2 out of 4 stars
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The use of seasons in poetry is one of my favorite forms of symbolism. Each season can be applied in so many different ways, and the same goes for the changing of seasons. Ishika Rathi's collection Autumn and Spring: The Colors of Life caught my eye for that very reason, as even the title alone brings to mind the falling of leaves, changing colors and rebirth.
Autumn and Spring: The Colors of Life is a 50-page collection of 38 poems. These poems are composed of themes ranging from appreciating what we have to people hiding their true feelings behind a mask of joy, and from joyful imagination to depression and suicide. Ishika is attentive and notices that depth of sadness hidden behind a smiling face in "For She Sees" ("She laughs watching/She smiles seeing/She frowns/When eyes close"), and she feels her own plight in "Dare to Stand" ("Tears falling/Midnight/Secretly so as not to awaken/The cause").
As I read the collection I rated each poem from 1-4, and found it rather amazing that the average score was an exact number: 2. While there are a great deal of themes, the one thing that this collection had in common was that none of the poems truly sparkled. There were some okay poems, a handful that were pretty good, and a few that I just didn't like at all, but even the best poems in the book could've used a good deal of polish. Writing is an art form where every word should be put to use, and that's especially true with poetry. Not everything needs to be concise - there are plenty of great works that repeat themselves or draw things out on purpose - but words should be analyzed for more than just rhyme or flow. There were a few poems, such as "Key Hole". which read like a melody and came very close to nailing the trifecta of flow, poignancy, and depth, but fell a bit short.
This isn't to say that none of the poems are good, of course. "That Day" really manages to pin down that feeling of depression that comes for no reason, how it weighs a person down, and how we do our very best to hide it. But then it's so drawn out and even has an error in it: "But what brings clouds on my/It's like I've been sad for an eon". Also, while many of the poems that rhyme (typically with an ABCB rhythm) seem to force their rhymes a bit (such as "Everybody's expectations/Fulfill I said you should"), I was surprised at how even poems that don't rhyme sometimes feel like the wording is forced. One of these came off as particularly ironic: "Yet sometimes words fail to express the truly complexity/And phrases of them attract naught but critics".
Ishika does a fair job of trying to mix things up, but I wish there was more variety here. There's more than in the majority of collections I've reviewed lately - there are three poems in a single page that are all haikus, some poems rhyme while others don't, a couple flow like song lyrics, and one is even made up entirely of single-word lines - and even the themes widely vary throughout. Heck, even the depth of poems varies, from those that are very easy to figure out to those that hide their meaning behind some rather poetic writing, such as "Solo" which pulls directly from the "Autumn and Spring" theme with the introductory stanza "Green unrelentingly/Orange unsurprisingly/Last year's beauty/Reborn once again". Yet somehow, when all was said and done, I never had a moment where I felt refreshed by any of them. Food critics often get a palate cleanser between foods, and a good poetry collection does the same by throwing something completely different into the mix. In fact, I'm a bit mystified by my desire for more variation myself, as everything is toyed with quite a bit aside from more classical formats (aside from haikus).
People who have had tough times with relationships, who battle depression, who enjoy a glance at childhood whimsy, and who know the feeling of putting on a mask to fit in may still enjoy Autumn and Spring: The Colors of Life, but fans of structured poetry will be let down. I also found a total of six errors, and that's only including things that are so grammatically incorrect they can't just be poetic devices. My rating of the collection is 2 out of 4 stars.
Autumn & spring
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