Worth a thousand words : a review of Prasanna Surakanti’s Forever Family

Reviewed by Sophie Chouinard

Family Forever by Prasanna Surakanti
Kindle: 43 pages
Available for $0.99 on Amazon


In the preface to her book, Prasanna Surakanti writes “This is how the following poems came to be. Through a recall of childhood games. A recall of old ways. Snapshots of life from my grandparents’ time.”—and this is exactly how it reads: like Polaroids. Life scenes, ordinary or extraordinary in a child’s eyes, but now viewed through the eyes of an adult, a parent.

Tot tales

To strain starch from hot rice
mom put my sister
in a corner of the room
so she would be done
by the time my sis
crawled to her.

Purple dress
Purple long skirt
with few inches of
black border at
the bottom
It was on me
on my sister
Do mothers
dress their children
so that
even if one forgets
one’s dress or the other’s
the other can remember
one’s dress or the other’s

Surakanti walks a fine line. While her imagery is rich, her vocabulary is simple—not naive or simplistic, but perfectly orchestrated. Each poem is a wrinkle in time. True, some are two sides of the same memory, but they are lived at different moments in the author’s life as in “Antidote against medicine” and “Dissolved”, or the art of swallowing bitter medicine:

Antidote against medicine
As the water boils with bitter pink tonic
on a kerosene wick stove
dad cuts the apple
so the sweet apple
can leave a good taste

I direct a pill into my
mouth followed by a waterfall
A friend says it’s easier
for the pill to go down
after you store some water
in the mouth

A Mom puts a
disk shaped tablet
in a spoon of milk

the bitter medicine
is now
ready to be evaded
by an unwilling baby
oscillating the mouth
from side to side

Upon several readings of this short (too short!) book, I kept discovering new favourites, new meanings I had missed in previous readings. The short pieces, haiku-like, are my favourite, Surakanti definitely has a knack for conveying dense messages in a few short verses. “New Shoes” and “Paper Cycle” are especially notable.

I am also particularly fond of the way Surakanti ends her pieces, they will either make you smile, think, or tear up. They rarely leave the reader feeling indifferent, or without pausing and pondering, before passing to the next one poem. “Shabash !” is a great example:

Shabash — Well done!
My mom, a teacher at Kondakal
sent me with a biscuit everyday evening.
To learn ABCDs at a private teacher’s house.
I grated the biscuit as long as the walk.
A little less than a kilometer for a 3 year old.
One day, at the teahouse,
a gentleman asked if I could recite the alphabet.
As soon as I came to Z, he said, “Shabash”
and bought me a whole biscuit packet.

My dad says I struggled to learn
Counting from one to ten.

I thoroughly enjoyed leafing through this family’s photo album, walking amongst the author’s memories; one at a time, feeling, tasting, smelling each one, as if I was right there, although I never set foot in India—and this is where the power of this collection of poems and Surakanti’s writing lies: much like a picture, each piece is worth a thousand words.

Issue #3 - PrasannaPrasanna Surakanti is an engineer who grew up in India and came over to the United States in 2004 to pursue her Master’s degree. Prasanna’s poem, “Merry-go-round,” appeared in cahoodaloodaling‘s third issue. Her work has also appeared in journals such as Spillway Magazine, Ignite, and Skive.






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