Book Review: Sangeeta Gupta’s ‘‘Hymn to Trees’ and ‘Rise from Your Ashes’

‘Hymn to Trees’ and ‘Rise from Your Ashes’

Author: SangeetaGupta

Prithvi Fine Art and Cultural Centure, New Delhi, 

INR-100/- (each book price)

ISBN:978-81-950284-1-2  / 

ISBN: 978-81-950284-5-0

 

Reviewed by Gopal Lahiri, Poet and Critic

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Two Divergent States of Human Soul

Paul Valery once remarked, ‘Poetry is not music; still less is it a discourse. It is this ambiguity which gives it its delicate charm.’ The impact of poetry at the end depends largely on resonance, rhythm and the number of syllables; but it is also the result of the simple bringing together of meanings. 

Sangeeta Gupta

Sangeeta Gupta offers insights on the identity and celebration of life in her twin collections of delicate poems ‘Hymn to Trees’ and ‘Rise from Your Ashes’ exploring the transmission of vision at one end and excavating love and light at the other end with skill and purpose.

The language of poetry has more substance and colour in it than the language of prose. Here the poet offers insights into the cultural and structures that border our life. Not stanzaic, not exactly metrical, her verse looks like free speech. But it engages an altogether different world. Sangeeta calmly and consistently draws attention to the substances tending toward evanescence and escape.

Her great virtue is the simplicity and directness of her writing. For that her gracefully poised poems are permeated with simple submission, pure love and growing awareness. The poet has the sureness and ability to speak to us directly, even while his poems map themes of inner voice, meditation, ambiguity and loss.

Many believe that poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.

‘In Hymn To Trees’, Sangeeta Gupta takes the readers on a profound journey that open eyes to a new universe. Not only is it brave and beautifully written, but it also drops knowledge on the reality, on the mystery of things. It’s a beautiful work of integration that not only refuses distinctions between “high art” and traditional word play, but supplies that all-too rare human necessity: the sense that life has meaning.


a poem is not an escape

it’s a window for you

to redeem

to transform

yourself

a poem is your rescue. (Thousands of truths)


She is adept at finding moments of supposed normality which are anything but, best articulated in the following poem:


I have known

my own soul

I am not waiting

for life to happen

I am happening to life. (Seek no refuge)

 

Her poems which are built of unadorned language and sharp imagery, stand loud and clear. While the subject matter can be at times inward and philosophical, the poet tackles it with an impressive warmth. Standouts include the Life is a miracle, Accept failure, A note to myself and I crossed your path.  In the title poem, the poet proclaims,

Gopal Lahiri

‘when I lament for

my unrequited love

and heartbreak

when I am devastated

by cruel insensitivity

of human beings

they accept my raw

insane passion’ (Hymn To Trees)

 

Perhaps her poetry makes the poet vivid to herself, never shrink into sheer nothingness. In fact, her poetry never fails to tell us that we are alive and not simply existing. This engaging poem dwells on the symbolism of places where the human and natural worlds intersect: in sync with the creative voice echoing inside.

create your life

page by page

from a space of life

that will take your work

to a whole new level’ (create your life)

 

His painterly exploratory poems urge to do the correct thing and doing it with urgency and an attention that comes out as tenderness. In ‘I am earth’ poem

, the poet has conveyed the truth with an astounding openness, - ‘I am the earth/ I am the path/ I am the destination/ you the eternal traveller/ come, muster courage to walk.

In turning variations, her poems remain teasingly alive and not burdened by the dialectical weight. With its silky delicacy, and that deft voice gliding through sublime imagery, this is a quietly enriching experience for her readers to listen to her powerful poems. The following poem reflects the poet’s sharp eye for detail.

Explore the endless

wonders of life

from the inner space of

love and bliss

give what you have (Explore the Endless)

 

‘Rise from Your Ashes’ is interspersed with condensed moments and rare creativity. Throughout, he contributes mostly pensive and scintillating backings, often laced with intricately detailed musings and wobbliness of transitions. They are a joy to read. 

‘Sun flooded my being

with its light

commanded firmly

rise, rise from your ashes

be reborn

I give you new wings to fly

sing for me (Rise from your Ashes)

 

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.

‘Inside outside

some souls

are not outside of you

I found you in my soul

some souls live only within. (Pain Filled Eyes)’.

 

Most of her poems delight or provoke in some way or other and are filled with sobering thoughts on soul-searching and redemption. Poetry can be at times a mist or the alarming waters of storm. Her poems apparently showcase an array of voices which culminate into a single one at the end. Her opulent language invites us into the land of love and light. In doing so they offer much needed solace, inspiration and joy for our times and into the future.

I am a thought

which touched your soul

and never left

love doesn’t seek

it liberates you. (I am a Thought)

 

Or

 

I floated words

In seven oceans with hope

They might reach you someday soon. (I Floated Words)

 

Poetry is a kind of knowledge which is radically or ontologically distinct. The poet excels in portraying an urgent account of inner voice and the surroundings in a way that feels effortless. Her poems are wonderful examples of personal and collective identities, of memories and myths.

‘Some hearts are broken

time and again

some journeys are

on uncertain terrain

some stories are unfinished forever. (Some Hearts are Broken)

 

Furthermore, with prescient passion and close attention, the poet guides its readers on the powerful road of deep engagement and awareness and her pensive and spirited words can stir in others as well. There is a dynamic unfolding of the ideas and perceptions of the poet in the following poem,

‘Your thoughts

Memories of tiny moments

Spent together

Flow in me

Like a river! (Your Thoughts)

 

A poem is a timeless place, an immaterial plot of land where we can gather across generations to breathe and feel, deeply and safely. This well-conceived book brings a beautiful voice that illustrates our life down to its essence. In the following poem, the full force of the poet’s acutely drawn of vision comes into play.

‘You are so, so far away

from my reach

so remote

so distant

and yet

you fill me

inside out

with your presence.’(You are so, so far away).

 

Intimate and searching, the poems in these collections probe the poet’s identity.

The amazing clarity and attentiveness of her poems are the hallmark of this book. Her poems are solemn and moving, with heart and engagement, balancing truths in astute musings.

Sangeeta Gupta is a poet and painter as well. She revels in connectivity with world and beyond. The poet weaves words on an imaginary canvas that pull these two collections together. It is the crispness of these books that make them so readable. Her poems will earn plaudits for its contained compassion and shining insight.

The cover page designs of this twin books are artistic and the artworks are created by the poet herself. And surely, these books are a must for every poetry lover’s bookshelf.

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Gopal Lahiri is a Kolkata- based bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator with 23 books on poems and prose, published mostly (15) 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 14 languages.


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