DiscoverPoetry

Devolution

By

Loved it! 😍

Gorgeously wrought prose poetry - sometimes overcomplicated - that challenges religious assumptions with tragic fury

Synopsis

It was upon the poetic pages of his renowned Divine Comedy that Dante Alighieri ascended. He famously commenced his journey in Inferno, and later reached Paradiso. The speaker in Devolution, however, is on a slightly different journey. Rather than drawing nearer to Paradiso, she can only journey further away from bliss. It is by God's design that our tragic heroine continues to slip and fall, and it is by His will that she descends. Will she find redemption before the pages run inkless, or will she be doomed to the depraved depths of Inferno forevermore? Only Time will tell.

Ami J. Sanghvi's 'Devolution' is a rare beast; a collection of prose poetry with the fire and bite of 20- and 21st century confessional and political literature, and the linguistic mastery and complexity of the 18th-19th century classics. 'Devolution' is an intertextual work - like fanfiction, it engages with a prior text, in this case Dante's Inferno, and challenges its ideas. 'Devolution' does an absolutely beautiful job of this. It pulls out a lot of Inferno's assumptions, challenges notions about the Christian God himself, and beneath it all is an anger that many of us can understand if not directly share. I also really appreciate that the author of this collection - a direct response to Dante and a criticism of Christianity's historical doctrines - is a queer, Indian woman.


Particularly of note is how hard it is to have writing this complex and flowery carry an emotional punch. Often, writers have to choose between emotional weight and 'artistic' prose. Sanghvi disposes with this choice entirely and just does both - it takes a while to unwind the sentences, but the effort is worth it when the impact hits.


I personally really, really enjoyed 'Devolution' - that said, it's for a niche audience. The writing is gorgeous, but hard to follow if you're not practiced with reading very dense, very high register work (think John Donne, Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc.) It's very deliberately done, but definitely something to go in knowing. Additionally, while you don't have to have read Dante's Inferno, it's best to go in with at least a beginner's knowledge of Inferno and the criticisms of Christian doctrine involved. I also wish 'Devolution' was longer - there's so much opportunity to examine specific circles of hell - but the author's prelude mentions that this was written during specific circumstances, which makes that understandable.


Four stars to 'Devolution', and I'm excited to see more of Sanghvi's work!

Reviewed by

I enjoy reading new books and fiction, and have a fresh, unique perspective as a Canadian queer disabled person.

Synopsis

It was upon the poetic pages of his renowned Divine Comedy that Dante Alighieri ascended. He famously commenced his journey in Inferno, and later reached Paradiso. The speaker in Devolution, however, is on a slightly different journey. Rather than drawing nearer to Paradiso, she can only journey further away from bliss. It is by God's design that our tragic heroine continues to slip and fall, and it is by His will that she descends. Will she find redemption before the pages run inkless, or will she be doomed to the depraved depths of Inferno forevermore? Only Time will tell.

Slogging

Time is far from foreign to me, but it’s never ceased in its petrification of my deepest essence. The frost it exhales with each rapid tick severs me as I stretch and age on alongside each everlasting era. I am consumed by Time, but I still cannot overcome my terror of it.

Thus, I have ceased to grow. My cowardice perseveres in a way that forces my untapped blood to curdle. The fault is my own – I have only fulfilled the meekest of tasks each time I have had the opportunity to confront the unexplored. It is through this very idiocy that I remain weak and withering when encircled by all that is robust. This is the beaten foundation beneath all I attempt – everything is futile when my craven core simply seizes each effort and annihilates it to dust.

Now that I am sentient of my own timidity, and I understand that it does not bleed itself out in a manner similar to how Time resplendently expels instants into the stratosphere, I must come upon a solution so that I may someday be worthy of this existence. It is as I trudge along this snow-stricken path that I shall prepare to abandon my former self. But, at this time, Time’s gentle rime paralyzes my limbs; therefore, I slog only because I cannot dash.

Perhaps satisfaction will meet me near the foot of this snow-blanketed cliff, but the very thought of diving into the most merciless of all conflagrations reawakens my ever-triumphing cowardice.

About the author

Ami J. Sanghvi is a Desi-American, queer writer, photographer, mixed martial artist, and M.F.A. candidate. She's the author of Amaranthine, Devolution, Armageddon, and Silk & Cigars. Her work has appeared in Awakenings (The Nightingale), and is scheduled to appear in The Showbear Family Circus, etc. view profile

Published on April 01, 2019

5000 words

Genre: Poetry

Reviewed by

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