A poet’s balancing act of being and unbeing

“What strikes most is the poet’s felicity of expression and the unconventional approach to the established institutions of the society,” writes Ravikumar S. Kumbar.

“The purpose of poetry is to instigate”

(“Shailaputri wears a Yellow”)

The constant soul searching of an artist either leads to despair or gifts the vision to hold the universe in a dialogue. The poetry of Poornima Laxmeshwar is of the second kind which tries to dwell on the meaning and vacuity of life in all its myriad connotations. When most of us fear for the mundane rut of life, she traverses it courageously even though there are hurdles at every step that she takes. Society, family, marriage, friendships- all work effectively as panopticons for sentient beings. The poet braves these hurdles and faces them with the courage of a person in love. She takes up her journey of Sisyphus – but not all is in vain- for she comes out renewed and strong with every failed moment of existence. That is where the strength of her poetry lies- she sings of the most common facts and features of the postmodern world with all its anomalies. 

Discontent is one of the minimum units required for survival to misfits like poets, philosophers, and artists. Walking through the worn-out paths of familiar streets she brings in a new perspective whenever she sees the world through her poetic lens. Poornima has successfully developed her distinct style in these poems. The colloquial, global, local and personal are knitted together in the quilt of multi-coloured images and symbols. Love remains curdled in the refrigerator of heart; with no love in the time of cholera, life itself becomes cholera only to be “suffered in silence”; the once picturesque lakes of Dharwad- Nuggikeri and Sadhanakeri are like moss stuck on the heart forever; the ontology of being and unbeing is represented as the vacuum or emptiness that evolves every single moment. Many idioms and phrases native to the Dharwad dialect of Kannada are introduced here. This brings an effect of familiarity in a rather distant world of memories that every married woman faces in our society. Those very words of caution, threatening, and blackmailing uttered by Ajji and Amma lend a disparate experience to the poems trying to translate the innate experiences into English. The poet brings those silences, gaps, and aporias of her world through a well-balanced interjection of the colloquial Kannada into English. Such a confluence yields fine artistic expressions in this collection. 

The collection is divided into three sections namely- “Everydays”; “Love Songs”; and “The Others in our Everydays”. This division also holds a key for understanding her poetry- these three sections encapsulate her world view. “Everydays” is loaded with imagery and symbolism of various colours that are inevitable in the poet’s life. The past and the present are strung together to bring certain harsh realities of the lives of the middle-class married women to the fore. The use of language is chiselled and polished yet comprehensible. This is another feature of Poornima’s craftsmanship. She makes very radical and straightforward statements about the world that surrounds her. Home- [the present one and the one she has left behind] is a trope that is employed in this section to show the tribulations of a married woman’s life. The intimacy of both the homes is juxtaposed to hint at another metaphorical home that is poetry. Though her mother and grandmother anchor these physical homes, Poornima yearns for the third one here.

The second section “Love Songs” begins with a splendid parody of the seven vows that are made during marriages in India. These vows are radically dismantled to portray the realities of women after marriage. The poem is one of the many poems in the collection which challenge the status quo of certain institutions and established truths [“The Seven Vows”]. Marriage ultimately comes with ‘strings attached.’ Man–woman relationship is questioned through the very tropes that are established by patriarchy- marriage and sex. Poornima boldly poses definite questions to the body politics established in the institution of marriage. “Record of the Cunt”, “cut to Suit”, “The Tale of Two Equals” and “Untangle”- are the poems quintessential of the search for the true meaning of existing in this discordant harmony called marriage in the life of a woman. 

The last section of the book tries to depict the ‘others’ in the life of the poet. The hypocrisy of the so-called respectable male relatives; the futility f materialistic life; the maid-servant’s sordid life; the various hues and colours of a metro journey – all are portrayed in a language that encapsulates the poet’s vision of society. The remarkable poem in this section is “Jogamma” which speaks of the accursed life of a woman forced to prostitution and begging in the name of religion. The nameless woman in the poem represents many other women facing the same predicament elsewhere in this world. 

The identity of the self is composed of innumerable traces of memories and desires. Poornima’s poetry brings in the quotidian in an almost always different perspective. Like the constant shifts of the spatio-temporal in the mind’s realm, her poetry is fluid like the water- a basic need. When we lose all illusions about this world but still retain the courage to self-reflexively ruminate on both our perception of the world and the stubborn reality that engulfs us- there is the poetry of the silent, observant kind. Nothing is exempt from her scrutiny and every small detail of existence passes through the sieve of the poet’s soul. Finally, what strikes us most is the poet’s felicity of expression and the unconventional approach to the established institutions of the society. Poornima claims that she doesn’t know to “(un) love” that is precisely why she travels between ‘being’ and ‘unbeing.’   

(L) – Poornima Laxmeshwar; (R) – Strings Attached; collection of poems by Poornima Laxmeshwar; Red River (2019), Rs 300.

Ravikumar S. Kumbar is an Assistant Professor at PG department of Studies in English, Davangere University.

Read More :

Catharsis seeping through words

An observer walking on the sidewalks

I continue with alphabets, full stops, and all it takes



1 Comment

  1. The review itself reads like a long poem. I appreciate it. However, it says only good things about the collection. It must be w perfect one then!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s