Book Review: My body lives like a Threat

Review by: Santosh Bakaya

My Body lives like a Threat 
Poet: Megha Sood 
Publisher: FlowerSong Press [USA, 2022] 
PP Publication Date: 26, Jan 2022
ISBN: 978-1953447524

Megha Sooda Pushcart-nominated Award-winning Poet, Editor, Author, and Literary Activist from Jersey City, New Jersey, says that her full length book of poetry, My Body is not a Threat, is for her son, Siddharth, ‘her shining beacon in every storm. ’ The artist Christy O’Connor’s sculpture entitled, “Carried Trauma” is the cover image that deeply resonates with the ethos of the poems in the exquisite collection.

Associate Editor at journals MookyChick (UK), Life and Legends (USA), and a Partner in the Literary project “Life in Quarantine’’ with CESTA, Stanford University, USA, Sood is also a member of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW), Women’s National Book Association (WNBA), and advocacy member at United Nations Association- US Chapter. I found in her a very powerful poet who writes with a passionate intensity and in the recent years has created a snug place for herself in poetic circles.

Megha Sood
Divided into five immensely powerful sections,  Black Truth; War and Peace; My Body Is Not an Apology; A Just Immigration Policy; and My Body Lives Like a Threat, this book, a compilation of 47 poems focusing on the gender and race-based discrimination of people of color in the United States and around the world, was also chosen as a semi-finalist for the "Shirley Holden Grant" by the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW) , and won appreciation by four different poet laureates of the country. The book has a very insightful foreword penned  by the former poet laureate of Pasadena, California, Dr. Thelma T Reyna., whose books have collectively won national awards 20 times.

Dr.Thelma T Reyne, says “Poetry is not always political; but in Megha’s hands, the sociopolitical arena of our lives is the vessel holding her creations. Issues that have eternally plagued civilizations and that still sunder societies are examined, explained, reviled, parsed, and laid bare for us to dwell upon and better understand. She casts her literary net wide, across nations and across decades, proving that sociopolitical issues are universal, and they affect all people with the same pain, fear, reactions, and hopes.”

Santosh Bakaya

In the first section, Black Truth, in the poem, ‘A Nation in a Chokehold’, she says, “lanes are bustling with protest thrumming with anger.”

 I find Sood’s poems doing exactly that- spilling with angst, unfettered pain, thrumming with indignation and pulsating with dissent.  If words could change the topsy turvy world, her power- packed words definitely would. She shines the light of her poetic torch in dark corners- on the invisibles, the brutalized and mute sufferers, those who have lost their voices under the bludgeoning of fate; her poetic punches hammer away at the mendacity, forked tongued hypocrisy, injustice, and centennial patriarchy of a world hurtling towards annihilation.  

 In the same poem, she talks of police brutality which holds innocent people in a death grip, choking breath out of them.
“Here the nation remembers:
 Eric Garner, Briyonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd
 Here the nation learns again how to breathe

In another very powerful poem, ‘Bless Us, Lord, for the Sin-Free Life We Are Living’, with a gut wrenching, hard hitting precision, she says,
“It takes a million to march and protest on the roads
 the sun scratching their faces
 burnt and scathed by the injustice
screaming in silence
gutted like a fish in the open streets
thick blood staining the curbside
of the lands, we boisterously own.”
In the poem ‘Does hurt have a gender?’ she hurls powerful punches at the reader,

“Do screams have a religion too? Do cries have a race?
Does hurt have a gender? Do wounds have a nationality?

 Does your tongue curl into sin when you call out my name?
Does the triteness of ideologies still mollify your pain?”

Her poems talk of spine- chilling truths, of grieving souls not knowing what hit them, of a relentlessly hammering anguish, of bodies breaking into a million pieces and of a senseless lynching of desires and dreams.  They are so powerful that one continues to reel under their impact long after one has finished reading them. They exemplify the line of the Greek poet, Dinos Christianopoulos, “They buried us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” Indeed, her poems assure us that despite the burial of innocence, it will be reborn, spreading peace, equality and fraternity all around and will smear the faces of the mendacious with their veracity;
You tried to ruin me but you turned me into a warrior.
 A blind seed ready to branch out.”
[Transformation, p 13]

The second section, War and Peace, becomes an eloquent plea for sanity, as her pen quills the senselessness of war, boundaries, and demarcations.

“These lines reek of blood,
war, death, starvation and loneliness
these lines are not marking our possessions
these lines are
slicing our dreams into halves
bleeding on both ends unbidden”  

[In the First week of the New Decade, Humanity seems Singed, p  23 ]

Living in a War zone just shook me up completely. She asks,
Where have all the flowers gone to die?
Why does the sun never rise
and death and misery have become part of life?”[p 28]

 The words of this poem reminded me of that poignant poem of Pablo Neruda,
 ‘I’m explaining a few things.’
And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings”

That powerful Hardy poem which we read in school, The Man he killed, also knocks away at the head, as you read on.  
“Yes, quaint and curious war is
You shoot a fellow down
 you’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half a crown.”

