I recently reviewed Uddipana Goswami’s poetry book Green Tin Trunk, published by Authorspress.
Uddipana Goswami is editor of the Northeast Review. She lives and teaches English Literature in Guwahati, Assam. Her books include an academic study Conflict and Reconciliation: The Politics of Ethnicity in Assam (Routledge 2013), a poetry collection We Called the River Red : Poetry from a Violent Homeland (Authorspress 2010) and an edited volume, Indira Goswami: Passion and the Pain (Spectrum 2012).
You can read my review in this quarter’s issue of The Four Quarters Magazine:
Green Tin Trunk is available for purchase online here among other places.
Like many word worms, I too enjoy reading and mulling over poetry, apart from fiction. I read at least two or three new poems a day, and generally tend not to have any control over my own poetry writing efforts, writing down verses when ever and where ever, often scrawling through the pages of the sundry notebooks that lie scattered in my house for my convenience, and when I’m out, a small one stashed in my handbag does nicely, failing which scraps of paper, the backs of bills, anything at all will do. Phew! But let’s get back to Green Tin Trunk -
When I started reading it Uddipana’s poetic structuring didn’t pierce me instantaneously. I read most of the book, at times glossing over some of the lines. I had offered to review the book, I didn’t want to back down. I was of course worried that I wouldn’t be able to do justice to her work. Art, and that certainly includes poetry (how can it not?) is, to repeat a cliché, a subjective thing, giving in to the style and content preferences of the receiver/reader, and also the whims and fancies of trends. But that is not how I see myself as a reviewer. I went back to the book, and this time, pencil in hand, read each line of each poem aloud to myself, underlining the phrases and lines that caught my eye, and writing down my observations on the spot in a letter writing pad. As I immersed myself into the belly and at times underbelly of the poems, a pattern emerged, the structures revealed themselves, and Uddipana’s poetic voice grew louder in my ear. I had begun to read with a listening ear, and could not let the book go. I could have and did indeed, write a longer review than the one I sent to The Four Quarters Magazine; I didn’t want to go over the word count, especially when reviewers tend to be more succinct these days.
When I emerged at last from Green Tin Trunk, I could almost see Uddipana’s emotions and the events that led to the poems scroll down before me. I felt enveloped in green, many shades of it, including the cool moss coloured green of water flowing over aquatic plants. I also felt as if a hard casing had fallen off me, like the shell of an animal that no longer needs it. Above all, I felt mentally alert and cleansed. While the sensation of green I attribute to her book, the other feelings – and this is something I realised only afterwards – have pulled me into their realm/s through other poetry books that I read and reviewed or just read intensely, before.
Intensity is the key here. When you set about reviewing a book of poems and even poetic flash, you have to pull yourself taut, almost shaping your mind into a spear point, and you have to plunge in. If you drown, you drown. But you will most certainly emerge, float up, feeling drained at first and then energetic in terms of creativity. Poetry and poetic flash demand a deeper commitment. Unlike novels and books of short stories, where you can skim over a paragraph or read a page diagonally or even speed read here and there, without losing the essence of the book, you have to be wide-eyed and focussed on every line, phrase and word or risk losing the soul; you may even lose comprehension of the work and the poems may morph into word jumbles.
You have to grow gills after being dunked into the lake. It is essential, not just to the art, but also to you the artist. Reading like that gives you a newer insight into the words you see every day. Getting drunk on poetry gives you a hangover you’d rather hang on to for creativity’s sake. It’s a fabulous pre-creative writing exercise. And that apart, soul cleansing too. Which is why, I say that reviewing volumes of poetry and poetic flash is necessary, so necessary, so absolutely necessary; try it yourself, you’ll know.