BOOK REVIEW: The Delphic Musings

Review by NishiPulugurtha

The Delphic Musings

by L.S. Rathore

Cyberwit, Allahabad, 2020

350.00 INR



      The Delphic Musings is Laxman Rathore’s second volume of poems. The poems in the volume under review speak of the poet’s art, of nostalgia, of travel and longing, of myths and life.  In the foreword to the volume poet, critic, translator and academic Jaydeep Sarangi notes that Rathore’s poems are characterized by an “irrepressible zest”. “The poems in this volume,” Sarangi writes, “are not merely the experiences and realization of life,” they are an “aesthetic celebration of the self”. It is this poetic self that comes out vividly in the poem “Why I write” where he speaks about what inspires him to write poetry.

Nishi Pulugurtha
The poems reveal a sense of sensitivity to nature, an immense sense of longing, the gnawing absences that tear, a wide canvas that brings in myriad aspects of life. “Fire-Flies” voices the charm of nature wonderfully in its evocative lines that describe this little insect.

Each fragile beetle radiated amber sheen

From its supple body amidst green

The long poem weaves myriad images from the natural world that evoke a sense of reverie –

I wonder how these ephemeral creatures

Fill us with lasting pleasures.

There are poems that speak of gender, of patriarchy and of contemporary socio-cultural issues in this volume. “The Play-mate” speaks about appearance and reality in a world that snares and deceives. He brings in the reference to Satan –

The same reptile drove Adam out of paradise

Yet we do not learn to be wise

His poems have an element of story-telling in them that bring out nuances that linger on. “The King’s Palanquin” speaks of power and glory that divides and separates. It speaks of inequality in society and also the fickleness of fortune in a world where everything is uncertain.

Eventually it did fail

And struck its own death-knell.

In a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country like India, myriad identities specific to a region bring in resonances and meanings that create a rich tapestry. Rathore’s poems bring in many of these regional ideas, adding a new facet to his expression. This is seen in the long poem “The Phad: Singing the Tale” which speaks of the folk art of Rajasthan. Rathore evocatively brings in the colours, the glory, the music and painting fusing it into a poetic form that brings out the essence of the state and its culture. It is interesting to note that the poem brings in references to Greek mythology by way of comparison thereby revealing his background in English literature. This is noted in the title of the volume as well.

As they portray tales of gore and blood.

One is carried away as the pageants unroll

The poem is followed by a glossary that explains the names and words that are specific to Rajasthan. It would have been good if the glossary could be given at the end of the volume or in footnotes.

Rathore’s fascination with Hindi film music is seen in poems like “Apology to Gulzar”  which is an apologia to the poet where he speaks his fascination with his work too and “Pancham: A Tribute to R.D. Burman”. In the latter poem, he reveals his great fascination for Burman’s music and songs that is referred to in the poem.

He put out songs with such dash, punch and panache

That they still haunt and soothe us with their grace.

There is a reference to Apollo in the poem as well, possibly a harking out to the title of the volume. “The Last Phase” is a recreation of a poem by Gulzar and it becomes clear as to why he wrote “Apology to Gulzar.” “The Empty Pockets” too begins with a reference to a few lines from Gulzar that serve as the inspiration for Rathore’s poem.

            “The Lonely Sun” beings with a reference to a song by Rabindranath Tagore, a song that speaks of going on alone – “Ekla Cholo Re.” Rathore’s poem speaks of this idea by using the image of the sun. The poem has an epigraph – “The sun is alone too, but still shines.”

The glow of the sun is its own, nor a gift of a deity

Nor does the lack of company eclipse its glory.

            The short, succinct poem “Poetic Review” speaks of rhyme, of phrase and idioms that are so much a part of poetry.  The title reminds one of Rathore’s academic training and background once again. The poem also speaks of his poetic art – “I commit minor linguistic crime”. “Waxing Lyrical” voices thoughts about poetic composition in rhyming couplets that create a sense of the sonorous and a sense of urgency as well – “Singing eases our tension”.    “An Appeal” speaks of the need to read new voices who expect a response, a look, a reaction to their poems and hopes that somewhere, maybe one poem will appeal to the readers. 

            The volume includes review of Rathore’s first volume of poems Romance Over Coffee and an interview with the poet where he speaks of his art, inspiration and the various influences on his poetry.  The poems in The Delphic Musings bring together a myriad range of images and ideas together to speak of themes and subjects that cover the entire gamut of human life. Written mostly in a simple poetic idiom, the poems reveal a sensitivity that the idiom conveys very well. 

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