Book Review on Aneek Chatterjee’s ‘Seaside Myopia’ by Gopal Lahiri

In  our  troubled  times,  there’s  something  comforting about Aneek  Chatterjee’s  meditative  poems and  it’s  a voice  to  be  reckoned  with. Here  is  a  poet  who is always a keen  observer, serenely describing  the  quirks  and  foibles, residing  in  our  mind  and  recording loops  to  evoke  the  rhythmic  pulse  of joy   and   sorrow.   He   is   a   political scientist  by  profession  yet  his  voice  is non-judgemental and lacks conflict. His debut collection     of     poems ‘Seaside  Myopia’offers    a    more nuanced  perspective  of  the  expanded universe   where   pain   and   pleasure mingle in ways that never cease to be surprising or poetic. E ach page opens with a new wonder and each poem’s arrival is armed with a new piece of thought.

Aneek  mentioned  that  the  poems  included  in  “Seaside Myopia”  have  been  penned  during October   2017   to August  2018and are  mostly  free  verses  with  occasional rhymes and a couple of triolets. His  poems  resonate  with  an  emerging  new  narrative-one that  is  giving  a  platform  to  the  fresher’s  to  find  a  place  in the literary space and more important to connect with one another.

When I took up the pen

seagulls were burnt in sunshine,

all paragliders swooped down

to earth. I looked at the sea, —

a big black crater laughed,

and drew me into its mind.

In agony, horror I threw

my pen in the black hole

Quickly, it sucked my feeble weapon

and   chased  me,   and  I   got   a  myopia   …

(Seaside Myopia)

In  fact,  almost  all  his  poems  represent  his  engagement with language; it’s one of the reasons they form such a stimulating  atmosphere  letting  the  language  soar.  The dialect is atypical though while the pace remains easy and hurried.  His  writing  always feels  like  something  new  and carries its own dreams and sorrows.

In his introduction, the poet has rightly pointed out ‘These poems  belong  to  different  genres and  styles,  from  dark poems to love and sensuous; poems which emerged from daily   life   and societal   milieu;   poems   crafted   out   of melancholy and joy.’ It’s true that the book is a miscellany of different forms. It is the poet’s fresh, courageous, undeceived approach that sketches the inner workings with skill and purpose. Here is the poet’s haunting take  on  new  writing  landscape with interludes  of  lightness.  There  is  no  dullness,  no  whimsical fancy in  the  poem  itself.  The  sheer  weight  and  bounce  of the words in each line capture the essence.

We’ve only the earth and the stones to interact …

Every other moment is invisible

Every other sojourn is unliveable

from here  (Come to Dry Leaves)

The view changes so often in his poetic canvas, it’s hard not    to    feel    turned    around by    the    unpredictable strangeness. Sometimes,    reassuringly, his   poemsare touching  across  the  ground  that  has done  the  balancing act  between  the  static  and  moving,  that  has mapped  out before,

Let me measure my shadow.

Has it overgrown me?

Has it become taller, lengthier, and obese?

Every time I am pushed to the wall

I fight with my shadow.

It often doubles, beyond overgrowth;

it becomes taller than ivory towers.

(The Ivory Tower)

A  beautiful  mix  of  high  and  low  diction,  more  elegant, subtler,  his  poems  at  times  sketch  a  dark  world. If  that sound   claustrophobic,   so   be   it.   The deft   rendering  of  the complex dynamic of life is commendable.

Sometimes I feel formless

Floating disjointed in this world

Unable to protest, unable to raise voice

I wanted to light hope

Candles of hope, but all went out

Now I carry with you lifeless white sticks !

(Shadow)

Sometimes the poems are more likely to be dripped on to the  canvas  in  the  manner  of  an  airy,  swirling  abstract painting. His words reminding me of Paul Klee who once described the act of drawing as “taking a line for a walk”. There  is  something  arresting  here, ‘Nude  branches  are white human bone’.

Leaves are brown

All leaves are brown here,

in summer fall or winter

human skin

Branches are white

All branches are white here

Nude branches are white

human bone (Alien)

The poet weaves eloquence and modesty that run through his  surreal  verses  with  ease  and  grace.  One  can  feel  the hidden   presence   of   a   mixture   of   rage,   agony   and vulnerability. Each word is stated with nonchalance.

In anger, threw my pen to the floor

but heard absentee thoughts

jeering from somewhere inside

Sit in the empty room

dejected; with a

pencil in my brain

(Pencil in my brain)

Poetry   is   unusually   comfortable   sitting   with   its   own emptiness. Here  the  poet uses  the  words  to  make  life bearable:  dissonance  finds  harmony  and  youthful  spark. His  poems  are  sometimes  a  signature  of  nature;  this  is perhaps   the   poetry   of   relationship where   he uses language  to take stance, to  surprise or  reinvent.  Words are as if his old buddies, and see him through to the end.

