JoAnn Balingit. Whitebird Chapbook Series, Number Five. San Antonio: WingsPress, 2011. 38 p. ISBN: 9780916727765
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
by: Reviewed by Ghada Kanafani Elturk

Section: Adult Book Reviews

Reviewed by Ghada Kanafani Elturk Boulder Public Library Outreach, CO

This book opens to a "blue cloud [that] followed its shadow onto the ice," where "every face turned, heads twisted back as if leashed to wind or to sadness.”
The poems are home to a rich life matured in sadness.  Balingit "fling[s] words like confetti” and opens a multitude of worlds to witness, to melt from within and to love, as conscious steps into what makes a human being a human.
Forage is a lifetime companion that will be read for enjoyment and sanity, in a world divided by class, where dreams as simple as "the poor rise up like dough in earthenware," and of "another day without falling down,” are possible, and where "having more children than you know you can afford to feed is politics too.”  Yet, the mother rises "on one knee holding her belly," children emerge to "light out and scatter themselves like seeds.” Together, with vegetables, "they ripen," “pea-sized melons swallowed heart and light, balloon with honey,” and “hornworms, bodies fat with leaf-light” shine.
This richness doesn’t satisfy the hunger for one’s personal roots. As "the climate of heaven--warmth without heat, coolness without cold" is recognized at a first encounter and the dream of when “our roots will curl in the tropic soil.”  The poems portray the life of an exile, craving home and giving it up for a foreign language, for "citizenship, whiteness, sweating behind his mask,” and how “his beautiful syllables left him when he came to master English and America."  Death nears when "life is slower, you too, almost quiet sometimes, [shed] leaves that whisper where they lie.”
"Should you find some few of his words survive your native jungles, let them forage like wild pigs!”  Will at least this plea be fulfilled?

The book of poems would be a great addition to a high school, academic and public libraries

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