Contemporary Poetry Review: Celebrating Immigrants in “Home: Where Everyone is Welcome”

NATALIE PATTERSON

“Home: Where Everyone is Welcome”
By Deepak Chopra, Kabir Sehgal and Paul Avgerinos
Grand Central Publishing 2017

The immigrant-inspired poetry and music collection “Home: Where Everyone is Welcome” is not naive.  It does not attempt to suggest that America is a country wholly welcoming of immigrants, nor does it imply that all who come here achieve the American Dream.  The creators of the book, Deepak Chopra, Kabir Sehgal and Paul Avgerinos, chose to respond to a political atmosphere that is slowly growing increasingly hateful to immigrants and first-generation Americans with a work of art that celebrates these influential people–the ones who built America.  

“Home” is different from a typical poetry collection; for example, it comes with a CD of twelve New Age tracks, each dedicated to someone who was either an immigrant or highly important to America.  The people who inspired this work belong in the arts, sciences, communications and politics–people like Carlos Santana, Albert Einstein, I.M. Pei and Elizabeth Blackburn.  The poems and songs also meditate on the true nature of home–whether it is a place, a family or a state of mind.  In particular, title track, “HOME,” stands out with a sense of subtle mystery and joy that is difficult to explain.

The poems in “Home” are lyrical, colorful, insightful and will no doubt resonate with a wide audience.  “COMPASS,” inspired by Nigerian-born author and frequent visitor to America, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, says, “The world isn’t tidy, / so give us your stories / that don’t make sense / and confuse with / jangled and mangled / prose and poetry, / compass needle always / pointing true.”  

The collection is imbued with a steady tone of wonder, celebrating the lives and achievements of still-living heroes as well as some no longer with us.  “ORBIT” was written for Kalpana Chawla, an Indian-born astronaut who died in the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster.  This poem is not only an elegy but a celebration, full of powerful images and electric questions, but ends with, “In those sixteen minutes, between life and loss, / when regal anthem bows to longing requiem, / don’t ask such questions, / because when you’re home, / the loving almighty is unmasked.”

“Home” is an important work, one that hints at a future of poetry and music coupled together, and that manipulates the rules of art to produce something not only beautiful but impactful.   “Home” is certainly not naive–but it is hopeful.  Above all, the collection reminds us to celebrate immigrants in a political climate that no longer does, and that in order to create a home for ourselves and our fellow Americans we must go forth with compassion, an open mind and a willingness to love one another.

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