Samsara by Shirani Rajapakse

There are journeys we make and paths we tread on in this cycle of birth and death, rebirth and death until that final moment when we reach nibbana. We meet and pass many beings on their own journeys. We gain much experience as we sojourn along the way sharing joy, sorrow, exhilaration and contemplation that all become part of wandering from one single moment to the next, step by little step, but always moving ahead. This poetry collection encapsulates a few tiny moments in time in that long and winding expedition of Samsara.

One might think that individuals from two cultures and religions as contrary as Christianity and Hinduism have nothing in common. It is a mindset of confrontation I do not share. We are all human, and in our human souls all long for the same things, even if we choose different paths to obtain them. This is why I gladly accepted Shirani’s humble request to read and review her new poetry collection Samsara. After having read her short story collection I exist, therefore I am, which greatly impressed me with its depth, I expected to be touched by the poems. I was not disappointed.

These poems are relatable, transforming everyday observances into philosophical depth, touching in a quiet way that is at once beautiful in its language and challenging in its meaning. Some poems made me laugh out loud, some brought me close to tears, others left me with a new thought or an echo of yearning. There were few I could not relate to at all.

Shirani has a gift of setting ordinary things into a new context that opens up a whole new perspective. I greatly enjoyed that. It is a book that should not be read in one sitting. Each poem needs room to reverberate in the mind, time to savor it like a glass of good wine.

From the description I had expected a lot more reference to religious teachings, but that is not the case. If I hadn’t known the author’s background, I would not have guessed it. Many of the thoughts expressed in the poems are familiar to me, and yet they carry a touch of the exotic to my European mind. It’s like traveling to a distant country (Sri Lanka, in this case), feeling the heat, smelling exotic flowers and being overwhelmed by the monsoon rains. It all comes alive in a few well placed words and that is truly magical. If you enjoy poetry, this book is a jem.

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