Book Review: Sparrow in the Mirror

Chris is back at it again with more reviews coming your way. He has also been working hard on his new blog This & That Books which you should go check out. This time, he read Sparrow in the Mirror by Kunal Narayan Uniyal.

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Look at that composited artwork on the cover, a bird with birds within it, fading at a wingtip into dark vagueness, smaller version trailing along like an image echo. This is a cover of a book of poems. To me, the cover reflects the poems within this book.

Like the birds within the birds, there are definite themes that reoccur and are layered such as the ones on spirituality and religion. Hindu religion and the Veddas, Christianity and the Bible, mixing of both together. There are the themes on life, on pain, on suffering, on death, on redemption, on egos, of the release that lies beyond death, on love, on the transience of life and our works. At times the words are stark with only one meaning, other times they fade into the dark like the wingtip on the cover, leaving you to fill in meaning from your own experience, making the poems more personal to you.

From a technical standpoint, rhythm varies, is free-verse at times, mixed with a rhyming couplet that emphasizes points. Some lines stand almost in contrapuntal harmony with two melodies being played, but working together in the same song.  The cadence of some of the poems reminded me of songs by Natalie Merchant, e.g., Merchant’s Ophelia with Uniyal’s Maya.

There’s an excellent use of repetition such as you see in poems by T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman. It can be done throughout the poem such as in Uniyal’s poem Something Is Not Right, where the title is repeated at the end of each verse on separate occasions; or in one line such as this part in the Wheel of Time

Standing in that lonely hall with those words

Resounding hard and hard and hard

I’m alone, came so; will leave the world even so.

Google repetition and T.S. Eliot or repetition in poetry to see how this common poetry device is used to reach the reader.

So, how well did the use of structure, of phrasing, of poetry devices like repetition, of ambiguity, of hidden meanings that echo back upon themselves to produce harmony (like a Bach fugue—which is just a more complicated version of four groups singing Row Row Row Your Boat as a round) come together?

Quite well. Some poems I read several times, I memorized parts that spoke to me. The poem Mother made my eyes sting a bit (“I’m not crying, you’re crying!”).

The Wheel of Time,

I try creating my life, new structures of delight,

But alas! With my return, all are turned into rubbles

Worth not a single dime.

Who created it, which destroyed my vast stride,

My ego or the wheel of time?

reminded me of Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley where the following words are carved into a base of a crumbled decaying giant statue that once would have been awe and fear-inspiring, but now turned into rubble.

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

We read this Bysshe poem in middle school and it almost precipitated an existential crisis in me as I realized even great works will erode away, and I, myself, will one day not exist. I had an echo of that feeling with Wheel of Time although in this case I’m fine with one day not existing (but not quite yet please because that TBR pile isn’t going to reduce itself).

Another poem Search of Life was thought-provoking with several meanings built one on top of the other that you’d only see upon subsequent readings.

Other poems, like House, are simple in their meanings, but convey a sorrow of things lost.

Now that the houses are big, hearts are small.

There are rooms everywhere, but hardly a place for all.

Doors are now locked tight, even God

Needs to try hard to squeeze in

Each confined to its own world,

Calling it house which was home before.

The appreciation of poetry is a subjective thing, perhaps far more so than other books. This makes them harder to rate as we each bring our own interpretations to the verses. As mentioned earlier, when we bring in our own interpretations, we bring in part of ourselves into the poetry so that we connect with it. That connection is an indication of poetry done well.

This book of poems connected with me. I think it was done well. I will be rereading many of these poems again. I hope other readers will also find a connection to these poems.

Book Rating: 5/5


In the mood for a fun western story? Check out Billy (The Kid) by Peter Meech and satisfy that craving!

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Pueblo, Colorado,1932. Bootleggers thrive in a town where the sheriff is on the take and you can kill a man with impunity. In this thrilling narrative, a once-famous outlaw finds himself thrust into the middle of a bootleg war against his will. At stake is nothing less than the life of his best friend and his last chance at true love with the town beauty. But is the legendary gunman who he claims to be, or is he just a retired dentist with a vivid imagination? Peter Meech reimagines the figure of Billy the Kid in a remarkable story told with verve, humor, grit and grace.

About the author: Peter Meech is an author, screenwriter, director and producer. He also mugs for the camera on occasion. His website is www.petermeech.com.



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2 Comments

  1. Dear Eric
    Many thanks for such indepth and elaborate review of the book. It is such a nice feeling to be read and described in the same language in which the book has been written.
    My heartfelt gratitude for the review
    Kunal

    Reply

    1. No problem Kunal!! Chris really enjoyed the book and was happy to read it. He really liked the cover too. He is a bird guy so anything to do with birds is right up his alley 🙂

      Reply

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