Is it possible to ‘review’ poetry? Every time I sit to write about poems or stand to speak about poetry, this question confounds me. A friend sent a poem of his about 4-5 years ago and asked for my opinions. I read it, a critic would have perhaps trashed it owing to its form. I asked my poet friend if he had written what he thought of and what he thought like. He said yes. I told him it was good. With poems as with any other form of writing, I try to see through the feelings and the honesty in expressing them. If there is a match, I am up for more from you. However, if I find a mismatch or if I feel that the work has become a matter of form over emotions, I am turned off.
The category where form dominates feelings – I call it ‘attempt to poetry’. Attempt to poetry and poetry stand so close at times that it is often impossible to distinguish between the two. Most often attempt to poetry passes off as poetry and readers end up spending time either reading structures, rhymes, rhythms, cadences, and meters or bore themselves to dislike poetry once and for ever. Like for any other form of creativity, it is sad but it is true. I have never attended a poetry workshop, so I keep wondering what they teach there. Teaching to read and write your feelings? Must be an arduous task.
Now, to ‘review’ poetry is in a way reviewing emotions. ‘Reviewing’ poetry is ‘reviewing’ the innermost expressions whispered from the communion of mind and the heart – technically possible but spiritually speaking, it can only be an ‘attempt to review’. To review what the poet views is not plausible unless you become one with the expressions of his poems. One may decide for himself how easy or difficult that is.
I wrote a reply to the poet singing his songs inside the pages of the book that I have on my monitor at present. It is I believe the final draft of the book in a pdf form and has been published in kindle and paperback versions on amazon. The paperback version is a tad heavy on your wallet. The kindle version is sweetly priced and you may want to own it at the earliest. The reply was an answer to the poet on his enquiry on the status of the review that I had committed myself to. The ‘review’ comes much delayed than expected on a ‘conventional scale’ of time as I was reading the poems slow. While Kafka turned into a vermin while writing Metamorphosis, I turned into a snail while reading Kaushal’s poems. I was hit by the strongest of forces ever known to humanity – the force of reality – the nice, the ugly, and the vulgar. I withdrew like a snail each time on being hit, I came out again after some time until at last, the repetition of the lyrical attack found a pattern and I became used to the world of Siamese Compassion. Kaushal Suvarna wanted to check on the progress of review. I offered him my thoughts on ‘reviewing’ as excuse to buy more time and continue with my withdrawal-perseverance game with his creations.
The poems make you think about a lot of things, about a lot of people, about a lot of lives, and about a lot of hypocrisies we exhibit while living this life. From the cover to back and back, the reader never feels left at the mercy of an idealist. You are on a journey of reality and the poet puts you in the zone and leaves you alone there by the end of every poem. You have two options in that room – you either say this is enough and quit or you decide that you want to continue. If you quit, the stage of realism is auto-saved in your mind and you can always come later to resume from where you left. You will find the poet with his arsenal of realism-devices standing there, waiting for you. In case you choose to continue in the world of stark realities, you find the poet standing there nevertheless. However, he doesn’t make a promise to stay with you in between the pauses of two creations. He leaves again by the end, leaving you alone with your thoughts. Now, you have the same two options again. Either way, you will have to come back and continue. If you are not prepared to die today, you will come back to die tomorrow.
If you ask for my suggestion on where to start, start with the title-poem ‘Siamese Compassion’ and then spread your wings toward other pages in the book.
“Sure, one man’s martyr
Is another one’s terrorist
And horses must be shod
And bulls castrated for their own benefit
For society’s a venomous centipede
Whose legs can’t be knocked off the stool
Lest we all tumble in mindless anarchy
Â You may have suffered greater tortures than I
Your degree of fortitude may be greater than mine
But I felt your cuts deeper
While you endured in silence
Are we not both brothers in pain?”
(Siamese Compassion, reproduced from Siamese Compassion by Kaushal Suvarna)
These thoughts must have matured through myriads of experiences of life and the shape they have taken in the poems of Siamese Compassion, make Kaushal one of my favorite contemporary poets of the present time. He is honest with his feelings and hence naturally, feelings gain primacy over form, not that I have any complaints against the form. It is also a sad commentary over our system that promotes a superstar culture where mediocre works are making millions through traditional publishing while such work of finesse has to be self-published. I don’t want this book to get lost in oblivion. The poems are to be read on loop until we see through our sins and take the first step towards washing them away. Once more, that brings me to a question. Is it possible to wash away our sins? Is there a hope somewhere to live a life untainted by the artificial idealism that we are born in and taught about but keep violating all our lives? You might have to turn to this book to find that out.
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