Chris Hardy reviews ‘Patina’ by Kavita A. Jindal

 

Patina

 

‘It was just lying here

the poem, the dream

by the window sill’

 

These verses, from ‘After The Recital’, illustrate ‘Patina’s’ atmosphere: life is contingent, magical. Poetry tries to catch that, but is itself strange and hard to find. The poet must be ready –

 

‘if we don’t write it this minute

we will never write it’ (‘Ellipsing, Elapsing’).

 

The poems address a core of concerns, expressed in concise language, using what we can see and feel to suggest what may be impossible to state. In, ‘It was in May ..’, a narrative of loss and sorrow is contained in two lines:

 

‘The day the gutters overflowed

I left Kotapuram Port’.

 

Employing images to express emotion the poem indicates what happened, (‘The long brown train awaited the flutter/ of the guard’s green flag’) and ends by accepting that our needs will not be noticed by time and change:

 

‘It was in May. The sky poured. The gutters overflowed.

I left Kotapuram behind. The trains ran on time.’

 

This shows why Kavita is a prize-winning author of short fiction as well as a poet. Reflections on leaving and departure are also the subject of other poems: in ‘Kabariwala’  a young man, who makes a living collecting materials for recycling says he is, ‘Going foreign’, where there is, ‘free love .. probably England’. He is happy to escape, but in ‘Where Home Was’ another aspect of emigration is considered: a ceiling fan becomes a metaphor for how leaving home and community is an irrevocable separation, ‘nomads have freedom, if no home .. because the voyage is endless’:

 

‘In the whirring blades of this fan

My future was glimpsed; sliced ..

 

.. I saw clearly that I would leave

The past would be segmented; diced’

 

Elsewhere it is not only the émigré who has no home: all of us are only here briefly, something we must defy and embrace –

 

‘ .. our world will drown you

burn you, bury you ..

 

.. when you bow your head the earth

won’t grant you forgiveness ..

 

.. The nomads of the desert remember

 

and they kiss the ground ..

before stamping hard on it to dance.’

(From ‘Such a thing as a cloud ..’)

 

And ‘Capilano Bridge’ describes the terrifying, exciting experience of crossing a swaying suspension bridge, showing we must face the chasm of death, ‘The wintry canyon below waited for us to fall’ .

 

Several poems consider women’s experience. The poet uses wry observation in ‘Beach Apparel’, and in ‘Piccadilly Line Salon’ three women doing their make-up on the tube, ‘ .. peer, pout, slick, flick/ they are good; they are quick’, prompt the narrator to worry about her own, post-breakfast appearance. ‘Faucet’ also starts humorously, ‘A woman/ may buy a tool-kit and know how to use it’, but is then indignant at how women are treated in Saudi Arabia and the Punjab. (See also, ‘For You Who Wave ‘Women For Trump’ Placards’!)

 

The tone in ‘Faucet’ remains ironic and cynical but becomes enraged in ‘Katra’, about two sisters murdered by being hung ‘from the mango tree’.

 

‘My sisters

don’t forgive

bequeath your souls to the breeze

so the perpetrators hear you

carrying with them always

your unforgiveness.’

 

There is something of Shelley and Plath here  – vengeful, righteous fury.

 

Great care is taken over structure: a variety of stanza forms, using blank space, rhyme and half-rhyme and as few and precise words as possible, make a fine collection of elegant, forceful lyrics.

 

One of the most moving poems is ‘My Birth Telegram’, in which the writer’s father learns about his daughter’s birth, expressed in a code agreed with his wife:

 

 

‘If it’s a girl she’ll be a poem, a white bloom ..

At sea, he received the news on board.

 

THE WHITE ROSE ARRIVES STOP
POETRY THRIVES STOP’

 

A note explains, ‘Kavita’ means ‘Poem’ in several Indian languages’. And poetry does arrive in the world with ‘Patina’.

 

 

Chris Hardy‘s poems have been published widely, some have won prizes. His fourth collection is ‘Sunshine at the end of the world’ (Indigo Dreams). He is in LiTTLe MACHiNe. “A guitarist as well as a poet Chris Hardy consistently hits the right note”. Roger McGough.

Order your copy of Patina by Kavita A. Jindal (the wind in the trees, 2019) here: http://www.thewindinthetrees.com/

 

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