Book Reviews

A Pinch of Sun and Other Poems: A Critique

A Pinch of Sun and Other Poems
Poet: Dilip Mohapatra
Publisher: Authers Press, New Delhi
Publication Year: 2014
ISBN 978-81-7273-874-7

Dilip Mohapatra is a highly serious, sincere and prolific poet of humane thoughts. Born and brought up in Odissa, Dilip Mohapatra did his masters in Physics from Ravenshaw College, Cuttack and joined the Indian Navy thereafter. He started writing poems since the seventies. He has to this date five volumes of verse to his credit, in addition to “Points to Ponder” (P2P), a compilation of some of his Facebook posts reflecting his thoughts in point form on various life issues like relationship, social, spirituality, humanity, etc. His poetry books are 'A Pinch of Sun', 'Different Shades’, 'Another Look', 'Flow Infinite' and 'Taming the Tides'. Both in quality and quantity, his poetry is amazingly impressive. Besides, his poems have also appeared in various international and national literary journals.

A Pinch of Sun and Other Poems is Mohapatra’s debut anthology of 60 beautiful poems. Published in 2014 by Authorspress, New Delhi, this volume stands out as a poetic output reflecting upon the multi coloured world of contemporary times and life. He delves deep into affairs of life and meditates upon different shades of emotions. It opens with an appealing poem “The Cellophane Man” in which he underlines the power of time and the mortality of man. Time is all powerful. It can make or mar anything, anybody. His perspective on Time is quite remarkable. He is aware that “There would be nothing/for you to lean on/no mantelpiece/to display your laurels.” With an appeal to realise our true self while floating on the wings of time, he reminds us:

Time will come
when you will be
seen through
and when the mirror
even will refuse
to reflect you.

The theme of time and life is carried further in the poem “On The Sands Of Time”. Since we are inching towards our ultimate destination, we must make the best use of time to give our best to the world. We must be instrumental in bringing love and harmony in the world. Then only true worth of our existence in the world would be realised and the purpose of life served. The profound philosophy and his cosmopolitan outlook is very appreciable. He suggests

Let’s swing and sway
to the rhythm on the rails
and breathe love
and joy
unto each other
in a pulsating unison
while praying…
never to reach
the terminus
and move on
and on…
on the sands of time.

“Walking The Untrodden Path” is a beautiful poem that captures the joy of exploration and inspires journeys of life. The journey, with all its ups and downs, is an inevitable process that brings about inner transformation. Hence, the poet says-

I take calculated steps
careful of the possible thorns
or the centipedes which may be
inadvertently quashed under my feet.
But soon each step becomes
a joyful celebration
a path-breaking exploration
that lifts my soul
leading me to the hitherto unknown

He is a jovial poet of celebration. In his poems he skilfully deals with the theme of joy and sorrow. For instance, the extract from the poem Homecoming” can be seen:

They say home is where heart is.
But heart is where pain is.
I carry my heart
wherever I go
and perhaps the home
wherever I go
like a tortoise
or a snail.
Home is where I lull myself to sleep
Home is where I wake up to freedom
and joy.
And with a renewed jest
for tomorrow.
Home is where everyday
is spring and
every day is a celebration.

Mohapatra is a poet of nature. As he has been a navy officer, he has had a wide range of experience in the sea world. The objects of nature, crept in his poems as metaphors, inspire his affirmation of life. The natural phenomena provide him with sufficient stuff that shapes and refines his thoughts on nature and its relation to life. “The Pit Stop” is a refreshing poem about the beauty and activities of nature -

The sun, sands and sea
the wet wind that soothingly sprays
mist on your weather beaten face
the coloured balloons
and the festive festoons
hanging across the streets
and across all seasons

The beauty of nature is also captured in the poem “Sunday Mornings” which presents a lovely picture of a fresh morning-

As the sun enters your bedroom
through the gaps in the curtains
you curl up a little more
resembling an embryo
in the mother’s womb
snuggle up to your pillow
stretch the sheet over your face
to cover your eyes
and extrapolate
your elastic dreams of the dawn
pick up and put together
the silent shadows from your past.

Nature is a great teacher and guide. The poet takes serious lessons from it and makes the best use of it in his life. He enjoys the melody of tweets and chirrups. The same poem echoes-

But the birds on the boughs
are very much awake
tweeting and chirping
welcoming the morning sun.
For them
it’s business as usual
another morning
another journey
the beginning of another day.

