Amlanjyoti Goswami’s poetry is born of longing — for a time long gone, and for the moments slipping past. It is a longing for people known, tastes and sounds felt and heard, whether from his childhood or from pre-COVID times. This is Goswami’s second collection of poems, brought out just after the pandemic. It essays the loneliness and alienation felt during this time when silence is a good listener . And yet, it is simultaneously optimistic, celebrating the little joys of daily life as Goswami seeks vital signs in the ordinary and the everyday. Significantly, time and memory become the leitmotif, a theme all the more pertinent during the pandemic. In the poem ‘In Time’, he says: We will look back one day, and wonder / What drove us, fear or hope. In ‘Seeing it New’, he writes: This zone between dawn and dusk / Every breath is a birthday.
In Vital Signs , ordinary musings combine with minute observations, tiny epiphanies and wonder; Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey enter the poet’s thoughts together with milk packets that need to be washed clean. He reflects upon religious beliefs and invokes music and nature as faith. He contemplates the political — race, colour, borders.
The collection is also a tribute to various people, both ordinary folk and legends — cobblers, gardeners, teachers, musicians, poets (including his publisher, poet Hemant Divate), Mahatma Gandhi, Ghalib; people he has heard of or encountered personally.
Like this line from his opening poem, Under the big rain tree/ Lived a night forest , Vital Signs is a volume that is pithy yet expansive. And like the meals in ‘Feast’, it is a collection to savour slowly.
The writer is an author of fiction and travel, a curator and creative consultant.