One of my biggest mistakes is undermining this compelling poetry collection for long before finally giving in to it in the last quarter of 2022. It is no news that poetry isn’t a widely accepted genre in this clan. Hence, its limited readership and appeal. Personally, I find them to be too high in the cloud and too nuanced for comfort. However, Shally Alonge did what contemporary misfits like Rupi Kaur do by creating a class of the genre that defies the norm.
Even the structure and illustrations in this collection bear semblance to the presentation of the popular Instagram sensational poet. In this book, Alonge shares her love, fear and understanding across a multitude of human experiences by giving words to deep emotions that can be hard to utter.
Love, Loss and Light won me over with its celebration of maternal love in its first few pages. An Ode to Mama is a similitude to Ann Taylor’s My Mother. “You never forget the first of my everything | The memories my mind cannot draw you held close to yours” – these words would make hearts ache with fondness and appreciation of motherly sacrifices all at once. I love this collection’s exploration of the theme of love through a mother’s lens.
Only a mother’s love can be as fierce as it is illuminating. The motif in the first part of the book transfigures into an omniscient element that admonishes the somewhat transient nature of eros. After praising the warmth of eros, Alonge tosses her readers into the gloom of it when she describes pain as “love with spikes.” The poems afterwards oscillate between love in its most perfect form, grief, agape, and then pain again.
“My happiness and my dread
The best and worst
Thing that ever happened to me
Is having them in my life…”
In I’ve Never Lived. I’ve Only Feared, the poet alludes to the oxymoron of happiness and fear. How tints of fear surface during moments of happiness remains verisimilitude. This section of the collection draws so much similarity to reality as the author gives credence to her fears while reflecting (perhaps) on some of her misgivings. I wish the poet explored this theme more before delving into Light.
The final section in 3Ls resonates with much optimism. With short, jaunty poems like Miracle, See the Light in the Dark, and Limitless Light, these poems are vibrant with vast brightness. Managing to resuscitate the reader from the melancholy of the previous sections.
I forgot to mention that Alonge packs this book with some bonus short stories that can pass for narrative poems. These stories are made up of trauma plots that are as triggering as healing. Alonge manages to evoke the emotions most writers only pull off in full-length works in limited but pregnant paragraphs.
Although the second section of this collection should be called Loss not Fear, Shally Alonge undoubtedly wields the power of a pen like a natural. In an age where lit therapy is becoming a norm, she invites us to embrace our vulnerability in this moving debut that leaves one in anticipation of her next robust piece of work.