Book Review: Abu Siddik’s ‘Rugged Terrain’ and ‘Whispering Echoes’

Reviewed by Gopal Lahiri, Poet and Critic

Rugged Terrain’ and ‘Whispering Echoes
Author: Abu Siddik
Authorspress, New Delhi, 
₹ 295/- (each book price)

Two Divergent States of Human Soul

Poetry takes ideas and transfers them in a beautiful way to other people so they can play with the ideas. Abu Siddik is in his element in this twin collection of poems ‘Rugged Terrain’ and ‘Whispering Echoes’ exploring stark reality of life and identity at one end and excavating love and light at the other end with a refreshing verve.
The poet in his introduction has rightly mentioned ‘I believe true poetry emerges from our deepest delight and anguish. And while Whispering Echoes exults my elation and exhilaration. Rugged Terrain encapsulates my dark and dreary mood. Two volumes are, thus, basically what Blake calls ‘two contrary states of human soul.’ He offers insights into the cultural and political structures that border our life.
Abu Siddik
Abu Siddik calmly and consistently draws attention to the overlooked – farmers, tea garden labourers, pregnant mother, poor villagers etc. Conveying clear ideas through crisp and intimate poems, the poet takes on the important themes spread over the two volumes –poverty, squalor, anguish, loss, love, friendship, ideals, nature, beauty– and speak to us about celebration life in its totality.

His great virtue is the simplicity and directness of his writing. For that his elegantly poised poems are imbued with simple submission, pure love and glowing alertness. His message on all that ails our country is very clear at the end.
The poet has the sureness and ability to speak to us directly, even while his poems map themes of struggle, ambiguity and loss. The result is an unexpectedly contemporary volume that makes startlingly simple use of language and word-play. His poems are about returning to everyday life and its effect can be both memorable and moving.
‘In Rugged Terrain’, Abu Siddik focuses our complex life and its attendant anxieties with skill and precision. His poems which are built of unadorned language and sharp imagery, stand loud and clear. It’s the tone, the tenor and pitch, it’s the way of looking at things that makes the poet unique. In one poem, the poet proclaims,
‘At a grocery shop
In a bazaar’s half-lit alley
I met a mother,
Demure and dark.
Belly swollen
And eyes sunken deep
Limbs, lean, pale and
Lips withered.’ (A Pregnant Mother)
His poems are known for their quality of confiding closeness, auditory delights and rare concision and his mind expresses anguish at the disparity and inequities of life.  This incisive and engaging poem wrenches with words and woes, questions our existence in sync with the voice echoing inside.
‘I ask you friends,
Am I to touch the feet of the tyrants?
Or demolish their white towers?
Am I to kill the killers?
Or forgive them in tears?’ (I ask you friends)
Some of the poems trace the traumas and the crisis of the commoners and gives a dismal picture of how their lives have played out afterward. In ‘Four Corners’, the poet has listed four corners of pain with an astounding openness, - ‘In one are buried my ancestors’, ‘In the next sleeps an empty cooking pot’, ‘Over the third/My thatched roof is leaked’ and ‘And in the darkest one/There is our sleeping cot, /Lousy, worm-infested’.
In turning variations, his poems remain teasingly alive and not burdened by the dialectical weight. Some of his poems are extensively reworked, exposed yet never shackled by doctrine and credence, and examines the way life does revise itself. What is all the more remarkable is that the poet has the perfect poise, not too loud and not vague in his voice. The following poem reflects the poet’s sharp eye for detail.
Am I to support the traitors of my people?
Or smash their wings to the ground
Am I to witness to a hauling of a girl by wolves?
Or cut their secret things and fling them into dust? (I Ask You Friends)
‘Whispering Echoes’ is punctuated by condensed moments and rare artistry. But, the poet at times lapse into wordy description. The poet gains ground more often on locale details and internal echoes, less so as he wafts on about his soft treading. Throughout, he contributes mostly pensive and scintillating backings, often laced with intricately detailed musings. They are a joy to read.
‘Forget the forest,
And feast your eyes
On the arrayed nut rows,
Cabbages, turnips and tomatoes,
Scattered across the stretched gleaming fields.’ (A Dawn in a Village)
Poetry intends to recover the denser and more refractory original world which we know loosely through our perceptions and memories. Here the poet explores the minute details of life and its surrounds. His assured, refined poems are written with insight and keenness. This powerful poem is a stand out.
‘Thus, a day we will spend
Far from famed cities
Where learned men fabricate
Knowledge, false, half-true,
And refined souls clash for
The supremacy of their own god/s’ A Wish)’.
Abu Siddik’s poems delight or provoke in some way or other and are filled with sobering thoughts on injustice, determination and redemption. The poet’s eye may be drawn to all manner of cultural detritus, but he is often able to find emotion and significance in his survey of experience. There is a flicker of life at the edges. His opulent language invites us into the land of love and light.
‘On a moon-bathed bridge.
A man drinks and stands alone.
Timid lights in brick kilns
And scattered huts stand dumb. (On a Moon-Bathed Bridge)
There is a land of love and hope
Beyond the sea of despair
Else how can we live? (Land of Love and Hope)
Poetry is a kind of knowledge which is radically or ontologically distinct. The poet excels in adopting the conventional form- its imagery, its language- makes it his own. Not that all his poems are engaging or nuanced but sometimes the poet strives hard with renewed firmness, revealing the naivety in life.
‘Fear not,
None intrude,
And darkness hasn’t thickened yet
Come, let’s us drench a while
And then we part for life!’ (Let us drench in the Rain)
Furthermore, with prescient passion and close attention, the poet guides its readers on the powerful road of integrity and awareness and his words of inspiration and conviction can stir in others as well.
 ‘Or lead me to your granary
And let me winnow with the winnowers
At a starry night.’
. (O, Our Farmers!)
This well-conceived book brings an earthy and irreverent voice, uninhibited in style and subject matter and is profoundly satisfying. In the following poem, the full force of the poet’s acutely drawn of vision comes into play.
‘Days were balmy
Nights, cool and coal.
You whisper
And I nibble your lobes.’ (Those were the Days).
The amazing clarity and attentiveness of his poems are the hallmark of this book. His poems are irresistible and moving, with heart and charm, balancing discordant truths in wise ruminations.
Abu Siddik is an achiever by proclivity that swells with meaning and revelation and revels in connectivity with people and nature. The poet weaves positive skins that pulls these two collections together. It is the frankness of these books that make them very hard to ignore. His poems will earn praise for its contained energy and shining words.
The cover page designs of this twin books are attractive. And surely, they are a must for every poetry lover’s bookshelf.
Gopal Lahiri


Gopal Lahiri is a Kolkata-based bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator with 22 books on poems and prose, published mostly (14) in English and a few (8) in Bengali, including four jointly edited books. His poems have been published across various journals and anthologies. He has attended various poetry festivals in India and abroad. He is published in 12 languages.

1 comment :

  1. I am really overwhelmed with your review of my poetry books, Gopal Lahiri sir. The review itself is a refined piece of higher kind of literature!


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