Implicit in poetry is the notion that we are moved by the recognition of sense and sensibilities, a range of tone and feelings that lies in the border of known and unknown. Ajanta Paul’s debut poetry collection, From the Singing Bowl of the Soul shows us a world that is yearning for a more meaningful life. Her poems offer us glimpses, facets, angles, perspectives—the many faces of life.
The noted poet and editor A J Thomas, in his Foreword points out, ‘Ajanta Paul’s poetic art is certainly accomplished, a treat for the keen soul, offering hope, consolation, reprieve and renewal in an increasingly difficult world.’
The fifty poems in this volume, written over the years, are natural growths out of a soil of a discernment and observation. Each poem is imbued with insight and sensitivity and the intuitive language skill with language makes her poems seems effortless.
It is true that a poem lives by its merit, not anything else. You can almost feel that after reading her poems. The poet talks about her poems in the wondrous preface of this volume as if they ‘come up like pieces of bleached driftwood from somewhere out there in her shores of mind’. She never treats her poetry as something that does just slide along on the surface. It goes much deeper into our mind. Her poems are as if a journey through endless scenes of the human elements arrested and transformed in a poetic form.
It is to be mentioned that her poems are never undermined by sentimentality. We notice a rare unification of emotion and intelligence in her poetry. She slides up to a subject in an unexpected way. There are echoes here and there or reverse echo in a plain-spoken philosophy. Allusive, elliptical and rarely opaque, at times her poems demand a high level of readerly engagement. And this is also driven by a desire through coverings of the slanted vision.
I have no place to unwind
No shady serai or inn
On the unending highways of hope
Only mothballed memories escaping
From yesterday’s dusty attic
As I loiter in the limbo of not belonging (Pin Code of Peace)
The following poem brings a fresh perspective to the earth. It has an unrestrained energy. The escalating rhythm of the poem creates a sense of restlessness, a grandiloquence of distancing. It is a poem of connection and disconnection, of memory and freedom. of climate crisis and environment degradation.
Is soil with its bustling banter
Between microbes and minerals,
Red, black, white and brown, bits of bodies,
Organic residue mingled with dreams,
The anthropomorphic angina
Of heartland in agony,
Carrying in its veins
The susurration of streams
And the smell of crushed stone
In hushed geological gossip. (Earth)
What strikes me most in her poems is the diction and firmness that destroys the saccharine sentiment of emotive poems. Her ability is to challenge the distresses in life with resolve, insight, and frankness. Some of the poems are crafted for their own lush in such a way that words and sentences weave the pillars of loss and aspiration on the contemporary mosaic. They are also a poignant map to a world that forms an essential part of who we are and reflect the distraught mind’s movements.
‘Names there are
For most things, we know,
But some there are
That in us grow.’. (Unnameable)
Sanjukta Dasgupta, a renowned academic and poet, mentions in her blurb, ‘Word-play, images, reflections and metaphors are fused together with skill and sensitive care by the poet who observes candidly that it takes courage to write poetry.’
Poetry is not mere a reaction or response as something earned from experience. Paul's word play is about making language wealthier. But on rare occasions, her poems read like an assemblage of notes though with flashes of luminous words and unforced rhymes.
Even christening itself
With a title more than apt,
Well, talk of a surprise
So quick and sudden is it!
The interloping poem becomes’
For me a wondrous prize. (Surprise)
The poet writes, ‘It takes courage/to write poetry.’ And the rhythm of her poems is startling because of the pattern operating underneath them. All poems, in their way are dreams and the poet shows courage, gives her voice for the survival space of humans. The following poem redraws contours on the granular mosaic of life in the modern world.
that town, so loved, is gone
and the river once full, dry,
those known boundaries, redrawn
in a cartography forlorn.
A whole hemisphere of hope
Towards the pole
Which concentrates all ends. (This Map is Old)
Just as Wordsworth’s sonnet ‘Surprised by joy’ is as much about sorrow as it is about joy, Paul’s poem here is as much about sorrow as it is about beauty,
Those bright flowers,
sun washed, rain tossed
have sprung from my grief
buried six feet below
who say sorrow
is barren, or not beautiful? (Fertility)
The following poem puts it in clear and concise terms that the poet wants to express about the transformation in life. The language has dark sinews. It takes a particular kind of involvement and detachment both to speak and to stand oneself.
Here is a poet who looks at the daily life and sees apocalypse. Sometimes the reality tends our aspirations.
Rage, rage, universe
Till your hinges fall apart
In an apocalypse
Sigh, world, sigh
As you waste away
In withering despair. (Paralysi)
Ajanta Paul’s poetry is marked by organic rhythms, word play and rare delight. Add to that, her poems resemble an emotive mantle, vividly splicing informal and unreal elements. The images are varied, nostalgic, and symbolically potent. Her poems start working on simple thoughts that turn something almost magical at the end.
From the Singing Bowl of the Soul is a beautiful book with reflections on life and death, time and change, nature and climate crisis. Spiked with juxtaposition and wit, the poet adds steely grace and richness of her own in her poetry.
The cover page design is sombre. This book will surely bring much pleasure to the poetry lovers.
From the Singing Bowl of the Soul can be purchased here.