Foreword Reviews

Of Angels and Few Lies, of Everything under Blue Skies

Clarion Rating: 3 out of 5

However this collection is read, it contains a voice that articulates seemingly inaccessible themes in a traditional way.

Raminder Bajwa’s collection of poetry, Of Angels and Few Lies, of Everything under Blue Skies is a rewarding collection in terms of its volume and readability. The poems offer a glimpse into a common poetic voice that is at once honest and forthright but remains unyielding in its declarations and overtones of what the common American believes in: things like freedom, tradition, and spiritual values. A certain kind of inner voice wants to hit on all thematic fronts while staying grounded in the seeds of poetic and traditional values. As the last stanza in “What a Man Wants” declares, “Freedom is what he desires / For which he’ll take risks dire. / For his heart, he’ll the earth roam. / Only to find love back home.”

In more than two hundred pages of poetry, Bajwa writes in verse that embraces its ability to circle back on these large traditional themes. Although the readability and attention to voice is something that certainly should be acknowledged, these themes don’t leave the poetry with a sure sense of urgency or surprise. Certainly this cannot be said of all the poems, since some, like “The Stars in the Night,” take on a voice that changes dramatically, both in tone and point of view. In this poem, the second stanza tells us, “You brave the day. Finally it emerges, all colors equal in its sight. / Little sleep and pin-drop magic. The soundless sound of the night.”

While the sections labeled after themes like friendship, beauty, God, the army, and the universe are communicative and straightforward, each poem always seems to circle back on these large traditional themes in a way that leaves little room for new, specific ideas or narratives to emerge. In “I Apologize,” the speaker seems to graze over the mistakes of his life, stressing, “My failures I didn’t need to calibrate. / My failures therefore I decided to celebrate. / Whatever life gave, I accepted as my fate.”

While Bajwa is certainly loyal to a definite rhyme scheme, this creates a neatness to each stanza and poem, one that is either reassuring to the intended voice or that lessens its element of surprise and experimentation. As with “I Apologize,” instead of using specific mistakes or events to guide the poem, the speaker simply acknowledges them, ending the poem with, “I do apologize, for my small and big mistakes.”

When Bajwa is able to utilize specificity, however, his lines begin to take on a new—certainly fresh—voice that emphasizes its own pauses and line breaks in way that unfolds naturally. In “A Simple Man,” for example, this voice seems to emerge in a playful way in the opening lines: “I like things. Gucci rings. / Yurman beads. Sunflower seeds.” Other poems, like “Some Facts,” are able to achieve the same idiosyncratic tone while remaining loyal to the larger themes of the book. “Nothing like a magnificent heart. Big like the sky … Of angel feathers that I caused to fall … Of people in mud.” However this collection is read, it contains a certain kind of loyalty in its voice, one that is able to articulate large, seemingly inaccessible themes in an equally large and traditional way.

Reviewed by Kenny Jakubas

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the publisher will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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