Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Review of Nabina Das's BLUE VESSEL

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Novelist and poet Nabina Das has a book of poems out now, titled Blue Vessel.

For me, poetry is an aesthetic endeavor. It's about measuring the textured qualities of time and being in a mainly emotional context.

My memory of Das's previous poems is this: the feelings explored and captured in language are meta-feelings, so to speak. The poet in those other poems has set herself in the background in order to empathize into the time, being, and emotional context of others. Verses of social conscience. A given setting is measured with the compass and protractor of understanding and compassion. The mood of those earlier poems is an external, communal one. The social-elegiac can also be aesthetic in the right hands, and hers were capable.

With this new book, I'm struck by a change in tonality, mood, and perspective. These poems seem more personal; therefore, the poet is revealed with a new aspect, alive within a different dynamic.

Water is evoked in some poems -- compass and protractor give way to fathom rope and sextant for measuring the essence of an experience. The tense in Das's previous poems is predominantly the present. Here in Blue Vessel, it shifts  mostly to the past. For me, poems haunted by memory are the more affecting and glowing.

Gnomic melodies purl their rhythms within and through these poems. Modern and ancient. As if Prokofiev had composed a rasa. And some poems implicitly sing about displacement -- between one world (the West) and another (India), lies a sea of perpetual anticipation and contrast. Das is cosmopolitan, and her poetry reflects this complex fact.

But whether at home or abroad, the prevailing breezes moving these poems whisper upon the linen of billowing emotion:

I tied words around your wrist, threads from
archaic ceremonies, unknowing how I tied
up nerves in jasmine bunches hanging over
our garden shades as you casually chewed
sugarcane sticks taking back lost letters or
words that meant a new beginning for us
                                  ~ from "Indian Love Story: Message Tree"

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