This is the third or fourth time Malinda has been short-listed for the Gratiaen and not won. A sort of record in itself I think. From what I heard of his previous work, he is a good poet and this book confirms the impression. Malinda is a damn good poet!
Firstly, I love the title: open words are for love-letting. The poems are a mix of the personal and the political. From poems about his sister (I was recently told she is Ru Freeman), to daughters, father, mother (the poem is called Ammi) he goes on to make poetry on The Mother of all Wars, War criminality, An open end-note from Geneva etc.
I am not an academic analytic critic. But I am a reader. I read something - I like it or I don't like it and use this blog to talk about some books I have read. For me, poetry should be enjoyment, whether it makes me think, whether I love the way, the words trip fast upon each other, the rhythm, the words, the sound. So for me, it is all the more difficult to review a book of poetry, as there could be good poems and bad poems in the mix offered but all in all most of the poems I read in this collection, I liked.
But after all this, I have a question: Why didn't Malinda win the Gratiaen? Aside from his politics, he is a good poet and shouldn't that be the criteria for winning? I have read Lal Medawattegedera's pervious works and didn't like any of them. I doubt that he can develop to be a writer of such astounding quality that he just had to win the Gratiaen. I saw Kalumaali and thought it was dreadful (poor Ruwanthi, what happened?), and then we have two unknowns - Rizvina Morseth and Saroj Sinnathamby alias Ashok Ferrey and we all know what his writing is like. Rizvina is the unknown quantity here. If she didn't win and being extremely biased against the other contenders, either the work or their previous writing style, I would have put my bets on Malinda winning. But he didn't. To answer my question we will have to wait a whole year for Lal to put his novel out for us readers to judge, a year too late, if he was worthy or not. And you can bet on it, that I will be reading the book.
I leave with one of Malinda's poems:
Differently colored sibling
of city space
and urban things,
territory of the timeless
the hide and seek
and seek for hide,
target and shoot,
fang and claw,
visitor's unmercuried mirror
reflecting but unseen
I don't know where you can buy the book, but if you see it lying on a friend's coffee table. Pick it up. Its worth a read.