Book Reviews

K. Pankajam: Beyond Words

Pankajam, Beyond Words,
Authors Press, New Delhi, 2018,
pages 86, Price Rs. 250/-

Some words are uttered, some not. Some remain hidden inside exploring the void in silence yet trying to find some form of experience as emotional expressions befitting the subtlety of existential, spiritual, philosophical experiences; for a vision to be peeled off from the crude layers of inexpressibility. "Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within", Tennyson has rightly said. What Tennyson has expressed, exactly holds true with K. Pankajam, a dashing, prolific contemporary poet who explores the voyage of life through the power of semantics in her ninth poetic collection, Beyond Words. Through words, she undertakes a journey of self-exploration touching, side by side, upon contemporary issues and concerns. In her poetry she deals with a variety of themes which proves that she is endowed with a wide range of awareness and knowledge. She not only writes on subjects of real life but also undertakes a journey in the world of nature, love, spirituality and religion and mysticism and most importantly, feminism.

The enchanting illustration of a rose on the cover page of the book justifying the title of the anthology seems to encompass the sum and substance of the poet's poetic credo, vision and idiosyncrasies; the quintessence of her aesthetics. The symbolical meaning of the rose oozing out the fragrance of the 'feel' which cannot be expressed in ordinary words is best described in the extraordinary poem "The Birth of My Poetry":

It's a feel beyond words
that elevates my well-being
gives me fulfillment and recognition
grants me freedom of expression.

God and Religiosity

The very first poem “Infinitesimal” is a kind of dedication to the absolute entity, the holy Whole- the all-pervasive supreme force who nurtures her muse and gives her words, and also helps her ‘shed illusory walls of the sense of separateness’ for existential bliss. The religious and philosophical approach of the poet is finely and clearly illustrated through this poem. She calls the body ‘illusory walls’. The poem reflects her spiritual striving for the divine communion:

…I earn greater consciousness
to merge in the mighty spirit,
emerge strong, not in size,
but in the degree of awareness

“Seeds in Prayers” is a fine poem reflecting the power of prayers in life. The image of protective darkness/ of mother’s womb’ is heart touching. Symbolically, the poet is eco-conscious and opposed to the deforestation of modern times. She writes:

Each alone observes
its birth pangs, its wails, its sorrows,
its prayers for regeneration
for evolution, for continuation


Love and nature are other important preoccupations of the poet who dwells upon these themes in her poetry. Love seems to be perennial source of inspiration to the poet. It forms the subject of many of her poems. The poem, “Love and Creation” underscores the power of love. She expresses her faith in the love which is ‘stimulation, the root cause/ the basic force behind creation.’ Further, she also underlines eternal continuum of human endeavor to struggle out in the world, with an allusion of procreative process—‘the sperms to reach the egg’. She calls this act of love and its resultant: ‘the first war for existence and survival of the fittest’. She concludes:

Power and domination empower us
even before we are born;
All are warriors here with power to fight
in each atom of our being.

Next poem “Tenets of Love”, colorful in contours, expresses the purpose and objectivity of love in life. She holds that when ‘the power’ of love is on, ‘shards of pains evaporate like heated camphor’. She avers that ‘whispers of love—“Bring new verve, new hopes,/ lift us both (lover and beloved) to the peak of ecstasy’s tower/ ooze life from each cleft of our beings.”

“Squabble” is another fine poem speaking of love:
Grinding to dust, grilling or wings clipped
one surmises a lifelong agony to endure.
Hearts stuffed with love don’t make noises
those empty heard loud, none can repudiate.

Further, the poem “Investing in Relationships” talks of the bond of relationships. She opines that love should not be hidden; it has to come out of the closet; one has to be expressive

Love not expressed is money locked up in iron boxes
Let it not rust, give a thrust; see it boomerang.
Detention in cellars of love, a safe custody vault
once fastened to its pillars, keeps the key intact .
Investment in relationship is never an amiss
the more one invests, the more he gets back.

Her poetry is remarkable for the love for the past. Memories of the days gone by are discernible in the poem “Welcome to Yesterdays”.

Years dwindle, my stride falters
with you by my side, hinders none to fright.
Yesterdays, will you come back for a while?
Wish I joyride on your velvety wings..!

Yet another poem “If I could be Born Again” expresses the same nostalgic feeling:

Looking at their fun filled childhood
frolics, pranks and playfulness
I envy them, fly back in times
wish if I could go back to those days
and just be a child again.

