Thursday 14 May 2020

Review by Aswin Prasanth of "On Watching a Lemon Sail the Sea" by Maggie Harris

A lemon on a Welsh beach inspired Maggie Harris’s poetry collection On Watching a Lemon Sail the Sea. The collection is divided into five sections based on the geographical locations that have defined her life: Wales, England, Guyana, Ireland and Elsewhere. The poems of each section are rhythmic and lyrical in nature. They can be viewed as reminiscences of these landscapes in general and her life in particular. The lemon is symbolic of her floating and drifting existence. She experiences fragmentation of her subjectivity and identity as a result of the shift in locations. The lemon, sailing endlessly, recollects the memories of her family and her journey through life. 

Though alienation, sorrow and a lack of belongingness loom large in the first section entitled “Wales,” there is amelioration with respect to tone in the coming sections. Despite the Welsh landscape’s ethereal beauty, Harris feels lost and abandoned as she lacks a feeling of home. A landscape is generally a blend of geography and psychogeography. To consolidate a landscape, we require both. Therefore, she feels alienated from the place: she is in a state of liminality. The “Guyana” section is perhaps the most euphoric and jovial compared to the rest. It is soothing and charming in tone as it deals with her childhood, family, education, love and home. The final sections are more transcendental and reflective in tone. They focus on the transient nature of life and the eternal nature of memory. Our existence and experience are defined by the spaces which we inhabit. 

Harris’s collection is an introspective and meditative account not just into her life but life in general with respect to the decisions one makes and the landscapes one traverses through. Decisions make destiny and destiny makes life.    

About the reviewer   
Aswin Prasanth is a research scholar in English at Amrita School of Arts and Sciences, India. He did his M.A, in English Language and Literature at Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit and B.A, in English Copy Editing at Sacred Heart College. His areas of interest include Film Studies, Television Studies, Cultural Studies, Postmodern Literature, Absurd Theatre and Graphic Novels. 

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