A book that offers quietude while focusing on everyday realism

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A book that offers quietude while focusing on everyday realism

Gopal Lahiri reviews Shamayita Sen's collection of poems, ‘For The Hopes Of Spring’

Poetry can offer quietude where we can let go of our worldly troubles and tranquillity for understanding experiences and feelings; at the same time bringing into focus our everyday realism.

In her engaging debut collection of poems, ‘For The Hopes Of Spring’, Shamayita Sen brings her inwards poetic space to the front and shares her sights, emotions, desires and distresses. The forty-five poems in this collection span a wide trajectory tapping into something personal, nostalgic, and mindful.

Shamayita writes with a piercing lucidity and acumen, her voice quietly meditates on our shared beliefs and identities, as well as more intense love and personal moments. She’s undertaking it with firmness and attention so special it comes out as sensitivity.

Some of her poems are a strainer of speeding energy, where the essence of love marks a border of ideas and imaginations. Use of images and metaphors is well-intentioned and skilfully crafted.

Even though she is a very young poet, she often uses language beautifully and inventively. Her experiences are rendered vividly ‘Unfurl me/like a letter returned acknowledged’ and with an admirable lack of self-pity. The tone of this appealing, unforced poetry collection is quiet and nuanced.

‘Much later did I realise that my style and form are Prosaic and Hybrid’,’ writes the poet in ‘From Scribbling Notes To Publishing Poetry’. She has further added, ‘The poems speak of daily life, longings and idle musings on human existence, the lives we come across every day, their personal sorrows and political sufferings.’ The collection is divided into three sections, On Dissent, Grief and Other People; Love, Healing etc.

Shamayita’s poems provide the integral insights into the individual and intellectual experiences, portraying an urgent account of life and the surroundings. Some of her brief, playful poems show the intimacies of love while maintaining deep cultural scepticism.

In my sleep
I often meet this face
Wearing a motley of bodies
Shedding each
Like snake skin every
Dream. (YOU IN MY DREAMS)

While some of her thoughts may not be new, they are surely worth mentioning in this disconnected, distracted city life. The poet reaffirms that, like in love, the city belongs to us/like in love, I’ve become the city. The following poem resonates with the sound of the city and this is truly a journey of verbal exuberance through the mourning cityscape.

And must you not realise how with age
The innocence of a leaf becomes a
Difficult gift, how one unlearns precious life
Lessons while walking down dark alleys! (CITYSCAPE)

Her direct and emphatic poetry navigates thorough the implications of solitude and soul searching, captures moments, voices and relationship without a filter, finding that what is normal and truthful. Clarity and candidness are her strength, making her voice heard. She interweaves the wound and anguish, misery and distress with empathy and insight.

Pain
wriggling on the wall
hanging like a photo frame
whitewashed to a slate clean of
memories (PHOTO: BLACK-AND-WHITE))

The poet’s adroit execution and keen observation register the unsettling intimacy of the shared afflictions. She continues to examine the horrifying paradoxes of abuse and fragile connections; an association is delicately stamped out between the clampdown and freedom in modern world.

Rushing past fragile limbs
That have been taken care of,
Patted clean for generations
Now stretched upon a stretcher
Awaiting medication (ALL WE REMEMBER)

The constricted and crusty poems in this collection feel utterly up to the minute and chockfull with freshness. Her language is luminous and appealing, its musicality enhanced by its unflustered rhythms. Here the poet sharply investigates the life of mothers with ironic flair what it is like to be permanently on the fault line.

In their anchol, mothers carry
love, spices, safety pins, warmth and raindrops.
And, know:
Not all raindrops are muffled sobs. (MAA)

Rilke once advises that childhood is one of the richest places to seek ourselves and our inspirations. It is important to know how language is able to take root in our soul and call forth our dusty memories to polish them. What is striking is that Shamayita has never proclaimed that she is an avant-gardist and does things make it uneasy for the common readers. Even so, one can’t escape the feeling that at times her poems are going through motions.

The mounting of losses:
a repertoire of emotions
a collage stretched across the city sky, (JOURNEYING THROUGH)

Nevertheless, a majority of her poems, done on contrasting grounds in love and grief seems meaty, powerful and expedient. There is also the well disguised hard edge spiked with humour to her poems.

If you tell me to love you
I shall gift you a poem.
A poem about a heart break.
I fetch my heart out of my pocket
And throw it
Like a stone hurled in a protest. (IN LOVE IN RAGE)

We need poetry to keep expanding so that it can account for the actual lives that people are living. A fine and clear-eyed debut that finds a fresh way to shape the world with striking intellect and alert feelings. The following poem evokes the realities of life and peaceful easy feeling, each word is a warm embrace.

How easy hast it become
to consider the rift between
your
shattered world and mine
as palpable! (A WORLD SHATTERING, FAR OFF)

Lucille Clifton once wrote,’ Poetry and art are not about answers to me; they are about questions’. Shamayita in her poem ‘Self-Portrait’, focuses on questions in face of answers,

My father would often relay,
We come alone, we shall leave alone,
Then why must you be scared of living solo?
I wonder:
Had he shared the womb-space,
Would he philosophise any different (SELF-PORTRAIT)

Poetry can invoke a sense of solace and a feeling of having come out of adversity! It can heal and calm nerves and bring a kind of bright moment into the mind of the people even in a calamity. Sometimes words are overstated and they search too hard for metaphors and similes. But it has held its shape because it has changed shape-

It’s winter in my heart, it shall
remain so for the three decades
I will have to live without
my father. (MONSOON)

OR

Maa is happy I’m writing
while she cooks through her days
of retired life that she had once dreamt of
touring the world with Baba. (AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MUCH?)

‘For The Hope Of Spring’ discovers resonances of life and ventures into new territory and persuade readers to come along. Here is an emerging poet who admirably works on theme and her deep love of language is all-too evident in her poems.

The cover page is attractive. This neat collection of poems by a young poet will surely bring her to greater prominence.

***

Gopal Lahiri is a bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator. He is the author of 22 books published including fourteen volumes of poems in English (four jointly edited anthology of poems) and eight volumes of poems and prose in Bengali, His poems have been published across various journals and anthologies worldwide. He is also an experienced book reviewer and his reviews have been published amongst others in The Statesman Kolkata, The Telegraph Kolkata. Millennium Post, Kolkata, The Enchanting Verses, The Lake, U.K, The Elixir, US, Different Truth etc. He is currently in the panel of reviewers of Indian Literature of Sahitya Akademi, (Print journal), Muse India and Setu online journals. He has recently edited the book titled ‘Jaillianwala Bagh- Poetic Tributes’. He has attended various poetry festivals in India and abroad. He is published in 12 countries and in 12 languages. He lives in Kolkata, India.

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