Book review:Angel Dust by Cristina Muresan

Cristina Muresan’s Angel Dust is a collection of poems and short stories published in 2015. It is her first book.

Cristina’s poems are often written with simplicity reminiscent of naive art. “Search for Beauty”, a poem seemingly inspired by Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” possesses this quality, as do “Spring” and “Heart and Soul”, which are beautiful in their plainness. “Seeker of Truth” is a poem that is full of unexpected nuance.

My favorite poem in her book is “Honey Dust”. It reminds me of William Carlos Williams’ “This is just to Say” – a wonderfully simple poem which manages, in few and childlike words, to capture the very essence of a sensory experience. ‘Honey Dust’ does the same, and contains a thought-provoking last line (about immortality). Many poems have the quality of being brief but stirring. “Golden Armour” is such an example.

There are some interesting similes and metaphors, such as ’empty as a flute’, ‘the jungle of my sorrows’, ‘the dusty roads of your soul’, and ‘a rose was blooming its heart out’, to name a few. Themes such as growing up and family dichotomies – real contemporary phenomena – are addressed and presented in an optimistic light.

There is a fable-like or parable-like, moralism to several poems and stories: like the poem “Power of Elements” and short story “The Gardener” (which captures the delicacy characterizing those who love flowers).  Many phrases seem to resemble messages that would be embroidered and framed. Her short stories particularly bear a strong resemblance to children’s fiction, appearing to take inspiration from Saint-Exupery.

‘A Day with the Ganges’ is the most original story in the collection, and perhaps the best. It combines the traditional Christianity of Europe, inevitably evoking The Lives of the Saint, with the syncretic optimism characterizing the idea of Samsara pertaining to Buddhism. This is the story in which the author’s individuality veritably shines through, with its authentic twist and shift in perspective.

“Two Souls” is a short story that has a poetic opening line : ‘Two souls were sitting on the shores of Life’, which expresses how much of an idealist the author is. There is a spiritual femininity present, in poems such as “The Women”: ‘While she is alive / The World would be afraid / That it might be undone’. 

Many poems of hers are characterized by the complex quality of the final sentence. Her poems, “Inspiration” ‘Samsara” (and the aforementioned “Honey Dust”) play out in this way. There is a sense of asceticism and what seems to resemble a Buddhist spirituality, though it is never specifically stated. “The Poet” is an example of a work that exhibits this, with its sense of spiritual pondering and scarcity of words.

Sometimes, the risk of almost slipping into cliché comes into issue with the trickiness of more telling than showing (the adage ‘show don’t tell’ is an admittedly difficult one to follow). The choice of more unusual words would add an extra dimension of complexity. However, as this book is the manifestation of a rounded personality with an apparently clear emotional compass, I look forward to read more of Cristina’s work – particularly more short stories, which are promising – and seeing her defined sense of self manifest itself again.

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