Review of The Chill in the Bones: Wani Nazir

The Chill in the Bones:  A Collection of Poems
Wani Nazir
Publisher: Book Street Publications, October 2021
Price: ₹ 200 INR


This collection of eighty sensitively penned poems, by Wani Nazir,   brims with spine-chilling metaphors and soul-stirring imagery, which brings about a never-ending churning in the reader's heart. The poems make you wring your hands in impotent rage, gnash your teeth in indignation, and unbeknownst to you, a silent tear trickles down your cheek, which you try to furtively brush away.


I have seen Nazir make diligent strides in the realm of poetry from the time he wrote his first book of poetry, ‘...and the Silence Whispered’, to the present where he has created a niche for himself in the field of contemporary poetry. His spell-binding imagery, the exquisite interplay of metaphors, and dark emotions show us how meticulously he has honed his poetic skills.


In the Acknowledgements, Nazir says “my parents are the ones whose syllables and syntax I wring and pound to form poetry.” And let me maintain, that those parental syllables and syntax have wrung out some remarkable poems from the innermost recesses of his heart, where we find grief and hope jostling each other for space, and hope trying to put the healing touch on a bruised and battered heart.


In many a poem, we find the sensitive poet swirling in a miasmic haze, where a 'thousand memories burrow a hole in my chest ‘crushing them under my pen into scraps of aborted metaphors’,   [Ruins, p 28]. What a visceral punch the following line is:  ‘Ruins never make homes for dead bones.’!

Since Kashmir is my homeland too, I cannot but add my voice to that of the poet and exclaim,
‘Mouth of my nights
 opens up,
and, a thousand demons
prowl around to devour
green and raw dreams.’

 
‘I am Kashmir –


an Eden whose Adam
has been long exiled to uncertainty’.  [Kashmir, p 62]

 
Not unlike the poet, you find yourself writhing with the ‘pain of loss’
[Writing a Poem, p 116],
and with his eyes see,

“The eyes of the Jhelum
jet out a deluge of tears
Streaming pain and suffering
Down her crinkled cheeks”

[Seasons in Kashmir: Spring, P2]


The imagery in most of the poems stuns with its intensity:


“The tree has grown new leaves-
green
and full of spring dreams.
But, the veins turbulent with
 the bitter memory of the fallen leaf,
 ooze out threnodies
   through the hole-
green and raw,
 and spill them all over
 the lexis of my canvas.”  [The Fall Pp 9- 10]

 
“My innards will be eaten away too
till the sun sprays
salt of pain
through a hole in my tongue   [Way back Home, p 111]

In his back page blurb, Yuyutsu Sharma, Himalayan Poet, editor, translator, and author of Annapurna Poems and A Blizzard in my Bones: New York Poems, says, that the book is
 ‘dotted with stains of innocent blood, shed along the banks of Rive Jhelum’, and indeed,
 Kashmir being my homeland too, I have often found myself bleeding at the plight of Kashmir- at the disfiguration of a paradise- at its mutation into something unimaginable.


 Is it really no longer the land of the Sufi saints, of babbling brooks, cascading streams, back-slapping bonhomie, cheerful camaraderie which has long been etched in memory? Such images of a glorious, not a gory past, cry to be resurrected from the palimpsest of time. 


At times his poems make us reel under the powerful impact, and his words which seem to erupt from an overwhelming heart - Decomposed and shriveled veins of desiccated leaves, gnarled boughs, whimpering laments, bruised and putrid corpses, scalding sobs, skewed strokes of fatigue, threnodies, unrealized dreams, hangman’s noose, frozen molecules of the snow – all speak of the immensity of loss and longing. And we are left with the image of a distraught poet, sitting hunched in desolate surroundings of cold winter months in his backyard waiting for spring,  trying to exorcise ghosts that haunt him,

‘And twirl the long spools of life
 Through my fingers
 Trying to rediscover
My lost history down Adam
. [Rediscovering my History, pp 86 - 87]


As you close the book's pages, the chill finally settles in your bones too, and you find yourself waiting for those sun rays that will thaw that seemingly eternal chill.
You grind down ‘the last morsels of hope’, [Pain and Memory 115  ], not unlike the poet, plowing forth with a fistful of prayers, and a heart full of hope, wondering, like the poet
if dreams can change the world
or lay heavy on the eyelashes?’ [Dreams,
P 5]  

The poet has made deft use of similes and metaphors which appeal highly to the poetic sensibilities.

 “The day frowns like the shallow furrows of my brow
The night grins like the burrows of some broken vow” [The cathartic Morph, p 77]


 
The book also has nine very well-crafted ghazals, which the reader wants to read again and again.  The underlying pathos and the sense of yearning refuse to leave one, long after one has finished reading the book and wiped that silent tear.

I wish some stars could gild them bright this night
His words are drenched so much in grief, yearning, and sense of loss, that they keep hammering on your head, and despite the verdant greenery, that you are surrounded with, the eyes of your soul see only a desolate terrain enveloped in an elegiac silence, and a heartbroken poet slowly disappearing into ' a graveyard of memories. ’

It is not hyperbolic when I say that this is a book to be read – re –read, chewed and discussed, kept on the shelf;  pulled out again, this time to peel off the myriad layers and nuances to look for new meanings in them.

Hoping that this sensitive poet will ‘stitch a new poem from the tattered pieces.’

A poem that sparkles and shimmers with notes of resurrection.

A poem that throbs with rejuvenation. A poem about soothing poetry, where guns no longer burrow in the marrow of the night, but ‘carve light out of its darkness’ [Guns and Poems, p 96] no demons prowl around with the malevolent intention of gobbling up embryonic dreams, where there is no exile and no uncertainty, and a thaw has ushered in, seeping warmth into long chilled hearts, and an angel blows the trumpet to resurrect the corpses strewn around.
And only harmony and peace reign. 

Here is wishing the poet all the best in his pursuit of enriching the poetic world with his meaningful poetry.
***

Santosh Bakaya

Bio: Acclaimed for her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu, Dr Santosh Bakaya, a poet, essayist, novelist, biographer, Tedx speaker, has written more than twenty books across different genres. Her latest book is Runcible Spoons and Pea green Boats [Poems, 2021].  She runs a regular column Morning Meanderings in Learning and Creativity. Com. Her collaborative e-books From Prinsep Ghat to Peer Panjal with Gopal Lahiri and Vodka by the Volga with Dr. Ampat Koshy [Blue Pencil] have been # 1 Amazon bestsellers, and her latest e-book with Ramendra Kumar, Mélange of Mavericks and Mutants [Blue Pencil, July, 2022] is winning laurels.    


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