Suffering purifies the soul


Book Review :By Alem Hailu

Book :Reflections


1Edition Jan 2014

Author Roman Tewelde-Berhan



A chaste heart of a lass may get broken by a fickle lad, who to lure doves into traps, projects one of the charming faces he puts in store for ready use.

Unable to make a love partner well-willed or well-fulfilled jumping from this to other he will keep on stabbing and bleeding as many hearts as possible . Such a narcissist lad seems immune to the pangs of conscious and inure to the mess he creates here and there.

As the saying goes suffering purifies the soul, though a gruesome experience the breaking of a chaste heart renders the victim spiritually strong.

Obviously the-object- of- anguish turned narcissist grows dull by the day and keeps on breaking as many hearts as possible.

The world we live in is not short of troubles. That is why stories(dramas) having tragic endings enjoy wider acceptance for they allow many to project themselves and partake in the literary piece. For instance take Shakespeare’s drama Othello.

Literary pieces penned in whatever genres by authors who tasted the bitterness of ill treatment to the full could enjoy wider readership for they know tragedy first hand.

Harrowing experiences make wronged persons acquire emotional maturity. They as well make the unfortunate person delve into the mysteries of nature,to champion justice, denounce conceit and ardently seek God the Almighty for salivation.

The aforementioned facts are what I figured out when I read a book entitled ‘Reflection’ launched two weeks back at Ethiopia Hotel. This debut collection of 45 poems was authored by Roman Tewolde-Berhan. The interior of the pages are adorned with magnificent photos by Thomas Lemma. In the book Roman’s thoughts and feelings are portrayed by her poems while Thoma’s vision by his photos.

The poems are the objects of focus in this book review of mine,for that is my domain.

The book also bears poems written by a female in the first person singular ‘i’.

Some schools in literary criticism say it is possible to figure out the authors intention from his writings while other schools argue otherwise. Focusing my attention solely on the ‘Reflection’ which seems to have a recurrent theme, an immaculate yet a broken heart and piecing together excerpts I have come up with the following picture about the persona,though not necessarily about the author.

The poem ‘If i could’ (page 18) shows the intensity of the love the persona entertains towards a lad. An excerpt from this poem reads as follows

/ If i could

i’d be the cloud

above your head

If i could

i’d be the earth you tread

– – – –

When these,i can’t

i remain content

i’ve got you in my heart /

Special moments spent with a cherished love partner remains sealed in memory. Every single thing the road ,a special tree,a sunset or the moon retrieve or occasion remembrances. See the poem ‘The Walk’ (page 11)

/When the day’s almost out

when it’s neither dark

nor day light

– – –

but when none can recognize

the two of us,from a distance

– – –

When we meet

neither of us speak

we hold hands,tight

to take a gentle walk

along our neighborhood street/

The poem that give an animate quality to an inanimate being ‘Howling wind'(page 6) has lines and stanzas that corroborates feelings of being expectant of a news about a sought after person.

/howling wind of the night.

– – –

Do you carry the scent

of my sweet love?

If so,please be fragrant

and let me smell

– – –

Or else,make your passage

Like you,invisible,/

Just like most of us who grew up imbibing fairy tales, the persona was painting love with bright hues. Till wronged she was of the opinion “Love is hundred per cent enduring” See the extract below from ‘Marriage’ (page 46)

/ In my adolescence

the age of innocence

i had a fantasy

i was going to marry

my shining armour

and we’d live happily

forever after

He’d be my prince charming

just like in the fairy tale/

Let us add extracts in the same wave length from the poem ‘Just the Kind’

( page 25)

/My big book says

love is patient,love is kind

I’ve come to know

just the kind

The kind wherein

his thoughts and mine


But at times things could prove otherwise. The persona seemed to realize such turn of events when her object of love cheated on her. She mentally challenges him to come clean or confess the engagement of his attention elsewhere.

Referring the poem ‘Wanting More’ (page 31) readers could sense the persona’s rude awakening.

/ You chose to disappear

without saying a word

leaving her to linger

When you could have said

you’ve met another

or with a sweet cover

it’s come to an end

still better…the naked truth

you don’t love her enough./

As a shock treatment, experiencing the unexpected the persona seems to realize love could be not enduring.

/ Nothing lasts forever

she’s not that naive

dear,my dear

she was only in love/

Then she poses a question to the fickle lover whether the love he tries to get from the new partner is a genuine one like she and he used to exchange. Excerpts from the poem ‘What you find’ (page 38) throws light on this fact.

/Please, tell me this

by just looking into your eyes

without you saying a word

does she really understand

What you want express

Does she really know you

like i used to?/

In the poem ‘Yet to be said’ (page 52) the persona shows she has not yet relinquished her love for the lad that stole her heart and ran away. She shows her desire to relive shared and enjoyed moments.

/How i wish to articulate

to re-create

what i dreamt

of how i felt

In your embrace

gentle and tight

of your kiss

divinely sweet

of how you held my soul

in your spirit./

See the poem in stanza 5 of the poem ‘Fate’ (page 28) is in the same wave length.

