and interesting metaphors enliven the work, as in the poems “Mustard Seed” or “Brushing the Ego,” which prove a welcome counterpoint to the times when the writing is overly general, as in: “THERE IS A THIN LINE BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL. THE LINE IS YOU AND HOW YOU CHOOSE TO RUN YOUR LIFE.”
Span of Words contains some graceful writing, but with its mix of statements, aphorisms and poetry in no particular order, its presentation feels a bit random. For readers who don’t mind this scattered approach and who are interested in an Indian wayfarer’s outlook on life, this would be an enjoyable journey.
Also available as an ebook.