Seeing the Light in a New way | Review of “Light” by Souvankham Thammavongsa (2013) Pedlar Press

There are many things in our lives that we take for granted. But reading and understanding literature allows us to get a better grasp of things by allowing us to see the perspective of the world through somebody else’s eyes. Souvankham Thammavongsa has given her interpretation of the world in her collection of poetry called Light and it’s simple words allows for an interesting revaluation of one’s perspectives.

FIE (Page 13-14)

This is how you say fire in Lao

Anything that has light mush acknowledge that first fire

Fie mie is fire when it’s burning something down

A house burns down, a forest, a city

Fie sang is flashlight

A man-made object, a thing you take out into that not-knowing

Fie fa is thunder

That scrawl of light in the shape broken things first take

Fie mot is what happens when you’re not expecting it

A power outage, a burnt bulb

Mot fie is when you do something to light

It’s a far reach, set above you, a calling out of place

It’s a turn, a switch in the wall you go to find

Fie mot

Mot fie


There is something akin to an awaking that reading these poems gives the reader. They are enlightening and keenly observant. And a refreshing read.


Perfect (excerpt – page 20)

When I am fourteen, my father will quit

his job and sell our home. He will use the money

to start a sign-making business. He will start

by buying computers and big heavy equipment

and we will spend nights sleeping in the van.

In the mornings, I’ll brush my teeth at school

and comb my hair so I’ll look like nothing is wrong

with me. I’ll wander the empty dark halls

before the students fill them, and sometimes

I’ll sing and dance like a star in a Broadway play.

When I see a teacher, I’ll sit quietly outside

a classroom door with a heavy book in my hand.

Moby-Dick. The teacher only to ask

is Ms. Irons. I will tell her that I’m just

so excited for school and I’m so happy to be here.

It’s nota lie. I’m happy that for the whole

of a day, I’ll be warm and I can be with my friends.

I don’t tell her all the other stuff. That this will be

the year my parents’ marriage will begin to fall apart.

While the words may appear to be simple, there are strong impressions on the human condition in this book. The phrases raises brilliant question in the reader’s mind about what is important in the world.

The Box A Light Bulb Comes In  (Page 29)

It says this light bulb will last one year

Its light output is 830 lumens, its life is 1,500 hours, it uses 60 watts

A Buddhist Temple is called a wat

It never gets replaced and one is never built to look just like the other

Every candle inside is a lit prayer and glows at the centre ever more bright

Its light output in lumens and its life hours haven’t been marked down

Too keep it going, someone somewhere is keeping a count, preparing a return

Light by Souvankham Thammavongsa is an eye-opening and refreshing read. It opens the mind’s eye to new ideas and thoughts.



Link to Souvankham Thammavongsa ‘s website

Link to Pedlar Press website

One thought on “Seeing the Light in a New way | Review of “Light” by Souvankham Thammavongsa (2013) Pedlar Press

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