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By Amy Lee
“…and now all I miss is the touch of my mother’s hand
my friends who are out saving the world
and the lovers I just couldn’t hold onto.”
- Love in the Time of Corona
I have often been fascinated by the intensity and originality of writings produced during isolation and loneliness by the likes of the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. Tharani Balachandran’s debut poetry chapbook, Love in the Time of Corona, charters upon a similar story-telling with ‘Bridget-Jones’-esque wit, sharp political commentary and vivid imageries about a modern feminist’s life, love and the unfair pressures of ‘having it all’. The narratives are so bouncy and rich that the reader will feel like s/he just enjoyed a cup of coffee with an old friend.
The reader also leaves this literary experience with fresh perspectives written by a woman of colour about the perils of xenophobia and misogyny in a punishing, partisan world. Nevertheless, this contemporary chapbook is applauded for the spirit of hope it instils in the reader despite of all the adversities.
The first poem, Love in the Time of Corona and This is not social distancing delicately captures the emotional traumas and physical burnt outs of living in the time of Covid-19 as it ponders over lost loves and intimacies otherwise taken for granted.
A feminist’s response to the undue pressures of modern society, such as body imagery (When you don’t love your own body), dating (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) and the patriarchal expectation of marriage by the age of 40 (This is 36) are authentic and entertaining that it warrants its own poetry film.
The delightfulness in Balachandran’s writing is her mastery of story-telling via poetry. She nails the narrative about the complexities of female friendships. Ode to Redheads will resonate with anyone who has ridden the rollercoaster of maintaining friendships. The three-part poem, Before you were a healer, portrays the happiness and silent sorrows of watching all of your friends experience motherhood whilst wondering about one’s own predicament.
I’m Speaking, is a witty and powerful feminist tribute to Kamala Harris that it deserves to be printed on a Redbubble shirt/tote bag.
It is also befitting that this chapbook concludes its full circle with a love poem, Gordon:
“…When you tell us we are not damaged
even though we are both rescues,
tell us that you learn so much from us
tell us that we are amazing just the way we are
this is what Gordon and I think
the moon and back love feels like.”
The power of Balachandran’s voice is that it is so raw and honest that it cuts through all the verbose and vanity that can unduly preoccupy this all-consuming world. The greatest joy of Love in the Time of Corona is these poems make us feel that we can still thrive despite of all the darknesses as we roll on with life. With light and hope, we believe and that in itself is the greatest gift of poetry.
Tharani Balachandran (she/her) is a first-generation Canadian, lawyer, tea enthusiast, reader of books, lover of gossip and writer of poems who lives on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen speaking peoples in Victoria, British Columbia. If you have loved Tharani or if she loves you, chances are you will end up in one of her poems.
Enter for a Free E-book.pdf:
Message Tharani via Instagram with a copy of your small donation to a local charity of your choice to receive a free copy of Love in the Time of Corona as E-book.pdf. Her debut chapbook has sold out and Quail Bell Magazine is honoured to celebrate her success.
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