Illuminating Darkness through Her Verses

Poetspeak-9

Some books are so well made that the moment you pick them up, you will fall in love with them. Illuminating Darkness: The Fireflies belongs to that category of books. It’s an aesthetically pleasant book that does not disappoint even when you turn the cover. Anindita Bose’s recent anthology of poetry is a work that is worth a detailed discussion. As a young poet, she is already much published and also has a previous anthology of poetry from the Writers’ Workshop, a house that has consistently given the world some of the best voices of poetry. I have been following Anindita’s poems consistently, for a few years, on social media, in various e-zines, and in her anthologies. What has always struck me is the depth of feelings in them. There is an element of spirituality contained in her poems, though she keeps on drawing metaphors from her contemporary life as a young woman in an urban location.

Sweet Nectar

a drug of the mind,

your voice and breath

I sink in ecstasy

you say nothing of love

yet I drown deep…

let me be free

from those old chains

that were nothing

but illusions

you are the truth

an addiction of my heart

a pinch of destiny

blended with love-darts…

This first poem of the anthology sets the tone. Along with a feeling of complete submission, there is a desire to be free from that which ‘were nothing but illusions’. Love is also something magical and hence illusory, that which can leave the beloved alone,

Lovers

a room full of sunshine

and shadows of rays

silhouettes of lovers

and whispers of love

empty canvasses of

colours and sketches

some words of poetry

and faraway mountains…

you shall be always loved

by your first lover

in between those raindrops

and rainbows of dreams

one day a ship will sail

with all your paper boats

and you will stay behind

to walk with your soul  (25)

Bose speaks about the anxieties of relationship, the fear of being betrayed, of estrangement, and also the hope that helps the separated lovers survive, in several poems like ‘Sweet nectar’, ‘Steam’, ‘Beating Hearts’.

Short poems containing deep, evocative lines are the trademark of Bose’s poetry though she writes a few longer verses as well. In spite of being a city-poet, we find metaphors of nature abounding. Anindita’s poetry has its anchorage in the depth of her being. There is an acceptance of the losses that life presents. There is grief but it is not overpowering. The stoicism in the context of loss is remarkable in a poet so young. This acceptance, which is not a defeat, is the source of Anindita Bose’s spirituality. It celebrates the beauty of resilience while moving on with life. Yet, a strain of mellowness runs through the anthology and that adds to the depth of her poems. The sorrow that we encounter in her poems is like that of a setting sun, within which is contained the hope of a better tomorrow.

darkness is not an empty

space, it has a light hidden

somewhere deep within

blankness is not an end,

it has motions of memories

buried in apparently calm

mind  (61)

The verses show a remarkable control over excess emotions. Though most of them engage with emotions, they do not spill over into melodrama. There is a freshness and innocence in her writings that charm the readers, giving them a break from the cliched metaphors of poetry. As the title suggests, the poems are her endeavor to negotiate with the darkness that exists within the mindscape, society, emotional ecology, or in any aspect of our existence. The fireflies are the source of brightness. It is interesting to note that she chooses the imagery of fireflies, which, does not have a blinding brightness that makes the darkness invisible, but a kind of light, that keeps the darkness close at hand. This metaphor becomes an apt representation of life where both darkness and light exist simultaneously. The title poem, ‘The Fireflies Illuminate Darkness’ engages with the idea of thwarted dreams and the fireflies become the bearer of hope, a source of light in the darkness.

the fireflies danced once

more and circled around

unseen dreams

the darkness melted into

tiny dots of flying lights

Through the image of darkness melting into tiny dots of flying lights, the poem presents beautiful visual imagery. Such visual imageries are quite common in her poems and add to the experience of reading.

Another poem that deserves a special mention is ‘Letter’. The incomplete letter at the beginning of the poem ends with its search for the reader. The poem, according to me is a beautiful composition that represents the journey of any work of literature that finds its completion only in finding readers. With each reader reading that piece, the journey completes one full circle. This poem also talks about the anxieties of uprooting, bringing into mind the image of partition, which still lurks beneath the surface of the everyday, as well as the cultural and literary memory of Bengal.

The anthology, dedicated to her mother, also contains some excellent photographs that accentuate the experience of reading. The photographs do not strictly complement the poems but they bring in their own narratives which get added to the text. The entire book, complete with poems, photographs, and illustrations, is worth engaging with. Anindita Bose can be considered one of the significant and upcoming voices of Indian poetry in English and we look forward to more poetry from her.

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Nabanita Sengupta

Translator and creative writer by choice, Nabanita Sengupta dabbles with various genres of writing. Presently working as an Assistant Professor of English in an undergraduate college under Calcutta University, she has been published in various anthologies and journals. Her recent published translation of a 19th-century travel writing 'A Bengali Lady in England', was well received by critics and readers alike.

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