From - Reviews, Vol I, Issue II
Light beyond Decay
Sunil Sharma in his third poetry collection, ‘Mundane My Muse’, has brought a blend of precision and compassion to a body of his poems that is caring, focused and always deeply-felt. The words and rhythm of his wrenching poems not only delight the ear but refills the mind and body. He places his readers face to face with the truth of life.
Given that so much, his poems feel solidarity with those who have suffered as well as a quiet celebration of the peacetime and the nature that is so easily lost, so quickly taken for granted, so undervalued. To me, poetry doesn’t get any better than this at times.
The title of the book ‘Mundane My Muse’ is a gentle understatement of the poet’s creative soul. Remarkably enough, the book seems both local and global. The poet here finds symbols in,
This sleepy afternoon,/In a small fishing village,/Off the beach in SW, Australia,/A breeze slips in,/Blowing a faded rose. (Beach poem)
In his Foreword, Rob Harle has rightly pointed out ‘In many of Sunil’s poems there is the dichotomy of the haves and the have not’s” and the elegance and beauty of nature contrasted with the crass, ugliness of high-rise concrete jungles. In this substantial collection of poems, eighty in all, we are treated to a delightful smorgasbord of literary gems.’
There is a very thin but discernible kind streak in his poems which is not the same as having a soft heart. Sometimes it has become a recipe for trouble but his observing eye is so restlessly hungry for detail that it can’t confine itself to a single point of view. ‘Finally, poetry is coming face to face with your spiritual truths that refuse to be commodified and reified by a mass culture. It fulfils you and makes you whole,’ the poet remarked once.
Sunil Sharma in his preface has said, ‘Poetry is like the first rains over a smoggy town: It washes away all the grime and revives the dormant seedling sand revitalizes the corroded cores of your inner- life.’ He is a clear eyed poet, never shy of telling the truth and his writings are trustworthy as testimony.
His poems revolve around the trials and tribulations of life and the firmness of living in present. They show us life through the conduits of a brilliant mind. The neglected soul and the anguished mind may drive into tears yet there is no mistaking of fact that a positive tone rings in silence at the core.
Much of the struggles are rooted in its devotion to life; its settings, its long shadows and mirrors and hermetically sealed world. Not that it happens in a bubble, but sometimes lusciously dark yet the poet goes deeper sketching each one’s real self. The poet touches upon a few pressure points which instantly determine the poem’s trajectory with ease and finesse. More impressive is the expertly weighted interplay between words and rhythm.
Like a few of his poems here, they are so short that your heart asks for more,
Blank/Eyes/Of the/Widowed mother,/Totally/Blank -/Like a/Lonely/Broken/Country road,/On a summer/Night. (Blank)
We are all familiar, if only for a short period, with the unreal seeming world. The tenuousness of the subject is beautifully underlined. His poems underpin that the time has come for delving deep inside to explore the bursting lifeline within a chaotic existence and seek beauty and happiness of mankind.
Detritus is scattered around; in fact, the lamp is part of its dreamy calm will give way to a strange image.
The flickering lamp,/A personal statement/Of a believer’s faith,/Emitting a strange luminosity/That beats the electric light! (Flickering Lamp)
And the ultimate luxury is not just enough but a little more timeless emblems of civilization. Some of his poems are brutally elegant. The images refracted through his words are commendably incisive and rekindle the urge to explore life.
His words pop into prickly sharp focus and fresh colour and the images go past the reader one after another in a fluid motion- no clichés no exaggeration, each utterly distinct in his own identity, each the potential hero, like the slum boy. The venerable poet has always come out with flying colors when grappling with the reality check.
Four women/Varied age groups/Walking down the/Solitary/Country lane from/The far-off river,/This/Early morning,/Balancing heavy/Five-six/Pots piled up/On each other,/A daily act of gifted/Acrobats. (Acrobats)
An uproariously interesting, the narrative in some of his poems is self-reflective and the poet embodies the salient part. There is nothing negative or cynical, no sense that it will be betrayed by the surroundings. His poems are not of an unusual kind, simply and movingly encapsulates the concept, never indulge in enraging, dreary and opaque forms.
Bring your sad words,/I will make them smile/On the faces of war-orphans/Street children/And cancer patients (Bring Your Words)
In defense of human pursuits and values, thereby not neutralized, he has never gone over the edge. Poetry is always in his bones. It occurs to me that there are numerous times, the poet notes the ambiguity in life and pays close attention to the word usage for illustration. Call it energy, if you like. He is capable of touching as well as loving. Like many other poets, he brings to his poem, an elegant narrative voice that find resonance with your life and experience.
In silky shadows that quiver constantly/With every breath of wind,/Thus—/Creating, on this golden afternoon,/A rich world of chiaroscuro.
And then this words heighten the emotion and although a little fretful at the start, the poem effects a magical turn at the end. A whole enchanting world is created and unveiled bit by bit.
Reminded of the famous/Japanese scroll paintings/That turn the bare home walls/Into vibrant/Vivid works of/Immaculate/Art. (A February Afternoon)
The poem begins with silky shadows but creates a rich world of chiaroscuro. The bare home walls testify to an effective style where certainty is more than is claimed. We find the poet at its most eloquent in the ‘Vivid works of Immaculate Art’ and succumbs to the music of the divine drum.
Works of nature often spark his imagination and are mapped out with a human tag. He is at his poetic best in this form of poems and elaborates on this aspect, backing himself for his ability to meet natural elements on their own terms, instead of as mere words or symbols.
The Champa in big clusters,/Blooming on the bald tree;/Nature has covered amply/
The tree’s shocking bareness; (Adornment)
The graceful bamboos/Awash in the golden hue,/On this bright morning,/Swaying like amazons,/Along the serpentine/Country lane; (Autumn)
This poetry collection is elevated by the same fluent and freewheeling style that’s made Sunil Sharma, an accomplished poet. The way of looking at ourselves as well as looking at the world He has aptly said ‘Poetry is a surviving link with our heroic past, with our mythological memory, with a unique moment when man and god were not yet cruelly split but were real for the other and having a continual dialogue. Like these two plants, it is endangered and becoming exotic’.
In his poem ‘A Vast Canvas’, the poet here turns his ideas into a repository of fleeting images that hits the right tone. The rhythms and play of words are so deep that his readers can see the astonishing view of the literary gems that lies beyond.
A vast sheet/Of shining grass/Unfurled across/The silent plain,/Away from the highway,/The soothing spread/Buttoned with/Yellow, red, white/Wild flowers/Smiling in the/Soft morning-light; (A Vast Canvas)
After reading the book, we find a voice at the end that echoes with a surge of inner life within our soul. It illustrates the way we pick up threads from line to line, stanza to stanza and move on in a quiet alleyway scaling heights on the way that allows the poet and the reader to get in touch with each other.
It is a beautiful collection and not to be missed. The publisher Authorspress, New Delhi, India, deserves to be complimented for this noble effort.
Reviewed by Gopal Lahiri
Gopal Lahiri was born and grew up in Kolkata. He is a bilingual poet, writer, editor, critic and translator and widely published in Bengali and English language. He currently lives in Mumbai, India and can be reached at email@example.com and www.gopallahiri.blogspot.com .