Book Review: Where Rustling Leaves Laugh and Cry

-Santosh Bakaya

Book: Where Rustling leaves Laugh and Cry 
Author: Laksmisree Banerjee
Publisher: AuthorsPress, 2021 
Price: ₹ 395 INR 
Pages 189

This is the latest book by the prolific poet, literary critic, vocalist, internationally acclaimed educationist, widely published and anthologized across continents and cultures, Dr. Laksmisree Banerjee. Published meticulously by AuthorsPress, the exquisite cover soothes the senses, and the verses in the book heal bruised hearts.

 In the back page blurb, of Where Rustling Leaves laugh and Cry, Prof. K Satchidanandan, the eminent bilingual poet, Sahitya Akedemi Awardee says, that in this book, Prof Laxmisree Banerjee eloquently talks of ‘nature, places, persons, humanity’s hope and the despair of someone who cannot find one’s place in it, deep personal hurts and anxieties, agonies and confessions, colours and seasons and the hope of what is to come …

Laksmisree Banerjee
In a very erudite foreword, Prof. Dr. Udaya Narayana Singh, eminent bilingual poet and Sahitya Akademi Awardee says, that her poems have “a stamp of uniqueness and finesse that one usually finds among the poets writing in their first languages…
 as a poet in Indian English, she would be remembered by her readers for a very long period of time.”

A compilation of 127 poems, this book is indeed a mélange of the myriad hues of life; an emotive read with some heart- wrenchingly, soul- stirring poems, exploring themes of grief, loss, death, devastating truths, which reveal how the fires of life singe us, and still we emerge from the fires, scarred but hopeful, throbbing with a new vigor.

The poems have many nuances, making one indulge in self- introspection. We find the versatile and multitalented poet using her lyrical voice trying to transform the cacophonous world into a euphonious one where, love, compassion and peace reign.
In the preface, in very eloquent words, she writes,

Santosh Bakaya
“Poetry vibrates within our poetic pulse, our heart, soul and the flowing ruddiness in our veins as the quintessential Rhythm of Life itself. I have never been able to dissociate it from the Music that my voice resonates with, since somewhere they are akin to that great Rhapsody of the Spheres that wells out so spontaneously from Nature, Humanity and that mellifluous, lambent Divinity which reigns and spurs us on through the challenging paths we traverse.”

She also says, ‘However, since Poetry is the Melody of Life, I continue to write (as others poets do), poetize and sing my Songs of Hope here, where rustling leaves silently laugh and cry.

Indeed, all her poems are encapsulated in the words from Lines Written in Early Spring, 1798, William Wordsworth, which she has also quoted right in the beginning.  
“Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man.”

Indeed, humans have reduced themselves to robotic beings devoid of humanity, compassion, empathy and kindness; they have become self- obsessed, narcissistic, and interested only in materialistic gains.  Nature has taken a back seat, the golden rays of the sun pale in comparison to real gold, which spells money.  But, still, the optimistic and sensitive poet writes, that things will improve for the better. So powerful are her words that one also starts clinging to her robust conviction.

“Despite the hidden crevices
Deep chasms and precipices
The fear of a sudden fall
The wavering cloudy night will indeed
Embrace the sun after darkness
The blooms will gladly unfurl
The chirping birds will take to their wings
Across the multi-hues of rebirthing while
This holy hour we look deep into
Each other’s soul for solace”

[Happy New Year, 2021, P 19]

Averse to all sorts of boundaries, barbed wire and barricades, she laments,

“When will loving arms
Defy the barbed wire?
For the spiky boundary remains
A painful hallucination of fire
Of those smeared souls in mire
While I remain torn in this mesh
A jagged jungle of War and Peace
Looking so identical like
Star-cursed twins in a breathless breach.”
[War and Peace, p 21]

In Fences, she speaks nothing but the unvarnished truth: 
“Let us not lie through rain and sun
When sweets and kites have given way to the gun.
When fences are created for differences of birth
Where is that loving embrace to weep in mirth?
If Terror has no colour, faith, race or creed
Why rail against any diverse breed? [p 33] 

The one recurrent theme in all her poems is that of love, and her verses keep beseeching 
people to find their way back to the path of love, which is the antidote to the rampant negativities.

“While paranoid riotous swords with
bellowing sounds of lynching mobs
rage and dance with Dionysian laughter
hollow, icy and fearful we shake
with deadly sobs which keep us awake
shivering in pallor and shredded wraps
the rabbits, doves and shrunken flowers
the Stateless mothers, babies and beggars
with folded hands in tremor and cold
quiver with the fever of Mother Old.”
[The Lost Ark PP 38- 39]

She laments that peace has vanished, and dinosaurs and demons roam the streets, while an alarming dissonance fills the air,

“as we drown in our own seas
with fear of the unseen shark
rummaging forever in faith
for our dear Lost Ark “. [The lost Ark pp 38- 39]

In very touching words she writes about the treatment that is meted out to The Outcaste.
“He washes our sullied bins and grimy cesspools, 
sweeps our dusty pathways, verandas, lavatories, 
frittering away his doomed hours 
on the dim margins of hope never to arrive 
Our honourable Brahmin cook with a sacred thread 
hanging like a noose around his neck 
pounds painful thunders at him
driving him away like a street dog [The Outcaste, p 136] 

She paints a poignant word picture in the poem Love in the time of Corona, [P40] and ends on an optimistic note that humanity will once again learn to appreciate nature, 
‘despite the stealthy slouch of
the Corona’s catty paws
our time has come for the prayer hour
to unfold itself for pure compassion
the flirtatious bees kiss the blooms
in their multihued refulgence
as I watch the birds on the wing…
teaches us the lessons of life
has made us stop at this
holy signal of stasis
for a shut-down to rejuvenate’ 

It has indeed made us lament the carnage to nature making us yearn to ‘retrace  our steps back to her lap.’ 

If poetry can make things happen, this book of poems has the full potential to do so. Strongly convinced that poetry is the quintessential Rhythm of life itself, we find her sharp pen lashing out at the disparities of life, the barbs of unfairness and injustice, and the stings of racism, intolerance, war, peace, bigotry, misogyny and hatred. Her words become poetic straws to which the readers cling, hoping to reach a safe zone. This is a book for every lover of good poetry.

May her poetry add notes of sublimity to a topsy- turvy world.

Bio: Internationally acclaimed poet, literary critic, writer, educationist and vocalist, recipient of many international accolades, Prof. Dr. Laksmisree Banerjee believes in using her voice and pen as transformative instruments for creating a better world of peace, universal brotherhood and International Understanding.  She has seven books of poetry, two academic books, and hundred and twenty research publications on diverse themes of poetry, literature and culture published in journals worldwide.

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