Poetry is raw expression. It germinates deep within a person and culminates at the height of an emotion. But neither all poets nor all poems can balance this raw quality. And that’s what makes collections like My belly, an arid land smell like a breath of fresh air, like the scent of the earth after the first summer rains. My belly, an arid land is devastating. To say otherwise would be to undermine the life that pumps throughout the book. Poems begin and end one after another at the most candid of human emotion, memory, loss and melancholy. There is a brutal honesty in the words that form the collection of poems that hold no life’s tipping points, and it is this bold engagement with private and collective truths that makes reading the poems so endearing and humbling. .
Nisansala Dharmasena Bertholameuze; Lecturer in Telecommunications and ICT at SL.TES, with two degrees in Journalism (University of Colombo) and Translation and Interpretation (University of Kelaniya) raises no issues in his unraveling of human emotion and memory. In poems like He arrives sharp at nine o’clock and As you flip through the pages of me in this collection, every word is like a heartbeat. Reading his poems is like an encounter of ourselves in the past, the present and what we imagine for ourselves in the future. The pains of memory in his poems and the beautiful simplicity in dealing with past trauma in poems like Unmarked Graves in Unmarked Cemeteries and As the darkness descended denounces Bertholameuze for the promising poetess she is becoming; a 21st century Bronte and a Rossetti. Intimate emotions are handled with such grace, that where one expects a sting, Bertholameuze’s poems are the softness of a feather. But the depth of the emotion and the subject remains. Handling such weight with bearable grace is all the more enchanting and haunting about these poems. Bertholameuze offers a sanctuary for lovers of modern poetry to come to terms with their most intimate emotions.
Yashodara Kaluarachchi skilfully captures the emotions at the end of his brushstrokes, giving rise to palpable illustrations that follow the poems. Poetry works with emotion, and emotion, especially that of loss, memory, and nostalgia, is abstracted in ways that often escape visual culture. Kaluarachchi’s illustrations convey this abstraction, but at the same time give shape and color to the emotions in My belly, an arid land.
Read My belly, an arid land it’s like going on a pilgrimage. It’s like an escape into a retreat where you seek and reconcile with yourself. In a society where the crime rate is increasing every day and where emotions are ignored, bottled up and stored without any way to deal with them, Bertholameuze proposes My belly, an arid land like a balm to calm tense spirits. With this publication, Queen of Sea Publishers proves that they will not disappoint their readers and that they will quench their thirst for quality reading. The collection will undoubtedly be therapeutic for anyone who opens its pages.