Solstice: Collection of Haikus

Book Review by Aneek Chatterjee

Rajorshi Patranabis (2021), Solstice: Collection of Haikus, New Delhi: Authorspress, pp. 57; Price: ₹ 295; $ 25. 

                          Haiku is a short form of Japanese poetry, now used globally. In English language poetry, Haiku has become very popular due to the challenges it offered to the author, -- seventeen sound units, traditionally known as ‘On’ or ‘Morae’ in the Japanese language, broken into a 5-7-5 format. Initially, in the English language, sound units were taken as syllables, although these were not quite the same, and put into a 5-7-5 syllabic format. Therefore, initial English language haiku followed the 5-7-5 syllabic pattern; although with the passage of time this pattern was not always followed by poets. This was because Haiku provided ample space for experimentation beyond the 5-7-5 pattern. This kind of experimentation also gave birth to some related forms of Haiku, like ‘Haibun’, ‘Haiga’, ‘Kuhi’ etc. These preliminary words were necessary to understand Rajorshi Patranabis’ collection of Haiku titled “Solstice”, which provided the readers a combination of the 5-7-5 format and other short variations of poetry, with a three-line structure followed throughout the volume, -- for all short poems. 

                        In “Solstice”, mindscape invites nature, love, nostalgia, melancholy to be companions; as author Rajorshi Patrnabis sets out for a poetic journey. “Freak escapade, pines in hill, / plums delight, big water side, / Shillong, your name is love …” Love for a city in the Himalayas, we know as Shillong, has been portrayed through the canvas of nature, in a simplistic, yet magnetic way, in these lines. Rhyming in three lines? Yes, Rajorshi provides the reader with that luxury as well: “Sense remains in absurd thought / Melancholy, that peace had sought / Love me violent, bleed in clot …” These rhymed stanza brilliantly exposes the longings of a soul which seeks violent love, because in its absence, peace only brings eternal melancholy. This craze for love continues in another rhyming poem: “Darkness beckoned your lips to my lip / Day ushers and you leave me with weep / Flowers still garden my grave, resident in you deep …” It would not be an exaggeration to term “Solstice” as a collection of love poems, because majority of short pieces in this volume depict the poet’s unending quest for love. For instance, read the following poems: “Pyre in flames / Rush to your bedside, / “Yours forever now.” or, “Your eyes feigned ignorance / We are destined / Unruly unison …” or, “In your greens do I bleed blue / Deep ignorance, my heart does rue / And in your red, I flow through you …” or, “I lived to love / Love till the end / End begins with you …” In all these stanzas, love is ubiquitous; in different hues, variegated colors, invisible postures. The last poem quoted above, follows a unique pattern where the last word of the previous line becomes the first word of the following line. Call it “Chain Verse” or “Enjambment”; to the poet and to readers like me these are only adorable, excellent love poems.  

                          The beauty of nature mingles happily with the inner cravings for love in this volume. As poet Gopal Lahiri observes in the ‘Foreword’ to the book: “For Rajorshi, haiku is not a ripple induced by currents, but an echo of love and devotion which explore the silences and undulations”. In “Solstice”, the poet makes his invisible sorrow, cheers and pain for love visible only to nature, and to his readers. Consider these lines: 

Rajorshi Patranabis

“Orange Sunset 

Twilight red 

Purple hearted ecstasy …” 

and: 

“Hands on my heart 

Tears drenched my chest 

Last of your first touch …”     

or:  

“Trickling down the slopes 

Sprinkles of gold 

Heaven’s backyard …”  

or: 

“You see me through 

Throughout your pains 

Love’s hegemony …”  

In his collection Rajorshi used punctuation marks, capital letters at the start of each line and ellipsis at the end of the third line in almost all haiku, barring one or two; -- not very common usages in traditional haiku writings. Did those ellipsis marks point towards the unending journey of love or parts of his experimentation with haiku? The poet knew best. These might appear out of sync to the traditionalists, but such usages actually fitted well with his compositions.   

                   In every haiku of this worthy collection “Night smells you / Stars see you / Lost somewhere, I feel you …” We also feel the poet through his lovely creations; through his imageries and metaphors; through his unveiling of emotions and desires. Poet and painter Sarbajit Sarkar correctly observes in ‘Some Thoughts on Solstice’, included in the volume: “In Solstice, Rajorshi achieved this rare feat by integrating sun’s celestial navigation of coming to a solstice with the inner joy of his own life”. Strangely enough, this ‘joy’ often also contains pains, only the search for love knows and feels. This unending quest for love finds an abode, temporarily perhaps, in Rjorshi Patranabis’ “Solstice: Collection of Haikus”, which is surely a collector’s item. 

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Author's Bio:                              

Rajorshi Patranabis, a multilingual poet and translator, is a food consultant by profession. He had been published in many national and international journals. He has three collections of English poetry, one collection of Bengali poetry and one book of translations. Solstice is his most recent collection of haikus in English.


Reviewer’s Bio:

Aneek Chatterjee is a poet and academic from Kolkata, India. He has been published in reputed literary magazines and poetry anthologies across the globe. He authored 14 books including three poetry collections and a novel. His third poetry collection titled “of Ashes and Persiflage” (New Delhi and Kolkata, Hawakal) came out in November, 2020. Chatterjee has a Ph.D. in International Relations; and has been teaching in leading Indian and foreign universities. He was a Fulbright Visiting faculty at the University of Virginia, USA and a recipient of the prestigious ICCR Chair to teach abroad. His poetry has been archived at Yale University.


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