Book by Barbara Jane Reyes
Review by Rose Booker
“Diwata,” Barbara Jane Reyes’s book of poetry, leads readers through a brief history of the Philippines, when colonization was just beginning to take hold of the archipelago and when magic was apart of each word and each breath.
One part story-telling, two parts rhythmic song, and all parts brilliantly written, Reyes’s poetry encapsulates the elements of Malakas and Magandá – the strong and beautiful. In “A Genesis of We, Cleaved,” a story of creation is told in a lovely voice that, despite the pain of separation that drips from each word, is strong and vibrant.
“Sea Incantation” and “Upland Dance” showcase Reyes’s lyrical and linguistically abilities; weaving Filipino and English words together without breaking from the rhythm. There is never a moment were the two languages sound jarring or out of harmony with one another.
Though gorgeous, each poem is not spared the horrors of colonization. Rape, murder, dismemberment, and exile are common themes throughout the book. “Visitation” and the “Eve” poems are just some that highlight Reyes’s honest treatment of this subject, which is clearly close to her heart.
If there is one negative thing to say about these poems, it is that they are so compact and filled with wonder that I was pleasantly compelled to read them over and over again (I lost count after the 10th read through).
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Filipino poetry, myths, and history and to those who love magic and poetry.
This review will appear on Writer Advice’s Hooked on Books.