Two books of poetry that take you to a heightened sense of awareness of your inner self.

In City of Water, Anindita Sengupta uses stark contrasts of black against white to convey the vast expanse of feeling and to underscore the perception of depth and timelessness. The black and white images on her book cover, of sand, sea and swooping crows reminds one of flight through unexplored horizons.

The “Vivid Stream” mourns the passing away of a father. “You required energy. I have nowhere to spend it now”. Again in the same poem: “I wrap my ears around other people's thoughts and cradle love in my hands like a bruised bird.”

Tragic stories

Frenzy is a word sometimes expressed, but often felt lying dormant in the unfolding stanzas. In “Pergiorgio Welby”, it's “stirring kingmakers into frenzy”; in “Noel Martin”, it's “ a frenzy of air”. The author tells of the angst of like Noel Martin, paralysed neck down and confined to a chair for life.

Tragic life stories are examined like hard pebbles on the beach. One such story drives someone to suicide by lying on the train tracks and another is about a young boy, Montu, left to die in a ditch. Her poems span the breadth of love, death, cities and hopeless longing. Touching places such as Marina Beach in Chennai, and Bombay and Pondicherry. Paying tribute to Vincent Van Gogh's sunflowers. Expressing the hopelessness of loving a soldier. “Darling” is not a poem about endearment but about a restlessness and a desire to move on.

Always the themes return to water, as if it is the primal life form. Emotions resonate and drain into some body of water: the water in rain, the water of oceans, of beaches, of puddles, of tears. Rain washes up again and again, a heightened sense of awareness, of pleasure and pain. Hinting at desolation and longing. Framing loneliness and stillness. Providing an incessant drum beat of music. And the book writhes and twists to finally lay itself to rest in the folds of rain damped Bombay, the original city of the author.

Concise imagery

In Woodpecker, Siddhartha Menon uses sharp, concise imagery and paints his subjects with the clean lines of a brush stroke. He maintains fidelity with his thoughts, not straying too far, his attention narrowly focused on his subject. The poems are simple and often self directed. No deviousness in the shades of meaning or layers to peel away. The writing is easy on the eyes, obvious to the mind, impactful to the heart.

In “Stairs” he compares easy friendships, wins and losses with the passing of time and the dip in absolute certainty that maturity brings. The vague questions that nag one about how an old friend must be doing now – the desire to reach out and compare notes.

Like the woodpecker on the cover, they peck away at the hard outer frame to get to the soft, hidden spaces inside. Making small forays into the wood which has hardened over time providing strength, support, stability and which conceals a multitude of life forces within.

“Return” instructs you to take a pause and “return to your drawing boards” and to “Stand further, and try to see the whole thing at once”.

“Butterfly” is like a thought flitting through the conscience, “descended from the edge of my cupboard, “to the edge of my chair's arm”. There is a repetition in “it isn't afraid of edges” – a stating of the obvious.

Every interaction with a life form – mosquito, beetle, worms, every parasite demonstrates mutual symbiosis – a benevolent almost avuncular tolerance of the downright pesky, even though the poet asks “Don't expect forbearance”. The poems reflect empathy for life and the complex myriad of interdependencies that comes along with it. Sometimes the thought is overstated, such as “It stung too obviously” and then again “it didn't quit in time” in “Mosquito”.

“Looking” sums up his views on introspection: turning the light inward and lighting up the shadows of solitary predicament.

This is poetry that makes quick, deep stabs at the heart. The thrusts are both painful and sweet and like the woodpecker, penetrate your inner core. Both authors remind you that poetry elevates you to a heightened sense of awareness of the most everyday things, of your inner self, and brings the reader face to face with universal truths that are hidden deep in his heart.

City of Water; Anindita Sengupta; Woodpecker; Siddhartha Menon; Sahitya Akademi, Rs. 50 each.

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