‘Nothing is unqualified, (useless) for poetry’
‘Writing poetry is a thirst unquenchable’
- The averments of Telugu poets.
Sarma Atreya, Sunny Rain-in-Snow,
Partridge, 2016, pages 140, Price PB Rs.399/- Flipkart Rs. 360 Kindle Rs.169/-
Atreya Sarma called this book olio but it is more a medley since nothing there is about anything eatable. This book is neither a debut nor a maiden attempt since it is a scholarly outburst of a collection of poems produced with élan and gumption after many years. This collection has many firsts, a bouquet of genres, and a presentation with theme showing photographs besides many other things, a combination of many in twelve parts including metrical, free verse, limericks, ballads and even a ballade. There is a short play for the Theatre of the Absurd also to crown the attempt.
The words and phrases used in the blurb are jolts, felicity, diversity of life’s experiences, style in tandem with subjects, word power immensely strong and trenchant, elegant imagery, meticulously curated (sic), language suits the setting, and vibrant debut collection. All these are commending endorsements.
Sarma has done the best in his Preface by laying bear and explaining his methods and intentions. Poets usually have the habit of telling the readers their individual independent idea of what poesy should be. Sarma listed his poems dividing them into twelve categories and what is more he stated: “If the rain and snow like ice are suffused with the sun it symbolizes the eclectic and the harmonious, and that to me is poetry.” This is a unique collection. Where wisdom is heckled and pooh-poohed, humour and comedy reign. Humour is a powerful anodyne.
This said, now about the categorized sections.
The first section is ‘Femina’. The condition of women has been the subject for various kinds of discussion and femininity is theoretically lauded but in actuality what the poet says is the stark reality. In this in the poem ‘WWW: Woman’s World of Woes’ the poet concludes the list of woes thus:
If she be lucky to escape –
Or doomed death –
She will be ready to conceive.
Risking her life
She gives life to a tiny being
To continue the process of creation. (p. 5)
The next section is ‘Facets of Nature’. ‘Aesthetic to the Bathetic’ is not just artistic but it is laughter producing bathos. Reality is grinned at and borne as the poet describes:
As I was swimming through this real rainy reverie
Jolted was I with a splash of paan spittle over my visage
From the monster of a bus barrelling past my right.
And hardly had I sensed it before a reckless auto to my left
Hurtled through a puddle to wash down the scarlet splash.
What a fall from a meridian aesthetic
To a galling mundane nadir so bathetic! (p.14)
‘Epiphanies’ - (commemorations) is the next section. ‘Nocturnal Bliss’ is about an interesting experience:
I, the lone creature on the road, felt
I was an extra-terrestrial on this earth
Or a terrestrial on some other planet;
I was the monarch of all I espied… (p. 37)
‘Americana’ is another section. The scenes described and illustrated with photographs are revealing. In this book there are illustrative photographs, an addition by this poet. ‘Wow, what a white magic!’ is such:
The ground, roads and lawns looked
As if washed by tankers and ships of milk
…. …. …
Or, was it a wavy river in spate
Suddenly frozen in its course?
Or was it a billowing milky ocean
Frozen in a cataclysm
Turning into an endless snowy beach?
Or was it a mass of thick heavy clouds
Rested and frozen on the ground? (p. 51)
‘Musings on Poesy’ is a hilarious section more hilarious than the others. ‘That my poetry is, too…’ is a long description using hyperboles justifying its existence as a person or a thing existing just like that:
That my poetry is much too plain, they complain,
Don’t we have vast, placid and level-headed plains? (p. 57)
‘Relations and Equations’ is a section on human relations which are not always of the same nature or with the same tenor. ‘Made for each other’ is a daily expression of praise for a couple. It is twisted to make things really natural in our everyday life, nay, loving.
By synergy, we will achieve together surely,
A lot more than each of us can separately.
Our attraction is not just physical or momentary,
But a two-in-one lifelong sacramental commentary –
On jointly taking on the life’s complex struggles and pulls,
On tackling its highs and lows, summers and winters full,
On co-authoring many a noble deed to our fill,
Worthy of a life blessed by the divine will. (p. 62)
‘Romantic peeps’ is the sixth section. In this one of the poems, ‘Lip-lapping’ is about lips and, of course, the salubrious lapping too.
Oh, your lips!
They have their curve, they have their verve
They’re luring, they’re luscious
They’re lush, they’re plush
They blush, and they flush
They say hush-hush …
Again say hush-hush… (p. 69)
The poem ‘My tears for the underdog’ in the section ‘Reflectively yours’ is about an honest truthful man, a satyavrat. Here is a confession if you deem it so.
