HYDERABAD : The 87 pages in Sonnet Mondal’s sixth book of poetry take you on a roller-coaster ride. You find yourself wandering amidst rugged hillocks, sand dunes, silver seashores, dingy streets, bombed ruins not just for the sake of traversing in a seasoned wordsmith’s linguistic landscape but for encountering the experiences each word records before a bullet releases from a gun or the spray of the sea touches a balcony.
The journey of experiences captured in stanzas offers the shock of faith in places least thought of. For example, in the poem ‘April and My Plastic Sunflowers,’ the flowers are reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s screen-printed topaz-hued blooms swaying between English daffodils to the sunlit hair of a wandering fakir somewhere in ancient Byzantium.
This wandering minstrel carries the trails on his shoulders and chooses places which appear alien, but belong to the earth nonetheless be they glass walls of a Dubai mall or a pond. For example, the reflections caught in the poet’s eyes collapse on the waves of Lake Ohrid in Macedonia.
The water body tries to suck the sky before the poet splashes it on the pages. He chooses simple lines to contain the otherwise complexity: I trust I exist today as a child of sky and water.
Notice the measured white spaces and how he combines the nature’s elements: the sky and the water as one component.Composite. Complete. The image that emerges connects you to the deeper recesses the poet holds not just inside his heart but within his palm lines as well, that’s why he writes:
The countless lines in my palms flow like rivers into the unending.
The poet wanders and wanders while the sun and moon get dim, dimmer. After facing lakes, mountains, rivers, ice-sheets he stands in front of endlessness: a broken mirror. The eternal maze, the bearer of fragility whose age is lesser than a snowflake collapsing mid-air in summer, Ophelia-like. This fractured glass holds civilizations ‘with many faces of the same progress.’
The question remains pertinent crawling toward another set of images which do not give a clue much like the golden egg in The Goblet of Fire. One hears the gentle song, the water splashing. It trickles leaving cool trails on a reader’s palms as s/he roams with the poet who stops by the bed of his late grandmother, mourns her death, but continues moving on moonlit nights to streets of Calcutta to the textual labyrinth of old newspapers that bleed with the death of a soldier, the genocide in Syria to the nameless cold nights of a non-existent ragpicker. He even philosophises a duck flapping its wings in the water, dipping its head, again and again, challenging the very flow of life itself.
His language otherwise is simple but the similes and metaphors, though few, surprise the reader with the intent the poet chooses to fill them with.
For example, in the poem ‘Talaq Talaq Talaq’, the Calcutta-based poet stands up with the oppressed women choosing their eyelids to open like ‘hushed oyster shells’ in which ‘pearls still shine’; the use of the water-based image has wider connotations especially of fragility, tears, the innocence of pain. In another poem ‘Nobody Speaks of You, Syria’ he finds hope in the bomb-ravaged country:
Somewhere in your ruins hope peeps like a thief through the broken tooth of a child smiling at a broken tank.This is an important stanza of our times which notifies the world about a thief: hope. An irony, a slap on the face of totalitarianism. An epistle registering egregious war crimes perpetrated against innocent citizens by a cruel dictator.
With many poems like these, the book flickers as a wick and on dark days it can be a good fellow traveller. It’s for those who are looking for a mix of nostalgia, unseen alleys, letters-in-progress, lyrical trajectories coupled with ‘the encircling presence of mortal ruin’ because the collection offers more than just verbal play.
Publisher: Copper Coin