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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
A Sliver of a Chance: Insights and Observations of a Canadian Immigrant by Brian Sankarsingh is a short collection of poetry of the very highest order. Sankarsingh covers the full gamut of the human condition in his poems, even switching styles from time to time to change things. From politics to racism, colonialism, struggle, all the way through to love, romance, and heartbreak, the poet covers them all with his own unique perspective, style, and insight. Each poem is preceded by a short explanation of the occasion that inspired the poem and often what was driving his emotions at the time. As an immigrant, the poet is drawn to topics that resonate with the immigrant experience. Despite being in Canada, he is fully cognisant of the current political situation in the U.S., and several of his poems, such as Partisans and Guns – Us & Them, address the hyper-partisanship and gun culture of the States. Some of his most powerful works, such as The Slaves Lament and Indentured, address the evils of slavery and colonialism, especially the raping and pillaging of a culture’s resources and peoples to enrich the colonial power, often in the name of religion and/or “civilization”.
I’m not normally a poetry person but A Sliver of a Chance really spoke to me in places on a visceral level. Poet Brian Sankarsingh has a perspective that is fresh and somewhat untainted as an immigrant. His style is flowing, eminently readable, and with an excellent grasp of the power of the written word. As with any collection of poetry, some poems spoke to me more than others but any poem from this wonderful collection could accurately be described as a “headliner”. If I had to choose three personal favorites, though, I would probably go for A Sliver of a Chance which perfectly sums up the mindset of almost anyone who has made the life-changing decision to leave the country of their birth and seek a new life in a strange, foreign land where often they don’t speak the language. One line in particular resonated with me: “But with my dark skin, And your avoiding glance, I never even manage to get, A sliver of a chance.” Playing the Victim Card was a wonderful exposition of the problem of “white privilege” that so many people seem unable to understand or empathize with. I loved this poem. Roller Coaster was a wonderful poem that defines the heights and depths of love. In quoting Shakespeare, the poet mused, “I believe that music is, indeed, the food of love, but poetry is its DNA.” I certainly couldn’t argue with that sentiment. If ever there was a book to open a self-proclaimed Philistine to the beauty of the poetic word, I would say this is that book. This was the first publication of this artist’s work – I hope it will not be his last. A fantastic read.