Love for India is well recorded in the poem “Frozen Depths of Siachen”, dedicated in memory of martyrs of our country. The poet’s nationalistic fervor is expressed in the poem:

My heart thuds, goes out to them,
to the martyrs, their loved ones.
Mother India is in tears
her real heroes being martyred
no more Hanumantappas,
enough, just enough,
none hundred precious lives,
not a trivial count to defend.

And she expresses her wish in support of their life

Wish science gifts us unmanned ways
to do away with the deadly task
maintaining men in life and blood
in the frozen depths of Siachen.

The poet seems to a bibliophile. As a lover of books, she weaves paean on the importance of the books on life.

Sweet are those still unread
Blessed are those drown in your depths
Wish I too build my nest of vigil
in the veins of your timeless wisdom


Nature captivates the poet to such an extent that she presents exquisite picture of many objects of nature. Nature is found both in forms- positive and negative (dimorphic aspect) In her poetry. On the one hand, she presents deadly aspect of nature in form of drought, storms, flood etc. she also sketches nature’s good and positive aspect, pleasing and soothing to all. In the poems Vardha, storms are presented as:

Lamenting plants
dancing violent for seven hours
turned frail losing all their vigour,
bent and broke their spines.
Trembling leaves wailed
with sad vibes of fallen ones
that made the earth green.


Next she describes

When wind unveiled the furious face of nature
rattled me to the bones, instilled fear of imponderables,
another storm gained might in my mind
on the soaring summer in store without a green canopy.
Healing power of nature is manifested in the poem "Shadows":
While the art of treatment
keeps me under its wonder wings
nature heals my distress
puts me back to my usual well-being.

Celebration of Seasons

In the poem “Spring Arrives” she celebrates the seasonal felicities and presents nature, time, hope and joy, all in conjugation to harbinger the advent of spring—good and pleasing times:

Wind then touches the leaves with its flimsy hands
for revival of hopes to leap into new life,
to impart the spirit of youth and freshness
and reinforce the belief to the budding ones
that for every night, a day is in wait, upon which
the lilacs peel off the chrysalis of their sorrow,
decide not to grieve over the loss of their dead ones


Unconventional issues such as LGBT and feministic approach have emerged as one of the major preoccupations of contemporary Indian English poetry. She is saddened to see the plight of the transgenders who are a victim of the social norms which alienate them from being treated as normal human beings. Like other pro-humanitarian poets who advocate for gender equality, Pankajam also supports the social acceptance of transgenders. She is critical of gender discrimination and inequalities. Her insightful understanding of the plight of third gender, in the sensitive poem "Eunuch", generates sympathy for them:

Sex is what one is born with
Sexuality we discover later
gender, the one we identify
life hellish when it detours.

“Your Touch” is a very subtle poem, suggestive in tone and contains remarkable and cardinal lines. She is of the opinion that ‘the painful comfort/ makes the lines thin' between lovers and people. So, the bond should be stronger in love because the ‘touch’ of love has the capacity to turn the ‘slimmed sins to abysmal pleasures’. She is opposed to stereotyped love:

There are things not to be told
which you understand
without being told.

Music and Melody

Music and melody is another aspect of her poetic expression. Like love, music also holds the same value and involves exercise of aesthetic faculty; love act and parts of musical instruments act on us with equal influence. It has the same power to flare up the passion, unifying and harmonizing all psycho-somatic elements of symphony that ‘provides a feeling of worth’, elevating those in love to ‘ecstasy’s heights’. She expresses:

When the lure of my melody gifts you rapture
the soul of my creativity attains bliss
I realize I too have a stake
balancing the orchestra in nature.

Woman Issues

Her poetry is also reflective of her feminine perspective. A few poems throw light on the plight of woman as a victim of circumstances. The poet is saddened to see constant exploitation and humiliation of woman. She shows her disquietude over her predicament. Elements of feminism are perceptible in the poem "Her Body" which deals with domestic torture and violence, physical assaults and subjugation and suffering of woman in male-dominated society. “Muted Cries” is another take on sexual assaults of woman, pedophilia, rampant now-a-days, in our society. In the beginning of the poem, she questions-

Do girls not have the right to live?
Are they just bundles of flesh and blood
intended to be the objects for joy?
Don’t they have a mind of their own,
ambitions, hopes, likes and dislikes?

She further makes epigrammatic lines that appeal to us most—

If the curves and contours are to blame
how come the toddlers are not spared?
Or if the tights or leggings that trigger,
are those in burqua safe?

