Vol. 110 (2021) 

The Poetry of Ananda Lima

By Abriana Jetté 

Sayreville, NJ, USA

What we see is not always what’s in front of us. What we say is not always what we mean. This truth, in some ways, is at the heart of the poet’s work, to write what she sees, to say what she means. The poet sets language to image, image to sound, and hopes for that sound to rest in the mind of someone who has listened.

On its surface level, Ananda Lima’s latest chapbook, Amblyopia (Bull City Press, 2020), shares the story of a mother and son who each suffer from their vision. But in addition to their poor sight, a perfectly sustained metaphor throughout, readers also catch glimpses of a former culture, a former country, and a former life disappearing for our speaker. The poems skein through Portuguese and English, attempting to tether this disconnect.

The chapbook opens with the titular poem, “Amblyopia”, and creates immediate tension for our eyes. Lithe-like in its structure as it falls down the page, the poem divides itself through language. For the most part, the English typeface appears in bold black font while the Portuguese fades gray, the first indication of an intimate identity slipping away. “Amblyopia” begins:

Following these lines, in Portuguese, the speaker confesses “minha vista cansada.” There is work readers must undergo to read the poem. Our eyes get trained not only to switch languages, but to adapt to contrasting color tones, too. Like the speaker, we get used to the fading. In turn, our tired eyes need to rest, too.

Still, at the heart of Amblyopia, (the poem(s) and the chapbook), resides the recognition that there is more than meets the eye, that one can see a place without being in a place, that memory is as powerful as sight.

“I learned to delight in gifts of myopia” begins the second poem of the chapbook, also titled “Amblyopia.” The poem recalls the once optimistic outlook the speaker held regarding her poor vision, how she learned to admire the “smudges of the buildings” and squint her way through maps and grids. That is, until her bad eyes became her son’s inheritance.


A soft guilt resonates throughout Amblyopia connected to the speaker’s desire to capture – to grab hold of – to fix. Moments condensed into cinematic fragments appear in multi-valenced free-verse poems, their shapes and forms never the same.

Most enigmatic of all is the playful “Hart Chart”, which begins:

“Put an eye to rest” the poem suggests, but in order to read on, we cannot. “Hart Chart” recreates the training chart, transposing the work needed to correct a lazy eye onto the reader. The phenomena of opening and closing our eyes and figuring out how to connect the letters becomes our job. If we want to understand the speaker, we have to read a poem through her eyes. Language becomes mystical here – coded. What will we see? What won’t we?

“Seeing less than others / can be a great strain” Robert Lowell once wrote of myopia. Lima reappropriates that strain into a physical moving poetic experience.



Ananda Lima’s poetry collection Mother/land (Black Lawrence Press, forthcoming in 2021) is the winner of the 2020 Hudson Prize. She is also the author of the chapbooks Translation (Paper Nautilus, 2019, winner of the Vella Chapbook Prize), Amblyopia (Bull City Press, 2020), and Tropicália (Newfound, forthcoming in 2021, winner of the Newfound Prose Prize). Her work has appeared or is upcoming in The American Poetry Review, Poets.org, Kenyon Review Online, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Sixth Finch, The Common, Poet Lore, Poetry Northwest, The Cortland Review, and elsewhere. She has an MA in Linguistics from UCLA and an MFA in Creative Writing in Fiction from Rutgers University, Newark.


Ananda Lima    

Abriana Jetté, Ph.D.     


Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Abriana Jetté, Ph.D., is the editor of the anthology series Stay Thirsty Poets, as well as a poet, essayist, and educator. Her work has appeared in The Seneca Review, Plume Poetry Journal, Poetry New Zealand, River Teeth, among others. Her research interests include creative writing studies and alternative pedagogies. She currently teaches at Kean University and is a regular contributor to Stay Thirsty Magazine.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.