“The tears I shed
For the dog
And the underdog
Well up from the ink
Of my copious pen!”
“Not from your heart?”
“No, I’m heartless
The rich girl has stolen it.” (p. 83)
‘Sin under the sun’ is a way of the sun’s expressing the contrition of the sin himself.
Unable to bear
The sinner’s burning glare,
The sun slipped behind a veil of clouds
And sank down fast
Closing his eyes… (p. 85)
Section nine is ‘Social bristles’ which has something special added to the poet’s quiver, or more realistically, armoury. It is “Toast To The Terrorist (TTTT). It is a brief play in the Theatre of the Absurd. It is clearly stated in the prologue:
“Only the aggressing strategies, tactics, and ways have changed.
Sword or fire or jihad entwined with the wheels of time
Is presently fuelled by oil & hawala, stocks & drugs, bogus bills & WMD.”
Dramatis personae are the Prime Minister and the important, powerful ministers and the heir apparent with the commoners.
‘Tongue-in-Cheek’ is the tenth section. The poet has a flair for using idioms like these which have vast currency. The poem ‘An exotic-n-quixotic affair’ is itself a not serious and surely merry kind of saying. What the emeritus professor reels off boasting is this:
“I’m too busy for gossip or sweet nothings!”
Then comes a question from a mischievous guy: and then the answer from the Prof:
“How then, sir, are you so active on FB and the like
Round the clock, on every inch of every wall – with every wench!
Wow! What an incredible riddle you are!”
Interposes his voyeuristic disciple cum admirer.
“Oh, that’s no big deal, my dear boring bloke,
After all, my sole medium is FB whatever I do…
And flirting with females is far more fetching
Than wasting time on male morons and boors like you!” (p.107)
All humour cannot be very polished or civil: sometimes the taste of something above is savoury. ‘Facebook escapades’ is a strong piece of sane advice now-a-days with no difference between school goers and highly educated ones, no matter of what age, clicking the smart phone day in and day out:
So blokes, beware of the spooky Facebook.
Ring a death knell to your geeky and nerdy lives;
Come out into the open
To enjoy the healthy breeze;
And feast on the bounties
Of the real face book of the world. (p.114)
‘Occasional voices’ are all about festivals like our Holi, Rakhi and Sankranti. Here is one for Holi:
“All of you would smile on me;
Smile on your selves,
And smile on everyone.
“You’ll be happy, and regain
The light of your colours
At the end of the day.”
The invisible rainbow
That would be
The Holi of Wednesday. (p.121)
The poet left out the earlier merriment of the Holika Dahan on the night before the colour festival, in the Northern part of the country.
Makara Sankranti also considered Maha Sankranti is the most celebrated festival with entry of grain from the fields. The poet sings of the festivity of kite-flying with joy and zeal in ‘Sun-Kranti’.
Come the warm and bright Sun-Kranti,
Children spill out and go to a vantage site;
Position with pride their fond kite upright;
Hold the miles-long thread in their grip tight,
And with a fluttering spirit fly up their kite
To a soaring height with all their might. (p.124)
‘Metrical foray’ is the twelfth, and the last, of the droll forays which already brought chuckles, (sometimes with the aid of the dictionary) with lots of info and humour with delectable word play to the diligent readers.
Limericks are fun for reading but for the poet there is a lot of hard work to write them. Sarma gave readers nine funny compositions which is not easy work. Here is just one as a sample for the readers as an appetiser:
In college there’s a guy so sinister,
Any new girl, he boasted, “I’d pester.”
He then pawed a slim girl
Who jabbed him with a twirl
And a kick – until he called her ‘Sister!’ (p.131)
At the end there is ‘The case of a chronic rake’ which is a ballade with the last line of every stanza being the same.
The rogue sleeping galore with whored shitty,
The wife killed self; he wived a wench the same night.
Finding the grown-up daughters and son spitty
He drove them out with no compunction slight:
“Get out and fend for yourselves! Go fly a kite!”
The poor things, aghast, left with no claim to stake.
Though the wife pleaded for them, he remained tight.
Could you ever find such a rotten rake? (p.138)
It is not easy writing metrical poetry too of difficult constructs. There is poetic license for words like ‘shitty’, ‘wived’ and ‘spitty’. Sarma’s work is brilliant and it is not for nothing that he was honoured with praise and prizes in several poetry writing contests.