Book Review: Joy Moitra’s ‘Fragments and Frames’

Book Review by Gopal Lahiri (Poet and Critic)

Book: Fragments and Frames

Author: Joy Moitra
First Edition: 2019
Zahir Publication, KolkataPrice: ₹ 200.00
ISBN 978-81-939828-5-3

Out of the Darkness

The magic of poetry is actually that it jolts your mind into thinking about a subject or theme in an unexpected way. Joy Moitra’s debut collection of short poems ‘Fragments and Frames’, is rich with shining thoughts and soft images, courage and relationship, love and grief against the framework of life.

The poet strikes the balance between silence and word in a seamless manner. The images are local, wistful and figuratively reflective. His poems start working on simple thoughts that blends powerful feelings with spoken words. He reaches out to the world and reacts playing with words, sentences and exclamations revealing an unabashed inquisitiveness about life and its surroundings.
Gopal Lahiri

The clarity and attentiveness are the characteristics of Joy Moitra’s way of seeing the world in poetry. Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of fine excess and powerful feelings. Hidden in words are dispositions about how we go about in our life in a few lines and there is a new form of fretful optimism to arise and the transformation of silence into language and action.

‘He returned.
The pyre still burning
One life had ended,
His had just begun.’ (Story of life)

What is fascinating about this collection is the symbiosis of thoughts and ideas. Many of the poems’ successive lines immediately grab your attention and every deft touch radiates the pressing charm. The poet takes up the challenges about the process of writing and succeeds to a great extent.

 ‘An empty barn
Parched lands
An empty barn
Unread suicide notes
And then came the rains’ (Destiny)

Some may find that the poet is talking to himself at times and the words are simple and old-fashioned. It is a brutal world, ripe with possibility and it seems the poet destresses the heaviness of words willingly. As a result, every detail is intriguing. The contest is operational and emotional, not much of experimental. This powerful poem is a stand out.

‘Wearing a mask is normal
Wearing a mask is the trend.
It is the cway of the world
Wearing a mask is not easy
          But a must
          For you, me and everyone
Wearing a mask is pretty normal’ (Mask)’.

It’s a book that explores meaningfully the minute details of life and its surrounds especially in this super charged poem. His precise, subtle poems are written with insight and keenness.

Of a mystery man and dragonflies
Of mornings cold and coffee cups
Of whistling trains and billowing smoke.
Of a gagle of geese and the friendly poke.
Digging up the past… (Digging up the past)

Some of his poems emerge from places of whispering soul and are enlivened by luminous line like ‘My fantasy flights to ancient lands’. Elsewhere, in ‘Caminito’, he expresses “The ‘little path born out of river Riachuelo/ Is where I stood thinking about thinking about Michelangelo’

Remembrances of our time together are twined with surprise and irony. The following poems reflects a microscopic gaze into the mysteries of relationships and what emerges is that his poems have always been a liberating space. 

Until one day she met her mother’s friend
It was when we last met
Scared, but ready to wait
She lives on the second street
I, on the main block. (Journey)


You, somehow loved this me
You wanted me to grow

And grow I did that night
Never to come back to your world of fun, frolic and rhymes.(Hugs and rhymes)

This astonishing debut collection gives voice to sufferings and struggles, the queer and non-binary. The poet once said elsewhere, ‘What really matters is : Are you bold ?’. There is also a hard edge in some of his poems that drives our mind beyond the dull moments of life.  But what makes this collection truly revelatory is its bold envisioning of the soul and, beyond that, a world – in which identities and idiosyncrasies are fluid rather than immobile.

‘Cigar-ash, coffee stains and a string of words,
When destiny called, I didn’t find you near
I heard the noise of a hasty retreat
And the echo of guilt along the street (Retreat)

It’s true that the splendour of language is as much a matter of sound as of meaning. Joy Moitra’s strength is ease, clarity, simplicity and weaving simple words with finesse. Some of his intensely felt poems are emotive and insightful focusing on the immediate physical world around us, particularly that of nature, and on the workings of the human imagination and ideas.

Furthermore, the poet’s world play is nice and economy of words is striking at times. The poet is delving deep into the bottom of the heart that seeks out new and revealing perspectives on the human and physical condition.

 ‘Summer murmurs,
Soft and soothing,
From desert lands ar away.

Tell me your story, I plead
How Bedouins do camels lead,
How Shamal, Sirocco, Khamseen,
In spite of the sun
Remain unseen.. (Murmurs)

If we take a moment to observe- Poetry gives us that moment. Mary Oliver once gave instruction to life, ‘Pay attention/ be astonished/ tell about it.’ Joy Moitra’s poetry is a way of life. As if the poet puts his life in a basket and make something out of it. He is a poet and an honest seeker. Yet it is the poems like this that make one clutch on life’s amorphousness – its sporadic accounts, rugged paths, crazy pavement.

‘Like molten lava
Shout out to the world
Tell them why I was born.’ (Why I was born).

Poetry often asks us just to focus and think and be meditative. For all its exuberance, there is something thoughtful in tone and smooth in texture underneath most of his poems. If the book’s purpose is to enthrall the readers, the objective has been fulfilled.

The cover page is impressive. The book is a pure joy to read and reread and worth buy.

Gopal Lahiri is a Kolkata- based bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator with 20 books published mostly in English and a few in Bengali, including three joint books. His poetry is also published across various anthologies as well as in eminent journals of India and abroad. He has been invited in various poetry festivals including World Congress of Poets recently held in India.

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