Universal problems also find expression in his poetry. He has vigilant eyes on global activities in the name of caste, creeds and religion. “The Blame Game “ is an eye opener as it reveals out the veiled motif of so-called politics the world over:

The swords are never
the guns are never
the battle lines
are always drawn.
The game lasts for ever
and goes on.

He is a sensitive poet of keen observation of life and surroundings. He skilfully captures vivid pictures of what he sees and finds around, in beautiful diction charged with emotion. Poems such as “Bouquet Makers”, “The Garbage Bin”, ”The Blind Man” etc are fine examples of his graphic craftsmanship.

His poetry also raises some contemporary issues for arresting our attention. Problems related to woman find a foremost place among such sensitive issues. He is alive to various problems of woman in today’s world. He also makes us realise them through his heart-touching poems. In this regard, “Surrogate Mother” is an evocative take-on. He is well aware of feminine principle and the creative and procreative power of woman as a force, who is adored more for her sacrificial role in a man’s life. He rightly avers:

She carries and nurtures
someone else’s 
dreams and desire
in her womb
tossing and turning to
the rhythm of tender liquid feet
kicking her insides.

In his poetry, he does attach more importance to everything neglected. He holds that everything under the sun is useful to us in some way or the other, if we have right perspective and outlook. Even from the worst and the wastes we can pick up the best for social, individual and collective betterment. That’s why he urges us through the following lines of his poem “Past Perfect” :

Please don’t throw the rags away.
Save them for a rainy day
for they still have
a story to tell
and still have a present
and perhaps
a future as glorious
as ever.

Mohapatra’s poetry is strongly rooted in the family. In some way or the other, he remembers various members of his family, particularly his daughters- Mona, Sona, Tina and granddaughter Ira. His poetry brings about the tinge of emotionality of father-daughter relationship. His deep love for them also embodies pearls of wisdom for them. “First Born”, dedicated to Mona is a fine piece of advice from father to daughter-

As I always say
clouds are temporary.
They dissipate or disappear
and the sun again smiles upon you
and so does your father.
As always
for ever.

Similarly, “Inheritance”, written for Sona (Sona Mohapatra, now a popular Bollywood singer) reflects his love and concerns of a doting father who is always supportive of his children. He writes:

I gave you my blood
not my sweat
I gave you my pleasures
not my pain.
Now I have been left with nothing
yet have everything in you
an investment
that perhaps has no tangible return
for me but
all that would stand you in good stead
for all times to come.

This apart, his personal and familial matters- be it mutual understanding, reciprocal love, conflicts or contrasts- are perceptible in many of his poems. With shades of emotional connectivity, he very precisely puts the colour of generalised and universalised reality on his personal and individual experiences of life.

Melancholic strains are also palpable in some of his poems. Sorrow and melancholy toughen him to such extent that he gets introspective and reflective in mood. His toughened stand and adamant attitude strengthens his deep sense of reconcilement. He feels pained and dejected, yet a little while later he boosts himself and comes to terms with the hard reality of life. In “Evolution”, he talks of himself helplessly going as a stoic person:

I don’t cry any more
my emotions have dried up
my senses are numb
my feelings are dead
like that of all the zombies
who live around
and continue to go on
languidly doing their usual chores

In many of his poems he makes us hear his “cries’ and “moans”, and see his “tears’ though. As a victim of human predicament, the poet also feels let-down and low-down. But every time he rises like Phoenix from the deep gloom. He emerges out as a visionary. His “Resurrection” reflects his mental, intellectual, and spiritual capability to tide over the problems of life:

And I cry and cry
till my eyes are drained out
and dry
…and as my vision clears
I gaze through
the haze of the dawn
and scan through the unending skies
looking for you
till my eyeballs are about to fall
off their sockets
and then I spot a rainbow
in its many-coloured splendour
in the farthest horizons
and find myself afloat
soaring high in the skies
sailing at break-neck speed
till I land below the archway
and find you resting in peace,
in your casket, cradled in the clouds;
a divine glow haloing your cascading hair,
a pristine smile planted on your lips,
and as I bend down
with tears welling up in my eyes

Mohapatra’s poetry is enthusiastic, inspiring and encouraging. In some of his poems he invigorates us to be affirmative and positive in stand .Even in midst of troubles we should never get deterred and face the challenges of life boldly. Faced with adverse circumstances, he also never gives up as is evident from his poems which motivate us to carry on the journey of life on right and smooth snail. “Embarked on (our)/life’s voyage across the high seas of time’ the poet feels and reveals in “Midstream”:

we had held unto our mainstay
despite the vagaries
of the waves and the weather
changing our tack,
to run, to reach or to beat
the gales or the cat’s paw
and have steered a fairly steady course.

