In this fourth volume of Maurya Simon’s poems, the author draws upon her own experience of living and travelling in southern India, where she witnessed almost daily the extremities of the human condition – dire poverty, opulent wealth, frenzied materialism and stoic spirituality.
“In The Golden Labyrinth, Maurya Simon…[witnesses both] excruciating suffering and ecstatic joy. Many of the poems address the continual confrontation with the fluctuations and turmoil in others’ lives so different from Simon’s own, while others attempt to integrate and understand the religious, philosophical, and ethical motives and behavior of the people she met in India. The poems describe the labyrinth of India, a frightening, desperate place for a foreigner to explore, but a place that seems to offer a transcendent good at its core for those who can learn to find it. From a filthy boy spontaneously bursting into song on a street corner to ‘a beggar-woman whose offering of all she has left’ (is a frail dirge) that ‘defies her terrible hunger,’ Simon reminds us again and again of what she learned in India: that ‘each small world transforms itself’.” —Midwest Book Review
“An old Spanish proverb advises, ‘He, who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.’ Simon, who visited India on a Fulbright, did just that. The result is this, her fourth volume of poetry. These are a traveler’s poems, not a tourist’s: ‘Here’s where the world begins and ends: at Eden’s edge, and no further.’ Not only does Simon describe the colorful jangle of the markets and streets, but she recognizes what is behind them. Her best poems counter physical sensations with spiritual longings, and her best works are elegies, in particular, ‘Alex in Hindustan,’ in which Simon takes all that she has learned from India’s poverty and suffering to come to terms with a friend’s death. A few poems never get past description, but you can’t fault Simon too much, not in a land where elephants enter musth, swamis fly, and ‘a scent of ratri-rani/floats upon the air.’ This is a moving, eloquent collection. In these lines, Simon could even be describing herself: ‘She is selling all she has left of hope: a dirge/frail as the wildflowers trembling in the heat.’ Recommended for all collections. –Doris Lynch, Library Journal