Book Review: Geetha Ravichandran’s ‘Arjavam’

Reviewed by Gopal Lahiri, Poet and Critic

Arjavam
Author: Geetha Ravichandran
Red River, New Delhi
₹ 299.00 INR
ISBN:978-81-953056-2-9

Poems sewn in verbal rhythm 

Poetry has the possibility to show us rage, to connect with our fear, to celebrate joy, to make room for the whole spectrum of human emotions, so said Ada limon, the new US poet laureate.

In her elegant debut collection of poems, ‘Arjavam’, Geetha Ravichandran brings our live, our associational memories, our histories and vocabularies, to poetry by letting its verbal music infiltrate our bodies, its ideas seep into our minds, by discovering its pattern emerging and activate the poet inside by engaging it as deeply as possible. She also seeks to alleviate human suffering and to preserve the human image.

This elegant volume is segmented in four sections- Layam, Swaram, Talam, Raagam. All the sections are well thought out and sewn in verbal rhythm. The poet’s love for language has been evident in this book. It’s crucial to Geetha’s poetics that these symbolic resonances are always registered within a ‘realistic’ framework.

Gopal Lahiri

Ezra Pound observes that rhythm is a form cut into time in poetry. And rhythm is all about recurrence and change. It is poetry’s way of changing the depths, hitting the fathomless. It is the emotion- the very rhythm of the emotion- that determines the texture of the poem.

Geetha in her note ‘To Begin with’, has mentioned, ‘These poems have been written over a span of many years. Stories of friends and strangers, personal experiences, dreams of hope and beauty have found their way into these poems.’

With amazing stylistic maturity, the poet weaves together these themes, images, and narrative vantage points in her poems in this collection. Identities are layered one on top of another as the poet moves from image to image. Her vision of living is crossing the steps and becomes universal at once.

She writes poems imbued with the density of good images of the nature, people and memory. We start noticing words and letters swaying to trance music of nature and the poet knows where her poems are heading. Her eye for the telling detail stands out at the end.

‘Every bloom is a testimony

of something hard at work,

that tosses molten light

which slumbers

in fragile petals

just for the sheer joy of it.’ (The Flame of the Forest)

 

In words of Sukrita Paul Kumar, ‘Poem after poem, the fragile wings of golden butterfly flutter around the reader captivatingly throughout Arjavam, starting from the mystifying dedication itself.’

The poet brings a calm and restrained tone, and stoic style to her narrative addressing moment and culture in poems that combine rich images and adroit use of form. She explores her personal experience with deftness but there is no sentimentality attached to it. Here is a poet who is a keen observer of things which are unnoticed. Look at this poem.

‘When the cloud burst

I ran out and stood drenched,

and the raintree showered

jets of fresh water.

I shivered as did the limp crow,

and then the lightning struck.

 

It felt like a cocoon

when your laughter reached me.’ (Raintree)

 

This movement from ‘cloudburst’ into ‘lightning’ marks a poetic crossing, a sudden gesture of radiance that comes before an answer. The word ‘lightning’ comes with a jolt. Finally, ‘your laughter’ protects the protagonist in ‘cocoon’. This exchange burns at the heart of the poem.

Sometimes her poems are delicate and earthy, juxtaposing the sensory and sublime with strident and dreadful to great effect. Our senses are fully engaged by a rich palette of shades, aromas, echoes and feelings.

‘The house was an almost-anthill.

the old woman seeking yogic powers

stayed on, hobbling around,

denouncing the world,

ulcerous wounds, slowly eating her body.’ (Granny Bone)

 

Geetha’s verses come across most beautifully because of their easiness, their regular plucking, their rare elements. Mumbai city is at the centre of her many poems in this collection. There is no denying that the poet has an ability to knock directly into love, longing and anguish, something she does often with skill and originality.

A woman wades home

with a basket of rotting fruit

gathering about her

bits of broken dreams

and slush.    (Monsoon)

 

Or

 

‘They say that memories of love

are hallowed and special.

But in this city of flickering lights,

they flit past like neon hoardings

which flash only today’s ads.

we wipe clean all the fads of yesterday.’ (Love, Bombay-ishtyle)

 

Sometimes we feel that a poem is born from what exists before and beyond words. Her poems generalise without being insipid and abridges without being slender. They charge us with vital energy and ask us to open up to its experience, toward a reckoning.

The following lines keep haunting us even after the poems are read. It’s a journey deep into the soul. It entails an interaction, a transference.

It’s only when silence

locks out the noise

that the red aura rises

to weave a pattern

out of fragments of thought

and shards of feeling.’ (Under the Illupai Tree).

 

Ruben Dario, the eminent Nicaraguan poet says, ‘I thought that the poetic element was not the word in its phonic value, nor colour, nor line, nor a complex of sensations, but a deep pulsing spirit; what the soul supplies,.’

On more personal occasions, the poetic distance collapses into something sharper in her poems. The poet collects delicate private moments and cement them together. The animated and pulsing nature poem slips through at times.

‘I looked to the little patch of sea

that peeped into my window,

but the waves drummed up a din.

it was a virtual war dance on my head. (Though the Window).

 

Poetry can invoke a sense of solace and a feeling of having come out of adversity! It can heal and calm nerves and bring a kind of bright moment into the mind of the people even in a calamity. Geetha employs all her writing skills to remarkable effect in this poem.

You shared a photo of her

gone so suddenly,

draped in an electric blue sari,

her faith unwavering,

even at the blinding near end.

surely, her love of life

should have let her wrest more time,

aided by offerings in prayer boxes. (Sunset)

 

‘Arjavam’ offers the reader a narrative journey of discovery and delight, of struggle and recovery, through a unified and powerful life-affirming lens. Each poem marks itself on the reader and many will never leave. It incites us to listen, to change, to feel a living hand coming off pages.

The cover page is inventive. This handsomely produced collection announces a vibrant new voice in the Indian English Poetry and definitely a worth buy.

.....................................................................................................................

Bios:

Author: Geetha Ravichandran is a bureaucrat originally from Chennai. While she has been writing consistently for several years, she has only published intermittently. The pandemic revived her interest in poetry. This collection of poems is her first book.

Translator: Gopal Lahiri is a Kolkata- based bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator with 27 books published including eight joint books. His work has been published worldwide!


No comments :

Post a Comment

We welcome your comments related to the article and the topic being discussed. We expect the comments to be courteous, and respectful of the author and other commenters. Setu reserves the right to moderate, remove or reject comments that contain foul language, insult, hatred, personal information or indicate bad intention. The views expressed in comments reflect those of the commenter, not the official views of the Setu editorial board. प्रकाशित रचना से सम्बंधित शालीन सम्वाद का स्वागत है।