This is a review of the poetry collection titled WHEN THE NIGHT AGREES TO SPEAK TO ME by Ananda Devi. It was published in January 2021. Ananda Devi is an award-winning Mauritian novelist and poet with an extensive body of work. Over the course of her career, she has published eleven novels on top of several short stories and poems. WHEN THE NIGHT AGREES TO SPEAK TO ME was translated by Kazim Ali, an American poet, novelist, essayist, and professor.
This poetry collection may be short, but it’s by no means a quick read. This book requires a small degree of work and dedication from the reader to appreciate the writing fully.
At first, this is because the book is in both English and French. From my limited understanding of French, I could tell that most of the short poems at the beginning had direct translations. I became uncertain as the poetry transformed into prose and the English and French were interwoven in the same piece.
The collection is autobiographical. As someone who does not know much about Mauritius, I enjoyed reading poetry from a new perspective. The subject matter was still relatable. Her writing discusses universal sentiments and fears such as loneliness, desire, violence, and aging. Her writing is vivid and, at times, disturbing.
"Peel back my skin. Unclothe me of myself, Look closer: Read a fortune in my guts."
My only real dislike is that the poems are numbered and not titled. However, this is merely a personal gripe because it’s easier for me to remember the title of my favorite poem than its number. The book includes an interview at the end between the poet and her translator. This was helpful because it added context to the writing and subject matter. It shed light on the poet’s intention and tied it back to her unique multicultural experiences.
I recommend this poetry collection to the curious reader who enjoys re-reading and dissecting poetry and prose. If you’re like me and you approach poetry like a puzzle, you will enjoy this book.
Note: The publisher allowed me free access to this book in exchange for an honest review.