The Last Drop of Your Tears by Rajorshi Patranabis

Hawakal Publishers, New Delhi, 2023, Rs. 350/-, 132 pages. ISBN:978-93-91431-95-2


---Reviewed by Nishi Pulugurtha


Haiku, Senryu, Haibun, Tanka – form poems that trace their origins to Japan have been of great fascination for poets, readers and critics. While there are several practitioners who swear by these forms of poetry, there are several others who do not like the restrictions that these form poems bring with them. Present day poets have been experimenting with these forms and deviating from the accepted syllable count, the content and the form as well.   These form poems have been around for several years now and such experimentations are bound to happen.

The Last Drop of Your Tears is an interesting collection of form poems, it is actually the first Indian volume of the form poem called the gogyoka, a form popularized by Enta Kusakabe in Japan. Based on the form of the tanka, a form that has 31 syllables arranged into five lines, with the first and fourth line written in five syllables and the second, third and fifth lines written in seven syllables each. Its subject matter is usually nature, emotions and the seasons.

Literally meaning a five-line poem, the gogyoka (also spelt gogyohka) is a poem that derives from the tanka. Unlike the tanka there is no syllable count here. There are five lines in a gogyoka and each line has a phrase. This form, therefore, affords a freedom that the tanka does not in terms of syllable count and the felicity of the use of the English language. While it is still a form where conciseness is important, nevertheless it allows freedom to the poet as well. Enta Kusakabe was born in 1938 and first came up with this from in 1957. However, it is only from the 1990s that he began to work to spread interest in the form. Kusakabe set up a Gogyohka society that publishes a newsletter regularly. 

Nishi Pulugurtha

Rajorshi Patranabis has several volumes of poems to his credit. One of his recent works is a volume of haibun, Palette. The Japanese form poem is therefore something that he has been working with. He is also someone who has been experimenting with several poetic forms, most notable ghazals that he writes under the pseudonym Kafir. One plunges into the gogyoka in The Last Drop of Your Tears after a every short acknowledgement. The poems, like the other Japanese form poems, do not have any title or number. They just exist on the pages of the book. The first one is a beautiful set of images that prepare the reader for what follows.

the last drop smile

rings of crystal clings

distant apostasy stirs to pray

looked into your future

my present and its dubious laughter

The coming together of the images of happiness together with the clearness of a crystal and the solace of a prayer speaks of hope in troubling times.

Rajorshi Patranabis

            Writing is therapeutic and for several people poetry is even more so. This is an idea that is seen in the second gogyoka in the volume –

walked through splinters

burnt my skin

blacked my soul

silent testimony spoke aloud

repository of my bruised poetry

It is an interesting use of the transferred epithet in the last line that reveals the emotions clearly.  The harshness of the images in the earlier lines reveal the pain and turmoil that need to be told but remain “silent”. The use of silence and ‘spoke aloud’ in the same line wonderfully express the troubled soul that is looking for a release somewhere. Another gogyoka, a little further in the volume, voices similar emotions –

words of agony

sweet coats of sugary smiles

doused in fudged red

my eyes open to dream

rains ink our poetry

            Love and happiness, mingled with vibrant colours create a few gogyokas that speak of love, of the silences, of the hesitancy, of silence.

loud yellow smiles

palette with mingled colours

trembling brush plunged deep

black kohl lips

i painted her silence

There is a sensuousness  in the lines created and heightened by the deft use of phrases. The very next gogyoka in the volume unites the idea of love and of writing poetry. It speaks of the poet as lover –

you looked at me


my poetry refrained

cadences pursued

tersed confused verses

The word ‘unpunctuated’ reveals an urgency and also to the lack of it in the gogyoka form as well. It is interesting to see the way Patranabis plays with words to create levels of meanings and ideas.

            Several of the poems in the volume speak of love and its various expressions, of sadness, unrequited love, of pain and suffering, of life in its various aspects, of moments of solace that seem worth looking forward to. Images from nature and the world around are woven into the poems creating visuals that linger on. The phrases that characterize the form of the gogyoka take on a life of their own.  This surely is a pioneering work in a form that is bound to have many other practitioners as well. The Last Drop of Your Tears is a volume that one can sit and read at one go, but then one needs to come back and read and re-read them to understand the beautiful nuances and the layers of meaning that that each short poem holds out for the reader.

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