“How much can you tell me about love?” asks the bird in Darshana Suresh’s opening poem, “Birds on a Power Line,” from Howling at the Moon (Platypus Press). “Enough to fill my breakfast bowl,” answers the other.
In her debut poetry collection, 19-year-old Suresh has more than enough to share about love, loss and survival with her readers – forget the breakfast bowl, she fills a whole bathtub. A quick look at her tumblr page afterthelonely shows just how much her poems are already resonating with those who encounter them – one reader has even asked the author permission to get a tattoo of her poetry.
It’s really no wonder that someone would find a line within this collection that speaks to them so deeply they’d get it permanently inked on their skin. So many lines stand out: “Tell me how no one looks at you / like art so you have learnt to treat / yourself like a masterpiece.”
There is diligence all the way through Suresh’s writing, but this never gets in the way of her fervent honesty. In Howling at the Moon, we find a friend who is going through all the same things we are – giving in, letting go, hurting – and trying to decipher what that capital “L” word means. As she says, “love comes quietly,” and sometimes it produces beauty, other times it produces pain – often it brings about both.
In Howling at the Moon, we find a friend who is going through all the same things we are – giving in, letting go, hurting – and trying to decipher what that capital “L” word means.
Suresh expertly refers back to the theme of phases of the moon to ground her work and show how one deals with this beauty/pain dichotomy. She references seasons changing (“They call this autumn. / I call this survival.”) and the new moon to underline how time passing can heal and bring a fresh perspective. But she’s careful not to candy-coat the aftermath of heartbreak. In “There’s This Girl,” she tells a potential new lover that she is “sorry the pain doesn’t come / and go when it’s convenient for you.”
It’s that experience of pain that Suresh doesn’t shy away from exploring; even as she weaves into the collection statements about how magical love can be, comparing it to “sunflowers” and “the way your body fights to keep you alive,” Suresh reminds us that no matter how beautiful or uplifting love is, its potential for destruction and heartache can leave anyone apprehensive at best and fearful at worst. She embraces this contrast and delivers some beautifully (brutally) frank poems that get at the heart of some of the side effects of love: trust issues, anxiety, fear. Throughout this collection Suresh uses words like “falling” “drowning” and “screaming” in relation to love.
Suresh is an elegant writer, completely unafraid to delve into the dark – though she always, in the end, contrasts it with light.
As dramatic as those words sound, they capture the full weight and intensity of what love, particularly in the romantic sense, often feels like. Suresh balances this by focusing on the individual, moving towards the theme of self-love as the ultimate practice – allowing yourself to not be “okay,” acknowledging your fears and giving yourself time to heal, knowing that you don’t have to change how you’re inherently programmed or conditioned to feel for the benefit of another person.
In all, Howling at the Moon is a relatable, thoughtful and meticulously written collection that has within it something for every reader. Suresh is an elegant writer, completely unafraid to delve into the dark – though she always, in the end, contrasts it with light. Think of it like the moon, waxing and waning through darkness and illumination.
(Platypus Press, Poetry, Paperback, Feb. 2016)
LESLEY LEROUX is a writer, editor and artist from Canada’s capital (originally the little island of Newfoundland). She graduated with a degree in journalism from Carleton University. Her fiction, nonfiction and photography have been published both in print and online, and she has occasionally dabbled in radio and television. She is a feminist, bibliophile and yogi who can be found tweeting about any of the above @LesleyLeRoux.