The Silence (A Collection of Poems) by Dr.Nandini Sahu, Authorspress, New Delhi, 2005, Pp.113, Rs.100
"I write poetry when words dance on my pen’s tongue, when my spine starts melting, the heart aches unbelievably, then I have that ecstasy of being a woman, when my pen needs to disturb the slumber of the society on sensitive issue is like mental slavery of human, subjugation of women, and when I rejoice at the beauty of the creation. Then I open up petal by petal through my verse.”
(quoted from ‘The Preface’ of ‘The Other Voice’ by the poet)
Reviewing poetry is always an exciting challenge. Both within the Academic ghettoes and the wider, less well-defined counters of the world of the common reader, poetry has the mercurial quality of being the proverbial bird in the bush – tantalizing, illusive, frustrating and fascinating. In her second collection of poems, ‘The Silence’, Nandini Sahu focuses on the aesthetic energy and the intensity of the verse lines. Desire, longing, anguish, sorrow, yearning for the out-of-reach, unattainable and mystical aura of the cherished human responses are the predominant themes of the poems. The agony and the pain of humanity linger, the poet sometimes sounds like a thirsty traveler in search of a pool of water in a sandy desert. Her mood swings of ironic detachment and despair disturbs philosophic calmness of many lines, as desire disturbs mediation at the core of human yearning. Dr. Sahu has brilliantly merges experiment and experience in an aphoristic style in which she writes this recently published book of poems. It is obvious that she has definitely reached a turning point in her poetic journey of self-discovery and discovery of the world which spans the last ten years of her poetic career.
The title of the collection is thought-provoking, it is based on a poem written in a somber mode of the poet. Some of the poems are both playful and serious, the poet has arranged the poems more artfully to reflect the themes of both the inner and the outer worlds. The eighty poems in this volume were written over last five years, and a few of them have been published before in a variety of journals nationally and internationally. Yet the anthology has a wholeness about it, it is put together with great care. The poets work individually, but also relate to each other, commenting on the theme of the collection, the silence of the soul, as a whole, in this collection she unravels he quest to comprehend the mysteries of the universe through her verse lines. For her, life is a flux, disintegrating in eternity, and the human being has witnessed a relentless time for centuries – daring yet helpless and dismayed. The poems reveal the poetic personnel with her vitality, passionately striving to be free. With her pronounced feminity lines stem from a women’s perception of herself as she relates to her environment on a micro and macro scale.
The poet is out and out a romantic her poems take care to treat the secret chamber of the human heart, reveal a rich treasure of emotions. The ‘Dedication’ of the poem declares the poet as an optimist at the outset:
Dedicated to the One
who makes me guess
time is still not a frightening rush.
Time may roll back like a wave
Washing sin and hatred away -
again the foaming wave may flow
at the mercy of the sea
with eternal, new born springs.
In the preface of the collection she writes, “As a sensitive poet, I pour out my concerns, fears, ecstasy through these poems, attempting a trace the social, philosophical and spiritual environment around… I have always been interested in the universal themes of poetry – love, life and death; most of the times my poetic personae tries to incorporate the world in the cosmos of her womanly existence… The collection contains some of my very favourite poems that reveal the poetic personae with her vitality, passionate striving to be free ad her pronounced feminity. The woman’s voice is the centre of the world she creates, and love naturally is one of the central themes. In the poem ‘Long After’, she sounds sulky as her “dream soaked mind” remains explicit to the world. ‘The Inscape’ is a beautiful poem the imagery is that of a bird who reminds the poetic personae “of life’s melodious modes meandering”. Some poems are deeply nostalgic and dramatic like ‘A Forgotten Story’, ‘Saying Good-bye’, ‘Unreaped Autumns’, ‘The Setting Sun’ (for Papuni), ‘In Memory’s Lane – Another Yea’, ‘I Take Leave of You’, ‘Holi’, ‘Memory’, ‘The Blue Hill’, ‘Hope Our Paths’ll Cross Again’, ‘The Passing Time’, ‘Another Rain’, ‘Ritual Love’, ‘Women’, ‘My Mother’s Story’ and such other.
The poet seems to have a sense of pride regarding her familial past which is evident from a few poems having their roots deep into the personal past of the poetic personae. In the preface she writes, “I have come from a literary family well educated with an intimate knowledge of art and poetry since my childhood, when my father had made it a rule that every night before going to bed we would have a literature reading session. This has undoubtedly helped me to mature as a poet and evolve my individual style of writing.”
Being frustrated by the present, the tender yet powerful women in the poet takes recluse in the lap of Muses. She writes about her poems, “Some poems are a reflection of the personal tragedy of the human being, which of course, cannot lead me to metaphysical pessimisms as I regard death and suffering as the point where happiness and despair meet. Some other poems reflect my acute perception of the topical and current events of the world we live in. However, I feel, poetry goes beyond an immediate reaction and record of the present; rather it attempts to lend emotional, moral and philosophical dimensions to the world around with a view to individual freedom.” ‘A Garmented Metaphor’ is a poem where Dr. Sahu points the irony of life in metaphoric language:
To save my own shadow
from piercing sun burn
I struggled vigorous exuberant
losing my self
in the flight of the
shadow and the sun
Now in the darkness of the
when I drop my swollen
hackneyed, tried of
shadow from the sun
neither the sun
nor my shadow
are shown in the
The poet seems to be deeply in love with the imagery. One of the poems which I like due to its reach imagery is ‘Moments’
Moments come and go
Like my maid servant’s talkative daughter,
Moments get missed inside the vibgyor,
Green, the equilibrium of
Violet, indigo, blue
yellow, orange, red
Moments get lost within merry baskings,
or even within
the magenta or turquoise.
Moments are dappled,
Like the dawn or the dusk,
Moments are impatient
Like an un married pregnant;
Moments make and mar,
Make one a bird, a cockroach,
A pole star, a grass, a poem,
A magic wand, a Socrates,
Moments change the order o things
The macrocosms, the microcosms,
Moments control dreams, knowing not
Dreams only let moments
To simply pass by
Moments are proud – moments are moments,
And nothing else is.
Social concerns and spiritualism, too, are the predominant themes in her poetry. Poems like ‘Giving Them a Smile’ (for Tsunami-affected People), ‘Dialogue with a Fistful of Time’, The Cosmic Upsurge’ are some of the poems with a completely different tone.
In general one can say that most of the poems are about being a poet and about the relationship between a poet and her poems. Her’s is not a romanticized no sooner poetry, there is no mystification, rather the poems are based on honest observation and most personally felt emotions, a reflection of the objective observation, sometimes they sound as the work of a cosmopolitan woman at ease with herself and the surrounding. She has her special ‘voice’, ironical, witty, stylish, wise, compassionate, romantic, deliberate, propagating art for the sake of life.
Reviewed by Dr.Ratan Bhattacharjee, Dept. Of English, Dum Dum Motijheel College, 1, Motijheel Avenue, Calcutta, West Bengal, India.