Blessed magic happens when one renowned poet reviews the work of another poet whose voice and words are intriguing pathways to self-knowledge, understanding and reflection.
In this the season of rebirth, renewal, and celebration, it is more than appropriate to share creative work that can enhance our spirit and broaden our understanding of the dynamics of life.
Alleys are Filled with Future Alphabets by Gopal Lahiri
· ISBN: 97881945865
· Publishers: Rubric Publishing, Noida, UP, India
· Length: 137
· Price: Rs275/ $25
Bilingual Bengali and English poet and writer, Gopal Lahiri’s latest book, Alleys are Filled with Future Alphabets is a striking collection of 102 poems divided in to seven sections. Each section is carefully crafted with poems that seem to be walking towards the reader, urging one to engage with myriad possibilities, filling the alleys with one’s own present and future alphabets, or holding the hand of the author as he engages and negotiates through various spoken and unspoken alleys.
Approaching this review differently, I am sharing below some of the poems and lines therein for the readers to savor the “alleys” in Lahiri’s poignant, sharp, at times delicate, at times vociferous words. I present my interpretation of the lines.
“The air plucks the unspent words of the universe/Evoke in me/ They ring the deepest bell of the truth…”
The universality of this emotion is much appreciated. Humans are funny creatures. They are mostly seeking change, competition, rest, sleep, love, and family, confirming Abraham Maslow’s triangle of hierarchical needs. Reminds me also of Hamlet’s words in Shakespeare’s play, “To be, or not to be, that is the question" What is real? What is imagination? What are dreams? What endures in the recesses of our inner makings? Who will determine absolute truth if there is one? As a trained historian, I know there is none. However, we keep seeking in circles of living and dying. And Lahiri’s words ring that clear.
Summer of Discontent (7)
“My own moon landing/in dream goes horribly wrong/my inside burns for reasons that are unclear.”
Again, the juxtaposition of reality with the dreamworld comes through in this poem. It’s almost like the poet is at struggle with these two worlds like most humans thereby universalizing his poems.
“All night rain the rain weaves love and light”
Water has a cleansing effect and is critical for survival, and rain is an epitome of that cleansing and survival. Rain is needed to grow crops and for drinking. Lahiri weaves these elements in his poem in a remarkable way especially towards the end of the poem in the line quoted above. Love can be light, or love can take away light. The reader is the best judge.
“I open my iron chest/Seeking the shapes, not sure of what/I leave some left-over handshakes.”
Loved the words, “left-over handshakes”! For isn’t that what life can be… left over handshakes… where folks clasp…lightly or strongly, but cannot let go, or can do so very quickly, putting in place the possibilities of future handshakes or memories of those gone past.
“The moment of truth comes well after the dawn/without anybody’s knowledge”
Again, hitting the nail on the head so to say, Lahiri hones on a simple yet oft not accepted universal veracity in the above lines.
New Soliloquies (43)
“Black lives matter now-repeating bold stories/the message spreading across the sea/call out new names, new soliloquies”
Stressing upon racism, Lahiri is clearly a poet that speaks to universal issues.
“Fallen on pupil-less eyes in circle of fire/no tears left to cry/little hearts groan and sigh in silence.”
Fireflies provide us much joy and interest, almost magical in a dark night. Many of us tend to sigh at their beauty and temporary quality, just as that of loving, living and surviving.
Mother Earth (85)
“There is drama all around/and you want to curve something/to save our planet.”
This poem, like many others in this special book, left a deep impact on me as we humans are the ones creating drama on the only planet we know as home and this poem alludes as such.
The above several quoted lines are only a small representation of the macrocosm of emotions spread by Lahiri on the pages of his heartfelt, at times very personal poetry. And that personal voice of the poet comes through in lines that stress anguish, pain, and an urging for deliberation and possible change. Lahiri employs several literary techniques in his poetry, such as, similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and symbolism.
A remarkable feature of Lahiri’s poetry is the connections he draws with visuals and feelings that are just around the corner, or from our childhood, or from some previous memory, or from daydreams about the future. Nostalgia is very apparent in Lahiri’s poetry. While he addresses universal issues of life and living, there is an element of an Indianness or India very clearly peeking through windows and doors in his poems. For example, paper boats in monsoon rains, beetle leaves, and tiny birds (sparrows). The reader is left with many aha moments, sighing here and there, smiling, and nodding one’s head in agreement. A collection that is a must read!
Anita Nahal is an Indian American poet, flash fictionist, children’s writer, and professor. She has three books of poetry, one of flash fictions, four for children and four edited anthologies to her credit. She teaches at the University of Columbia, Washington DC. More on her at:
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