Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Life’s painful lessons

Published:Sunday | December 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Author: Millicent Pryce

Illustrator: Nicholas Barrett

Dr Glenville Ashby, Reviewer

Millicent Pryce goes on a poetic tear with this piercing, imaginative, existential offering. Pryce proves the consummate performer, unwilling to reveal her magic at the outset. But it gets increasingly interesting, masterful, as we separate the grain from its modicum of chaff and realise that we are witnessing something truly special. Yes, Pryce serves up some pedestrian, simplistic poems such as Death and My Love that are shrouded with banality. It makes you wonder.

But she unveils her best work in rapid, torrential bursts, relying heavily on atmosphere and tone. Here, style and substance work hand in glove.

And you now wonder from whence comes her intuitive artistry. There is so much to cheer for.

Like a master puppeteer, Pryce has the handle on our sense and sensibilities in Why did you do it. We are drenched in a sea of diverse sentiments: sadness, anger, compassion, and consternation. Pryce is poignantly emotive in this incest-based theme. She is so supremely convincing that we absorb her burden and pain as she pleads, "Love me again Daddy ... just not in that way PLEASE! I want to love you too in exactly the way little girls should love their fathers ... Daddy DON'T touch me there! MOM?"

 

life's bitter pills

For sure, life has its fair share of hiccups. No one is immune. It is a message that reverberates throughout Whispers. Life assumes the role of antagonist, provocateur, as exemplified in Empty and The Quarrel. We lash out, ever complaining about life's bitter pills that we must swallow. Amid challenges, Pryce beckons us to reflect.

The deftly, ingeniously written, A Conversation with Life, is a sarcastic look at our ignorance and immaturity. "How do you feel from being exhaled from so many different souls? Do you ever wish you were not born? I mean with people being so consistently brutal to you ... How do you feel?"

To which, life replies, "I've broken a couple of hearts ... I doubt they learn as much from their broken feet. Walk with me my child, this journey will show you what my words can't tell."

Unfortunately, life is the fall guy, our potential nemesis. Oh, how our sentiments are misplaced! If only we knew the timeless lessons it offers - for our own good - as difficult as they might seem.

Arguably, this is the creme de la creme of Pryce's work.

Reunion is sociological in scope. Prophetic and hopeful, she envisions a slow meeting of the minds, cultures, and peoples. "In a moment of dÈj‡ vu they look at each other - One plainly white the other black, white and pondering," she writes. "The air between them crackles with the air of forgotten familiarity. But plainly white has nothing to say and black white and pondering, has much but knows not where to start." But, "as the coil unwind; the air shifts, simmers and settles. No longer is the yearlong silence a binding shackle. As with one word, then two - came the reunion."

In Your Pain, Pryce forays into bioethics and our responsibility to self and society. Although we feel and identify with the pain of others - and that's noble - no man can pay a ransom for his brother and no soul can bear the burden of another.

 

an old soul

Here, she pens, "I, too, am withered by your distress. And though I take this much of what isn't duly mine, it is sad but true in the end ... It will all still be your pain."

And in A lesson not learnt, she warns against duplicity, cunning, and charades - all wrapped in glitter. "Tell your mind to not conceive the thought that everyone means you well ... Their minds are clean as a criminal's record - and their tongues - the finest of wines. The tools of their trade are seasoned for the subtle purging of your blood ..."

Pryce's aphorisms and counsel run deep; she's an old soul in a young body, some might say. Refreshing, provocative and instructive, Whispers is as compelling as it gets.

Ratings: Recommended

- Send feedback to glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @glenvilleashby. Dr Ashby is the author of the new book, 'Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment.''