Book Review: "Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree"

In honor of World Poetry Day I’ll be reviewing Simi K. Rao’s collection of Poems, Rants and Short Stories, Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree.

As I’ve mentioned before, reading poetry is a great step away from the classic novel and I really enjoy reading collections from different poets to get a taste of the different styles and stories that each poet has. Some people say that poetry is all the same, but each poet has their own style that comes through in their selection and flow of words.

I really enjoyed Rao’s style and flow and how she put together her collection. The assortment is a mix of her own life experiences and of those of her friends and family which makes it far more realistic and enjoyable. Life isn’t always easy to write about and even harder to share with others. For Rao, the emotion comes out in each poem clearly. You can tell she took her time in writing and arranging the poems and short stories to best convey certain emotions.

One particular poem that I enjoyed and bookmarked to reread was Loneliness.

Loneliness

Introducing Loneliness,
your constant companion
You lie if you say you don’t know me
I’m the one who sits beside you in the empty
passenger seat
I’m the stranger who smiles at you at the mall
I’m the blanket you wrap yourself in every night
I’m the clock you hear ticking in the hall
I’m the breeze that ruffles your hair on a cold winter
morning
I’m the scream that reverberates through your lonely
frame
I’m the earth who cradles you in the grave
Where would you be without me?

If you didn’t get a little tug in the pit of your stomach from reading that, then read it again. It’s brutally honest in a way that is hurtful but also comforting. It’s a poetic interpretation of a typical, human element that most, me included, wouldn’t be able to put into words. It’s very powerful.

The collection includes other poems just as powerful as this one but also others that are more light-hearted and short stories that I wish weren’t short stories. I strongly believe that a good writer has written a good short story when the reader wants more.

The short stories and poems that reflect real experiences and emotions of struggle, loneliness, defeat and triumph make the whole collection worth a read. Rao’s writing is raw and relatable which makes it an easy and enjoyable read.

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