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A Statement About Life


Raji Narasimhan

AFFINITIES: POEMS
By Malati Mathur
Aesthetics Publication, Ludhiana, 2013, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 1 January 2014

The poetry of this collection of poems is the poetry of the glide. It is poetry that results from the choreographed re-focussings of the main thought into the body of the poem. These off-shoot thoughts move into a dynamic adjacence with the main thought or motif, thereby expanding into a major statement about life: an inspired paraphrase of it. This inner design or pattern emerging compellingly into view is the hallmark of the best poems in the collection. Take the poem ‘Laughter’, for example. The two images or modes of imagery in it are the gurgling laughter of a stream flowing on, and the hapless laughter of man battling through life. Gurgling or hapless, the element of mirth characterizes them both, man and river. Haplessness and frolicsomeness are worked into the mirth, and mirth becomes Mirth: moves to the forefront of the reading eye, spreads out in panoramic proportions as the visage of life, as a synonym of life.   The finale of the poem is the image of a laughing figure, breaking into ‘impetuous laughter,’ a human laughing his head off. There’s no suggestion of sound in the image, no effort perceptible at evoking the quality of sound, the sound of the laughter. The descriptive word ‘impetuous’ occurs five full and laden lines earlier—lines of fulsome phrases about a)the endemic, embattled state of the human spirit; b) the ‘indelible stains’ left on it by ‘dark days of conflict and complaint’; and c) the therapeutic effects of laughter, which makes human beings ‘the masters of magic’, ‘unchallenged lords of luck, light, life and love’—the last is a line of eight words with five alliterations! But this word-load does not smother the pictorial impact of the phrase ‘impetuous laughter’ occurring five lines before. Further, this retentive quality is imparted mainly by the last two lines of the five lines referred to above. The first of the two is ‘When we laugh, we are the masters of magic’, followed by the line of alliterative words mentioned above.   How do these two lines recapture and hold the pictorial gist of the phrase ‘impetuous laughter’? How do they re-kindle the image of a figure convulsed with laughter? How do they set off in our ears the helpless non-lingual sounds of mirth? I think, firstly through a compound of pause and a sub-conscious paraphrase of the image contained in the two words ‘...


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