A poem in the first section of this book is titled “Writers Can Be Exciting Too” and narrates the story of a man — described as “without a sense of adventure” — who frequently changes his mind about the career he wants to pursue. To begin with, he wants to be a “potato chip maker”, “to grate the vegetable in the boiling refined oil”. Then, just for the thrill of it, he wants to be a truck driver with BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike), the municipal corporation of Bengaluru, carting away the refuge of the metropolis. In the end, he seems to make a final choice: “He seemed excited about his career choices. He now wants to be a poet.”
Laxmeshwar knows a thing or two about being a poet — she has published a full collection (Thirteen, Yavanika Press) before. In the current volume — a slim one, divided neatly into three sections — she displays some skill as a writer. The first part, like her chapbook, comprises entirely prose poems. The second and third are, however, populated with lyrics. What strikes one on encountering this poetry is the quiet certainty of the voice. The style is somewhat staid, there is no performative aspect to it. Reading it is like peeking into the darkened drawing rooms of old Bengaluru houses on a mild summer afternoon.
Anyone taking a peek into this book will be immediately aware of a palette — yellow, green, red, blue, gold, and shades that perhaps don’t really qualify as colour. But these are not monochromatic poems — every colour performs multiple tasks and every shade is like a note in a symphony. Green is Green is the Colour of Memory. “What does not slip through become a memory,” she philosophises.
Strings Attached; Author: Poornima Laxmeshwar; Publisher: Red River; Pages: 71; Price: Rs 300
The first part of the book ends with the poem, titled “Love is a Not-So-Poisonous Sting”, in which a young girl experiences love as a scorpion sting. The image is not uncommon in the poetry of Indian languages, where it is often more a metaphor for jealousy than love, especially the jealousy of Radha as Krishna engages in flirtations with other women. “I limped for the next three days until my leg felt alive again.” The second section, titled “Love Songs”, begins with a poem called “Seven Vows” — presumably the seven vows of a Hindu marriage — to describe the dissolution of one.
“Now I am too broken to be fixed,” Laxmeshwar writes, “The demons have me by my head.” The beginning of love or the experience of passion has been the subject of innumerable poems in several languages; the end of love less so. Perhaps the most famous depiction is Neruda’s “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines”, which has a refrain, “Love is so short, forgetting is so long”, summarising the erasure that must essentially accompany the act of unloving. Laxmeshwar doesn’t romanticise the end of a marriage — she chooses a modern metaphor, weariness, to express the feeling at the end of passion, and writes: “This weariness isn’t a guest anymore, / or is it another act of permanence / of the beloved hallucination?”
“A Far Afternoon” reveals how the narrator deals with heartbreak: “shutting my eyes and reliving the best moment, until they fade into the sunset”. In another poem from the same section, “The Tale of Two Equals”, Laxmeshwar contemplates the nature of pain: “Half is a good word / It makes me feel as though / I am suffering / a portion of the pain and / the rest is stacked for another time”. All these seem to be following Shelley’s formula of sweetest song equal to saddest thought.
What these poems lack in drama is made up for in close observations. One of the later poems in the book, “Montage of an Everyday”, has the lines: “The train transports few passengers / and their urban dreams, the distant horn / fills in the everyday emptiness”. It is not a startling image, but an effective one, revealing the skill of the poet.
The writer’s novel, Ritual, will be published early next year