by Barbara Carey
THE OPENING POEM of Rienzi Crusz`s Still Close to the Raven (TSAR Publications, 75 pages, $7.95 paper) suggests that he`ll offer "the heart raw and public"; and certainly, much of this collection involves the poet`s soul-searching. But the poems here are far from raw -- Crusz`s language is subtle and he makes his points obliquely. Moreover, his self-examination always includes the social context of an immigrant`s struggle for a sense of identity.
The book is divided into four sections: in the first, Crusz is the newcomer, set apart by being "a blur of shadowed skin" in a society that either ignores or disc him; in the second, the poet visits his native Sri Lanka, balancing neatly between the temptations and dangers of nostalgia; the final two sections chart a coming to terms with his new self "a snowbank child, bundled ... with fluff magic in both hands"
Crusz is very good at conveying the ambivalence of the immigrant`s experience -- even the confidence, almost exuberance, of the concluding poems is often ironically undercut. Overall, Still Close to the Raven is a solidly crafted "word house," as Crusz puts it; though I would have liked to see its polish crack once in a while to leak a little of that promised rawness into the poems.