Evidently on the poem ‘The thought of you’ (page 41) after deserted by her lover the persona’s longings for him gathers momentum. Evidently the breaching of promise by a love partner is bitter,for it is tantamount to stabbing on the back. Psychologists that do research on surviving infidelity note such betrayals could create on the cheated person feelings deadly than death. To evade this gruesome pain the persona wishes to be insulated from it or to be above it. Let us see excerpts from ‘Super being'(page 4)

The feeling of . . .

And that of distress

despair and sadness

that seems to breaking

untouched innocence

– – –

Sometimes i wish

to be sub-human,to not feelings

– – – or even . . . better still

to be a super being

without any feeling

Another poem ‘Recollection’ (page24,specially 5,6&7 stanza) is charged with the same sentiment.

Though many agree a resort to venting one’s feelings through jotting poems placates irksome feelings , the following excerpts hints confiding her desire to her pen or writing a poem couldn’t prove that much help to the persona.

/No matter what i write

futile is my attempt

as feelings indescribable

feelings infinite

remain buried

yet to be said/

The poem ‘Unease’ (page 8) shows the persona’s quest for the repose of her soul. She seems pining for death so as to be in the bosom of God the almighty. Almost in many of the poems we trace the words death,corpse,rotten flesh,war and the like. These words show the persona’s feelings of rancor.

/ Often like a gush of a water fall

or like a stream in constant trickle

something stirs in my core

– – –

Oh,let it spill,let it stir

it won’t be forever

it will vanish

and come to an end

with my rotten flesh

when i am dead

or as is my wish

my soul,now unsettled

will peacefully reside

with my loving God/

The expressions ending my body’s toil(page 59) and if i were meant to die in a car accident(page 28) are samples in the same wave length.

A large number of the photos in the book shows sunset—a setting sun being enveloped by darkness. “Are these photos, like the resentment charged poems, unconsciously depicting the overlapping of a love not relinquished and a betrayal by a lover? Or some grief?” is the question that crosses the mind of a person that peruses the book ‘Reflection’

Also the persona in some of her poems relate the grief that smote her upon losing a child. Adding her burden such tragedy could make her see life with the lens of pesmissm. See the poem ‘My dream by Yeats’ (page 19)

/ i’d been waiting,wanting

i’d been desperately looking

for you… … .. for so long

when i wasn’t ready

yet,i wanted you to be

you came to me,my baby

But…chose not to stay

you slipped away

like grains of sand

out of my hand

leaving me empty/

The poem ‘Leona'(page 56) seems in the same wavelength.

In crafting ‘My dream by Yeats’ the poet has brought into play allusion one of the poetic devices famous poets are adept in applying. Her first poem ‘The word ‘ shows the author’s pen that started dripping a drop has now made a river of poems. This poem alludes to the biblical verse “at the beginning there was a word!”

When it comes to style Roman’s poems are melodic as they frequently rhyme. This quality renders her poems the flavor of Ethiopian poems.

Oxymoron — like ‘deafening silence’ (page 56) and ‘Deafeningly faint’ (page 17)– is another poetic device via which she lends color to her poems. Irony like finding solace in solitude (page 23) and paradox like finding relief in grief (page 22) are the poetic devices Roman displayed her talents with.

The dialogue she used to conjure in our mind about the day of judgment and retribution in her poem ‘Stranger in the Night’ (page 12) is superb. It tells about The author’s creative gift. Also in the poem ‘The fight’ last line page 30 ,the semantic oddity she used “so that me and I don’t fight”shows her verve in defamilarization, a literary device for aesthetic effect.

About Marriage (page 46) the persona is not fully pessimist she rather proves she is a realist optimist see the extract

– – –

/Then again,it’s not all gloomy

there are those in matrimony

who are forever happy

with the passion of love

still blazing alive/

– – –

From her poem ‘Self importance’, understandably, it is revolted by the colossal pomposity of some, the persona opted to use the first person pronoun I in its smaller form ‘i’ for humbling oneself. Her poems are not left aligned and don’t start with capital letters,a style in post modernism.

The binary opposition evident in most of her poems are life/death, faithfulness/deceit, an everlasting love(marriage)/A short-lived love (marriage)

In a prowess of a creative talent,in her future work we expect Roman to use additional poetic devices like inversions.,enumeration and the like.

The poet has brought into good effect parallelism and repetition on the poems ‘If i could’ (page 18) on ‘What if’ (page 49).

Her poem ‘if i were a cat'(page 21) is amusing. Her poem ‘Worlds apart’ the ingratitude of the haves and the gratefulness of the have not is paradoxical. The poem ‘Power of thought'(page 21) that shows man’s power of thinking sets him apart from animal at the same time makes him brutal is also paradoxical as many.

The poem ‘Precious'(page 14) that shows a majestic and fledgling bird observing her environment to learn the survival of the fittest shows the poet’s power of observation. The poet has also touched the delicate subject of HIV and stigmatization. Though a mulatto and torn between Ethiopia and United Kingdom the poet tells us she has a great love to Ethiopia where she grew up.See ‘My Ethiopia’ page 32.

Read forgiveness and other poems for yourself.

My hat is flown for the poet. For mood up liftment and style I personally recommend her to read poems by Helen Stiner Rice, called an ambassador of sunshine.