BINGO – Hot (Al-Qaisi-Coleman writes about what it’s like to be of Iraqi heritage while living in Houston, both of which are very hot locations)
The Raven, The Bayou, and The Willow is a collection of poems by a local Houston poet, Tamara Al-Qaisi-Coleman. This collection speaks of Al-Qaisi-Coleman’s experience as a biracial woman in the South, of both the challenges and the triumphs of her identity. There are plenty of injustices and prejudices to point the spotlight at, and Al-Qaisi-Coleman certainly does so with poignancy. But there is also power, history, tradition, and culture that Al-Qaisi-Coleman celebrates.
You have to come correct for these poems. Al-Qaisi-Coleman does not waste a single word, line, or stanza. Each poem is stuffed with allusions to global mythology. If you’re not familiar with global myths, you better have Wikipedia handy to look up these mythological figures. And it all works. The poems in this collection never feel like they’re trying too hard to show off how cultured the poet is. Everything fits because all of the global mythology is balanced with the poet’s own lived experience and that of her family.
This collection is also decortated with beautiful illustrations. Some are simple and elegant line drawings. Others are rich with swirling color. All of the illustrations augment Al-Qaisi-Coleman’s poems. Which makes sense when you learn that she created all of the illustrations herself. Al-Qaisi-Coleman really has created a fully realized collection.
A disclaimer: I know the poet personally, and I gave my best effort to not let that fact cloud my review