Mira and Other Poems of Guyana
by Stanley Niamitali
Mountain Arbor Press

"Miras's face presses the cool
redolant floorboards—
eye peeled to the crack."

The majority of the poems in this collection surround a woman named Mira, a girl married off while she is just a child. Following her from 1935 to 1975, she evolves from a frightened, meek girl to a headstrong, cunning, and deadly woman. Mira is willing to poison her husband after decades of an unhappy marriage, meticulously sneaking the hazardous material into his food and drink. Eventually, Mira’s father and brother pass as well, and the cycle of loveless marriage continues for her. The grief of her actions come back one day to haunt her and reunite her with the spirit of her deceased husband. After Mira’s tale there are other poems that capture the true spirit of Guyana, through its food, sights, smells, and culture, not just filtered through nostalgia and nationalist pride but through the prism of realism.

The poems in this book are superbly evocative, bringing to mind not just the characters and settings at their heart but also exotic tastes and smells of the local Guyanese culture. The poet taps into the essence of his country and translates it to readers all over the world in a way that is often simple to understand and accompanied by explanatory footnotes when necessary. The story and additional poems are a fast but powerful read, and the strengths and weaknesses of Mira, only alluded to at many times, make a powerful impression that will stick with the reader. Connoisseurs of poetry will love to indulge in this global expedition to Guyana to learn about the culture and the lifestyle of its people.

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