As a poet of spiritual bent of mind and conventional religiosity, he expresses his indebtedness to God. This is how he adds spiritual dimension to his poetic creativity reflecting his Indianness. He sings the glory of Almighty for his sustained inner succour to cope with ever hovering troubles. He articulates his thankfulness:

We thank God, for having been
so generous to us so far
for having been with us
and within us till now
and pray to Him
for not to desert us ever
and show us the light
to guide us in the remaining years
and give us the strength
to brave the waves
and batter the weather
till we reach
the horizon
or the harbour. ( Midstream)

There is a greater emphasis on the purgatory process of sublimation and inner transformation. The poet very adroitly translates his trickling ‘tears’ into glittering ‘smiles’, well conveyed by the use of apt metaphors drawn from the world of nature. He also lays stress on the merger of a being into Super Being. His “Benediction” is a testimony to this fact:

Let my eyes well up
and the tears trickle down
and settle
on the blades of grass
in dew-drops.
And as you tread on them
in the early hours of dawn
the sting of the spikes
I promise
would be gone
and my tears
would caress your feet
till they sublimate
and evaporate
into the cosmos.

Global harmony is also an important theme he takes up in the poem “The walls” which is a clear echo of Robert Frost’s “Mending Walls”. Robert Frost’s influence on Mohapatra is very much palpable. His heart is saddened to see the world broken into the pieces with relentless communal riots. Religious bigotry is eating into the vitality not only of democracy of a country but also of the harmonious fabric of society. He poses a question:

Do we really need walls
that delineate our boundaries
and demarcate our limits
that integrate within
and differentiate from outside?

and he himself concludes like Frost:

Fences do not really
make good neighbours!

His poetry is studded with nuggets of wisdom, universal truths, aphoristic and axiomatic expressions and maxims that speak louder than his words. Such brilliant expressions are:

while we all rave and revel at the
that may or may not flatter. (Strip Poker)
If the clothes could be
the seven deadly sins
then the losses
perhaps would surely
be our wins. (Strip Poker)
Those small moments
of integrity and passion
and the fantasies
that stride
the shoulders of desires
carry the burden
of the price
of perils. (The Tortoise Walk)

His poetry has several autobiographical elements as well. Poems such as ‘Living on the Edge,’ ‘Walking the un-trodden Path,’ ‘Evolution,’ A grandfather’s Musings,’ ‘Victory,’ and the poems written for his daughters and granddaughter are some examples.

The titular poem "A Pinch Of Sun" is one of the finest poems of the anthology. It is very intense, compact, philosophic and precise. It sums up the existential journey of the poet with romantic and spiritual fervour. Five elements of nature can be seen in each of the lines. ‘Ripples’ and ‘waves’ are symbolic of water and ‘breeze’ is air. ‘sand’ and ‘dunes’ are indicative of earth while ‘azure sky’ refers to ether. The ‘sun’ is the fire element, an element of purgation. It has a spiritual connotation. With economy of words, the poet expresses his yens and longings for warmth of heart and purgation of inner life. It is very symbolic in nature and contains multi-layered meanings. The poet himself describes:

Now I look
for just a
little ember
that may
leap up
into an inferno
to light up
and consume
both of us
and burn us
to cinders

I crave now
a pinch
of sun.

In this way we see that the poetic journey of Dilip Mohapatra through this anthological path veers from objectivity of life to subjectivity of self. As we read the poems further and further, we come to get at the truth of life, with more and more maturity of thoughts and ideas. Here in lies the true versatility of his being a poet. The poem “Will O The Wisp” contains his philosophic proclamation:” I am the beacon/the guiding light./Follow me/catch me if you can.” The best thing about his poetry is that in spite of abstract allusions and complexities at some places, his poems are not lost in a maze of unintelligibility and inanity. His similes and metaphors, symbols, imagery and allusions are striking and lend his poetry a subtle semantic extension. Obscurity and ambiguity, if any, is demystified with a little bit of understanding. However, the volume lacks in coherent and gradual development or progression of thoughts in an ascending order. But towards the end of the anthology, the thought progression picks up its tempo and the poetic purpose is all served.

(Abridged article published in the book Critique on Transformational Art of Dilip Mohapatra, 2018)


More by :  Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar

Top | Book Reviews

Views: 3483      Comments: 0

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.