She makes us alert against lecherous ‘fathers, teachers, seers and peers’ who can, any time, show their true diabolic nature hidden in secrets. Towards the end of the poem she makes a juxtaposition between love and lust—

Love is sacred,
sex is divine, t can’t be an atrocious hunger
nor weapon to disarm the opposite sex.
Path to Creation, the most sanctified thing on earth,
is through mutual affection, not through aggression,
force here is not a forte at all.

“ Voices from the Womb “ is a long narrative poem comprising of six sections ; each reflecting foeticide, girl-child, aspirations of girls, their loyalty and dedication to mother, their determination to prove their worth and rights. The poet echoes voices of a girl:

I promise
I shall care for you
more than my brother does;
bring you flowers every day

Motherly Ethos and Pathos

Pankajam’s poetry is reflection of mother love and affection, delicate feeling of motherhood, child-mother relation. She underlines the elemental lines universally true to all in all respects. In the poem “The Bond of Umbilical Cord” she remarks that ‘The bond of umbilical cord is too strong to ignore’. Another poem “Small Birds, Big Wonders” captures motherhood and a mother’s perseverance, endurance and resilience.

Personal and Subjectivity

In another poem "Nomad" she calls herself a nomad with no permanent place to dwell in and expresses her longing for merging with the tranquil ocean of divinity- peace and bliss:

......from emptiness to fullness
to find a haven of acceptance
merge there with peace and solace
I inherit the name a poetic nomad.

Expression of the abstract idea through poetic form is an aesthetic, cathartic and ecstatic exercise which culminates into a sense of fulfillment of the creative urge. She reveals:

It fetches me identification
fills my heart with ample joy
lifts me to the realm of grace
that's where my mind is at peace.

Poetry and Creativity

Another distinct feature of her poetry is her plausible perspective on poetic process and creativity. Her poems reflect her views on the aesthetics and art of poetry. She has composed many more poems on the process of poetic creation. With the help of stirring metaphors, she redefines a poem and the role of a poet whose objectivity lies in a reader’s becoming from what he is to what he should be- a worthy human being. In "The Birth of Poetry" her poetic creation and creativity find exquisite expression and recurrent articulation in her poetry. She uses different epithets and analogies, symbols and metaphors, images and diction to reflect her perspective on poetic writing and, calling poetry by different names. She reiterates that experience of ecstatic exaltation on birth of poetry out of inspiration and imagination is inexplicable and fascinating:

It’s a feel beyond words
that elevates my well-being
gives me fulfillment and recognition
grants me freedom of expression.

She also expresses objectivity of poetry for her

It fetches me identification
fills my heart with ample joy
lifts me to the realm of grace
that's where my mind is at peace.

“ Poetic Rides” is yet another beautiful poem that expresses her poetic thoughts

Poems talk to my soul
offer an amphora of honey
to send me into raptures

Poetry is a delightful activity that fosters love and peace across the world. Objectivity of her creativity is well articulated in the poem “Blessed to have one more Day”:

Above all to delve into the world of words,
soul stirring and most satisfying
and to wear the armour of poetry
for peace, positivism and pleasure.

Ecological Concerns

She is a conscious poet of ecological awareness. Ecological concerns of the poet also find beautiful expression in her poetry. One such poem on nature is “Sorrow of the Soil” expressing her ecological concerns.

Greens go, rains elude, earth sears.
Looming water wars faint relations
failing crops, falling hopes.
The three-pronged demons
drought, debt and despair
drive farmers to death,
rivers to rumours.
Would it have been different
had they not been named after woman?

Global Strife

Pankajam's poetry also strikes the note of global strife, for example, the poem "Hopes Not Faded". Here , she describes ‘Journeys from hopes to hopelessness’. She makes a taunting comment on the mentality of the cynical people who think that the ‘ earth belongs to them/ not realizing people belong to the earth.

In addition to the poems of love, nature and contemporary realities, there are a few poems of exhortation, motivation and encouragement. They are suggestive and motivating in approach. As the poet is a woman of wide experiences of life, she shares her mind with her readers, particularly with youths of new generation. Through the following extracts from the poem “Be for Yourself”, she offers a piece of advice:

Nothing stands in the way
if one drops the ladles
and learns to hold the sword.
Be yourself and be for yourself
Bangles never signify fragility.

To sum up, nostalgia, memories, longings, grief and agony etc are also the preoccupations of K. Pankajam who, in Beyond Word, realistically presents her take on all these and wide spectrum of emotions, diverse viewpoints, and purposeful perspectives in all respects. Her poetry also reflects social realism. The choice of words, use of diction and metaphors and her technique to express them as beautiful nuggets of life are brilliant and worth appreciating.


More by :  Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar

Top | Book Reviews

Views: 3362      Comments: 0