Book Reviews

Exemplar of Poetic Excellence

–Taming the Tides by Dilip Mohapatra

Taming The Tides –New and Selected Poems
By Dilip Mohapatra
Authorspress New Delhi
Rs. 395/$ 20 – pp. 236

‘Taming the Tides’ is the fifth poetry collection of Dilip Mohapatra from Authorspress, New Delhi. His poetic oeuvre sails smooth through the effervescent tides of graceful sensibilities tamed by the author’s exceptional language skills and the ability to subtly steward readers to arrive at multiple interpretations. Poems in this collection are excellent exemplars of Mohapatra’s poetic skills; one surpasses the other in making a chord with sensible readers.

There are one hundred poems in this collection including new and selected poems. Poems highlighted in this review are a medley based on a thematic selection as varied as possible and there are many poems worthy of mention, but not included purely on constraints of keeping brevity in mind.

‘Death is no Stranger’ is a philosophical poem that makes one delve deep into our life and its inevitable ultimatum, a transition from one phase to another;

‘Death is simply an opening
At the end of the tunnel
That would lead you
From your closed closet
To the wide open streets.’ (p.32)

Garbage Bin is an excellent poem that points fingers at our social apathy, the concluding stanza of which will prick at one’s conscience for long even after reading the book:

‘It was perhaps not alright
When someone in the dead of night
And when a sanctimonious sky was
Pouring down in sleets
Flung a white bundle unto the heap
Of rubbish deposited during the day.
As it falls on a pile of used condoms
And a bed of soggy menstrual pads
Two little pink hands emerge
Scratching the corrugated walls
And a fluid smeared body
Wriggles within the wrap.
And as the sharp cries pierce
The thick and damp silence
The water wells up inch by inch
Over the discards.’ (p.48)

Poem titled ‘Reflections’ gives us different perceptions and shows us different faces of hunger, thirst, love and life itself, which implicitly makes us contemplative of the transitory nature of our life. (p.49,50)

‘Beyond Bounds’ is another poem profound, a gentle reminder, kindling our inner consciousness about the power, meaning and importance of love, compassion, passion etc., and with the concluding lines as below, the author brings an element of holiness into it:

‘Discover the seed buried at the bottom
Let it germinate into a plant
That climbs your spine to the top
From gross to the sublime
And see the finite merge into infinity.’ (p.60)

‘Pay Back Time’ is a fine piece of writing with a social concern and prompts the readers to give back to the society, a commitment conveniently forgotten by many of us:

‘Have you paid back
Your blood debt
That you owe
To the elements
That you massacred
Over the tears
And to an
And denuded world
That weeps blood
Day in
And day out?’ (p.69)

Mohapatra’s humour sense is at his best in poems like ‘Saying Cheese’ (p.72) and ‘Drawing the Line’ (p. 91), the former one on the lighter moments, while posing for photographs on various occasions and various phases of life, which all of us can readily relate to. The latter narrates the protagonist’s experiences in an air journey, which will make one laugh for a while:


‘And then starts your elbow war
With your neighbor
Who has already planted his flag
On the common arm rest
And aggressively guards his post
But you decide not to easily give in
And try to grab few millimeters of territory
Somehow which is constantly denied to you
And the gentleman that you are
You lock your arms on your chest
And rest it on the little bulge above the belt
That you have acquired over the years.’ (p.92)

‘Surrogate Mother’ is a women-centric subject, a sensitive poem about the feelings of a surrogate mother who has to give up the child grown in her womb immediately after its birth, on which the author has this to say:

The untilled land
Has sprouted a sapling
For a distant garden - (p.99)

‘Never Mind’ is a sensible poem coming from a higher level of matured worldly wisdom reminding us that nothing is permanent in this world and the poet reiterates that:

‘No one is here to stay for ever
And any way how does it really matter.’ (p.104)

The perfectionist in Mohapatra peeps through the poem titled ‘Excellence’ and makes one follow suit. The poem has a footnote like this :

“Based on popular parable that conveys that excellence is driven from inside and not outside.” (p.110)

‘Dementia’ is a powerful poem on fading memories. It talks about the maimed, mutilated and mummified memories and travels through the life events of the speaker of the poem, that will force us to capture similar moments of ours, but at the same time it makes us sympathetic to the conditions of persons caught with dementia:

‘I don’t recollect
When your tears
And mine
Converged into a confluence
And our combustible breaths
Combined to catch fire
And leap into flames.’ (p.130)

In the poem ‘Raped Woman’ Mohapatra puts forth his arguments against the society’s common allegations where the victim is further victimized and asserts a strong message to such insensitive souls:

‘She is power personified
She is the embodiment
Of courage and resoluteness
Who rises from the ruins like a Phoenix
And reminds us of our shame
Our indifference.
And of our utter impotence.’ (p.140)

‘Heavy Coffin’ is full of compassionate feelings for a fellow comrade who laid his life for the country as the protagonist carries his mortal remains, which will sure wet one’s eyes. The intensity of the feelings is to be felt first-hand by the readers and I may not quote from the poem here for the simple reason that it should not dilute the prospective readers’ anxiety and with a hope to kindle their curiosity. (p.142)

‘Another Sabitri’ is an ode to womanhood, a poem on a real life story of an Odia woman Sabitri from Champua village who pawned her two sons for her husband’s funeral.

‘Caught between the dilemma
Of assets and liability
She takes her final decision
To pawn her two sons to her neighbor
Who graciously agrees to pay her
Five thousand rupees
That could take care of the last rites
And feed for few days
The remaining three.’ (p.184)

Poem ‘Timeless Flow’ is about the pollution of Ganga, the author’s musings on the holy river, having been declared as a ‘living being’. Men who make it choke when living wants to take a dip in its holy waters to wash off his sins and his final journey ends with his descendants performing his last rites letting his cadaver rot in the same sacred waters for his salvation. What a contrariety! Mohapatra pours his heart out in the following lines about this:

‘But what about the river
That breathes and
Has a heart that beats?
Who’d liberate it from its
Repeated births
And horrific deaths?’ (p. 223)

Mohapatra, being a retired navy veteran, no wonder in many of his poems, images like sea, tides, ship, shores, ripples navigate on and off . His resilient poetic elucidations instantly tug at our conscience and travel with us for quite long. Taming the Tides is a fascinating kaleidoscope of poems on varied themes presenting before our eyes glistening images. I strongly recommend this book of poems to the poetry lovers and would suggest grabbing your copy for an exclusive experience of poetic feast.


More by :  Pankajam K

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