Sunflowers invited me

for a game I started, but

left very soon

The mystery of the jungle

complained, you didn’t

kiss me since ages …

he river stopped singing(Mood)

Rhyme  is  surely  not  his  strength  but  intertwining  the fantastical  and  ordinary  in  free  verses  is  his  trademark. Engaging, dark, sensitive, the inventiveness of his verse is amazing  in  its  prowess. His non-rhyming  pieces  come across  most  successfully  because  of  their  simplicity,  their raw  ingredients. There  is  no  denying  that the  poet  has  an ability   to   tap   directly   into   love,   desire   and   darkness, something   he   does   with   courage   and  conviction. He brings  a  calm  and  moderate  tone,  and  realist  style  to  his reports on life.

No sound, my mind

flushed out monotony

before I got back

to sound, before I was

born again, to safety.,

 (Rebirth)

or

Two pairs of pigeons on the cornice

watch humans below argue

over parking space,

nylon ropes,

and

flowers stolen from

neighbour’s immortal tree.(Pigeons)

Quicksilver  and  self-mocking,  the  poet  is  measured  in  his craft  as  well  as  in  rhetoric. There’s rarely any thought of chasing  after  the  exotic  or  mythic  for  its  own  sake. The observations  drawn  from  his  poems  are  like slim  clouds tinged by colour of the evening sun.

I followed the black hole

into eternity

and laughed like a demon

in my orange sleep.

(Orange Sleep)

A sharp-eyed observer, he’s also unassumingly one of the commoners. He  builds  a  breathless  rhythm  of  monotony, an  intimacy  forged  by  all  pervasive  connectivity without losing the quietly explanatory tone and diction, the radiant clarity and intelligence and revelling in freedom all round.

I could not see. Monotony, sound

I was not really around

for syllables.

Darkness in persiflage

silently began to count my age

Oh yes, I want to further traverse

Food trolley came, and free verse (Night Train)

There  will  be  invariably  some  colours  in  his impassioned poems  which  resonate  with  voice  and  vision,  with  echoes of  longing  in  the  surreal  world. His  poems  reveal  an unwavering belief in the power of language to redeem us from the dreary and tedious conflict, one that is infectious and might even give us all a reason for optimism.

For me twilight is splash of colors.

Watc

hed the sky turn red, orange, pink, crimson

one twilight after another.

Thousand painters were practicing their art

on a big blue canvas.

(Twilight)

There  are  many  windows  in  his  poems  and  are  at  times witty  with  a  tinge  of  sarcasm  and  offer  an  engaging observation   that   absorbs   and   enriches,   that   captures reverie,  that  piles  language  with  delicacy  and  has  the perfect balance.

A black crater extended

its arms

One two three four …

All vanished into oblivion

only to resurface

somewhere in a hapless mirror.

(Reincarnation)

We  areoften struck  by  the passionof Annek’swork,  the way  his  clipped  breath  at  the  end  of  each  line  propels  us forward  in  anticipation  at  each  shift  in  tone  or  meaning. The  following  poem  evokes  a  kind  of  isolation,  an  escape  from  the humdrum life while the journey is taken through consciousness. The essence  hangs  in  the  air  and  wait  for  the  answers. Nowhere  is this attentiveness to lyrical grace more apparent than this,

Finally, when my station

was announced, I disembarked

in a hazy mist, spotted with surreal drizzle

at midnight I’m still in search of my

destination, as rain left my station.

(Destination)

Aneek  Chatterjee  is  one  of  the  most  promising  poets  in the contemporary mosaic. Some of the poems included in this collection are  published  in  eminent  journals of  India and  abroad  and holds a  fluidity  of  characterisation and demonstrates the poet’s formal innovation.

‘Seaside Myopia’s  a  powerful contemplation  of  life  more personal in nature, including the scrutiny of love, affection, loneliness, grief and faith. Intimacy is its strength. This is a book  where  light  and  darkness  of  life  unfold  in  every  cell across  the  vast  space  of  a  few  words  while  shearing conventional starts and thoughts in a seamless manner. The  cover  page  design  is praiseworthy.  And  surely, the poetry lovers should grab the book at the earliest.

About the author

Aneek  Chatterjee is  an  Indian  poet, currently    living    in    Kolkata.    He    has    been published in poetry journals, literary magazines  and  e-zines  in  the  USA,  Canada, Australia,  Mauritius,  Philippines  and  India.  His poems have been included in eight anthologies  also;  all  published  from  the  USA. Chatterjee    has    a Ph.    Din    International Relations;  and has  been  teaching  IR  and  Political  Science  in leading  Indian  universities.  He  authored  and  edited  9  academic books   and   a   novel   titled   “The   Funeral   Procession”,   besides numerous articles. He featured in the list of “Best Indian Political Scientists with     Photos”,     prepared     by     an     international organization.  Dr.   Chatterjee   also  taught   at   the   University   of Virginia, USA as a Fulbright Visiting fellow.

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