Yes, the senseless brutality of war hits us with renewed force as we read about the  boy who wonders where  his toys  have disappeared and why  he can’t fly kites any longer,  why are those verdant meadows where he played hide and seek covered with mass graves now?
And you cling to hope, eyes riveted on-
  “a tiny green patch growing through this broken house
healing with every sapling--
every tiny leaf growing
through the cracks
breaking through the pain.”
[Tourniquet: Snapshot of a War-Torn House, 30]

Another highly inspiring poem in the book is My Survival Story, and I cannot resist the temptation of quoting a few lines from it.
“Like a sapling breaking
 from the blind seed
I’m sprouting, I am thriving’

‘Like a reflection of the summer sun
shining into a million versions of me,
on shards of broken mirror.’

‘I’m the war cry, the mortal fear
residing behind enemy lines.’

‘the broken pieces I foraged together
 to make a whole of me
an untrammeled beauty within.
This fecundity is my survival extinct
to handle the plethora of emotions
 life throws at me,
undulating between the proximity and prosody of pain:
 I’m learning. Yes, I’m growing’. (My Survival Story, p. 67- 68)

Then comes the third partMy Body is not an Apology -equally eloquent, equally searing, equally singeing one’s conscience with a brutal, mind numbing, hard hitting reality.  Let me quote a few lines from some of the poems that hit me hard.
“A mother runs half-naked through the empty street. Wailing.
Anger fracturing the thatched roofs.
Pain scratches like a pellicle dissolving in acid.
Its stench carried for generations
. [The Day the Town celebrated-A response to honor
-based killings around the world, p 41]

The imagery here is so strong here that it refuses to leave the reader; one tries to shake it off but it comes back with a brutal resilience and etches itself on one’s  subconscious, merging into one’s being.
The following lines in the poem ‘resistance’ carry the entire essence of dissent.  
“I birth my own revolution
and I create my own marches
the truth my soul owes to nobody but me
a conversation with my higher self
a divine ablution. When I resist I create
.” [resistance, p 43]

 “This body is not an apology.
It is a profound lesson a triumphant proclamation;
an unfettered declaration
.”[My Body is not an Apology, p 47]
Let me confess in all honesty, that these poems made me look at life with new eyes and a newer perspective.

The fourth section, A Just Immigration Policy is again a collection of ‘serrated voices of mottled fear’ and ‘the syntax and semantics of unspoken fear’ [The Day Liberty was Disrobed, p 52]
“Those with their slithering tongues
and taloned fingers
are scraping and scratching the last bits of life
from our solemn statue
our epitome of liberty”
[The Day Liberty was Disrobed, p 53]

The imagery in Requiem for a Dream refused to leave me:

“The one-horned night pokes cleaves you in half
 & coagulates all your experience into a thick slimy liquid
Dripping through all parts of your porous soul when
the imaginary has broken the leash and is now running stark naked,
Uncontrolled, unfettered, in the surreal fields lit
by the burnished sun birthing thousand moons
In your half-open eyelids as a requiem for a half-dream.
[P 60]

 “Like a sapling breaking
from the blind seed
I’m sprouting, I am thriving. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Like a reflection of the summer sun
 shining into a million versions of me,
on shards of broken mirror

 I’m the war cry, the mortal fear
 residing behind the enemy lines

 the broken pieces I foraged together to make a whole of me
an untrammeled beauty within.
This fecundity is my survival extinct
to handle the plethora of emotions
life throws at me,
Undulating between the proximity and prosody of pain:
 I’m learning. Yes, I’m growing. (My Survival Story, p. 67- 68)

Walking precariously on the steep path
chosen by the boisterous men
 tiptoeing between the serrated ends
of misogyny and inequality.

 With a whimper and a roar
 I walk,
I run,
when the ground beneath my feet morphs and tumbles,
when every war of mine
is nothing but a mere screech to this tone-deaf patriarchy.”
[Path to My Freedom, p 66]

 “Sometimes I wonder,
how this world
marred and demarcated by the boundaries
those twisted pronunciations,
would look beautifully kneaded together?” [We all rise out of love, p 71
Along with the poet, the reader wonders too. In this poem I was mighty pleased finding a liberal use of words from Hindi, [kaur – morsel, paraat - a utensil to knead flour, atta – flour.]
While reading the poems, I could almost imagine the poet gnashing her teeth, brows furrowed, pouring out her indignation on paper, and in the bargain stoking the fires of the readers’ indignation too. They grip one tenaciously by the collar, yanking one out of a comatose indifference towards the rampant cruelties - the result is that one cannot look away, cannot remain silent, close one’s eyes or plug one’s ears.

Well-armed with her armory of words, she has valiantly taken up cudgels on behalf of beleaguered humanity;  her poems, pointedly making you listen to the screams of those surviving on the fringe of society, the immigrants clinging to their dreams in an alien land, women stalked by entrenched patriarchal expectations and  the nobodies of the world. Through her words, this word -warrior tries to resuscitate their dying dreams, healing them into somebodiness.

By the time you finish reading the book, it has brought about a transformation in your entire psyche. Not content with being a mute witness to the rampant injustice, fists clenched, heart thumping, frothing, fuming, you jump into her pulsating poetic bandwagon, and exclaim, “Fight on, Warrior Woman! Come, let us together set this topsy -turvy world right!  Yes, poetry can really make things happen.”
A book highly recommended.

Link where it can be purchased:

1 comment :

  1. Thanks so much Santosh maa'm for writing such a detailed review of my book and sharing your thoughts about my work.Grateful to SETU Magazine, Anurag Sharma and team for publishing it and giving it a space in your esteemed journal.


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