“There is an inherent sense of loss and sadness in Devika Basu’s poems but this sorrow is about the inevitability of decay in life in general which manifests in particular episodes of life,” writes Amit Shankar Saha.
In the Introduction to her book, Resonant Recital (Hawakal Publishers, 2018), Devika Basu writes: “Let me confess at the outset that I do not write poetry.” But she also confesses that “the paradigm of poetry appears to lose its way” to enter her life, and, vice-versa, her domestic spaces have “silently crept into the poetic zone.” One cannot be more honest than this while producing a book of musings which are small pieces of verse without any titles. Although, the whole collection is divided into various sections which are titled: “Bereaved Banquet”, “Broken Walls”, “Disjointed Frames”, “Seasonal Tears”, “Midnight Memories”, “Ethereal”, “I Smelt the Salt”, “My Wallet is Too Full”, and “The Third Eye”. These nine sections themselves can be taken as nine long poems with each being subdivided into several parts which are thematically connected but form or express a different narrative each.
The opening verse sets the tone of the nature of these pieces. They are rather personal and yet connect universally. The poet writes about her twenty-fifth and fortieth birthdays and compares the celebrations in two stanzas to bring out the contrast that the forties come in a bereaved banquet because the “jubilant faces” that surrounded her when she was twenty five have now become the “hands missing to bless”. To address the question whether these musings are poetry or not, one has to look into these three lines for a poem in the “Broken Walls” section which seems to be about break up and heartbreak: “Dreams are real at times./ Near me, tangible./ The real fades away.” It is this realization when one goes into the dream territory where imagination is most powerful is what makes a poet. Devika Basu traverses this territory and uses her esemplastic power to produce her poetry. In “Disjointed Frames” she writes:
Words come to me in disjointed frames
in solitary darkness.
Touch embedded in my pen.
Who am I to write?
I leave my desk and gently pause.
My pen tells the tamarind tale
in blue. (p. 27)
In the first stanza she leaves a question about her identity as a writer. In the second stanza she writes lines that indirectly answer her question because only a poet can produce tamarind tales in blue. She produces lines which remain with the readers for a long time. In “Seasonal Tears” she writes “Griefs vaporize”, “Dawn-kissed clouds gather”, “Hilsain my veins” evoking imageries that resonate with the readers.
In the suggestive title of the section “Midnight Memories” she tries to “catch/ time in myriad forms”. She says that night is solitude when she can walk in silence. It is here she can make history speak through silent walls, make images float in rhyme, pause traffic to think, make limbs to catch time and even in grey hairs cherish to grow. She continues building her pleasure dome in verse in the section “Ethereal” until “I Smelt the Salt” where she finds that the seashore stands alone and calls “to feel the crimson hue/ in forgotten dunes”. There is an inherent sense of loss and sadness in Devika Basu’s poems but this sorrow is about the inevitability of decay in life in general which manifests in particular episodes of life. But in the section “My Wallet is Too Full” she tries to connect with the worldly pains and find a resonance. She writes “We breathe, our/ poems await/ resonant recital”. She says that her wallet is too full to contain despair, let justice awake for “enough is felt/ in this deadly paradise”. In the last section, “The Third Eye”, she evokes Lord Krishna but it is Karna here who has the piercing eye and there is silence in the womb.
Amit Shankar Saha is an award-winning poet and short story writer. He has won the Poiesis Award, Wordweavers Prize, Nissim International Runner-up Prize. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Griffin Poetry Prize. He is the co-founder of Rhythm Divine Poets, Assistant Secretary of Intercultural Poetry and Performance Library, Fiction Editor of Ethos Literary Journal and Chief Executive Editor of Virasat Art Publication. His two collections of poems are titled "Balconies of Time" and "Fugitive Words". He has a PhD in English from Calcutta University and teaches in the English Department of Seacom Skills University.