Book Review: Homing Pigeons and sundry stuff by Naina Dey

Homing Pigeons and sundry stuff

Poems by Naina Dey

Authorspress, 2020, ₹ 295/-

Review by Nishi Pulugurtha
Nishi Pulugurtha
An academic, critic, poet and translator, Naina Dey wears many hats with élan. Her latest work is a collection of poems Homing Pigeons and sundry stuff, a slim volume of poems dedicated to her young readers. The volume is divided into sections – ‘Homing Pigeons and Sundry Stuff’, ‘Poems on the Pandemic’, ‘In Love With Love’ and ‘Unholy Thoughts’. 
      In the poem “Homing Pigeons” Dey speaks of hope, of the dark recesses that are all around, waiting to engulf, in four short stanzas that use metaphors from everyday life – 
After a minute they will disappear
As the sky gets heavier and the lights come on
Soon there will be a sizzling pan
Scraped off non-stick coat
Double-egg omelettes and sugared toast
Naina Dey

There are poems that are acerbic in nature and voice the angst, the agony in simple language as seen in the poem “Futility: An Ode” -
After the plate of crumbs has been pushed away
To obscurity
After the last drop of juice has plinked into the mug
I wallow in the satiety of intellect
Pretending (like others)
I am filled to the gills
With formidable erudition
Foolish Sisyphus
Many poems in the volume use myth and legends to create a sense of association and a sense of connection that speaks out loud. The use of just one word in each line in this poem also creates a sense of urgency -
      Dey works her way with various forms and styles, weighing each word, image and metaphor, using myths and legends, to create a myriad tapestry that hold on and speaks out clearly, voicing her expressions in a way that linger on. This is how she describes a rainbow – “A perfect arch of Rama’s bow” in the poem “Rainbow” describing it as a “miracle” later in the poem. Places, creatures, people, inhabit the world she creates to voice the goings-on in her mind – 
Dust settled upon glass boxes
A sword from the sepoy-mutiny inside
Replicas of heritage-sites
A rich legacy in sad solitude (“That One Face”)
       Dey succinctly describes the game of life in the poem “Chessplayers” with people moving on in the game of life – “university boys”, “shop assistant” and a “tramp – 
Each finding a purpose on the chequered board
United in concentration
On every strategic move
Pawns, bishops, rooks and knights
No one knows how long this goes on
Nature, the attitudes to women, travel, literature, are the subjects of many poems in the volume. In “The Death of Hamneth” Dey takes as the subject of her poem the death of Hamneth, the son of the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare. The poem speaks of the father’s grief and his creation later, a play in the memory of his son, Hamlet –
Not a tear left his eyes
The father had died with the son
To roam like a restless ghost
    It is but a given that living in these bizarre times, learning to deal with things around us, at the mercy of the ravages of the virulent virus that holds the world in throes, a poet will but respond to it. In the section titled ‘Poems on the Pandemic’, Dey includes one long poem, “Love During Covid 19”, and a series of micro poems, “Micro Poems on Covid Times”. The micro poems have varied syllables and no fixed structure as the poet speaks of the times in 2020 when the country was in a lockdown and the mask is an image that features – 
Strange that
We all wear masks
Over old ones
Micro poems also form part of another section in the volume – ‘In Love With Love’ and here too the poems do not follow any fixed form, pattern, or syllable count. 
“Define Love,” you say
I watch the rotating disco light
Throw glitter on the walls
Myriad-coloured heart shapes
Forming and dissolving
This section also has long poems on the subject of love, poems like “Old Love”.
    The last section of the volume, ‘Unholy Thoughts’ has ten poems that have titles like “MMS”, “Acid Love,” “Feminism”, “Scar”. In “Assassination” Dey brings in an allusion to Shakespeare once again, to Julius Caesar’s assassination with a tone that is distinctly satiric and hard hitting -  
It is done when one’s back is turned
That is the right moment
To catch your prey unawares.
To drive your stake through
When it is least expected
Therein lies the triumph
Therein lies the glee.
“Big Hunt”, the poem that follows “Assassination” also reveals the influence of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, this time in the references to the strange forebodings – 
The scream shattered the night
Scream after scream
Like a corrugated nail
Twisting over and over
Living in a world where cries, wails and sufferings ring out all over, this poem seems to resonate even more. “Acid Love” speaks of acid attack victims, their pain and agony, of love that turns into hate and destruction, no love at all. Another poem in this section speaks of scars that remain, of festering wounds, signs of pain and suffering that have been and still disturb and hurt – “Till I am a mesh of scars inside-out” (“Scar”).
         Homing Pigeons and sundry stuff is a volume of poems that reach out, that speak out, that give voice to angst and sufferings. The poems, written in a variety of styles speak of the lived condition, of moments and events that make up life. An element of satire pervades many of the poems, not very harsh but subtly and very effectively. As I spend my weekend reading them, the issues they speak of, the subtle ironic humour, linger on, making me think as I move along.

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