Book-Review
Knots by Anuradha Bhattacharyya
Published by Writers Workshop, Calcutta, Pages 80 Price Rs 200 (Clothbound)

Reviewed by Gurdev Chauhan (Canada), email: gurdev.chauhan@gmail.com

Published in 2012 by Writers Workshop Calcutta, Knots, is a second book of poetry by Anuradha Bhattacharyya. Her first poetry Fifty Five Poems was published in 1998 by the same publisher. The poet who teaches in a Postgraduate College in Chandigarh is well versed in the modern, rather post-modern idiom. Her poetry as it were 'delivers the ego from the darkness of silence into fluid communicative expressions'. Coils in the heart yarns for and when they find a release a poem is born in the process. All these poems behave the same uncoiling.

Knots is not an easy book of poetry to read. All the poems have layers to them, subterranean levels to reach. They open to more than one reading, often to an alternate voice. As the name of the book denotes, most of these poems habitually lend themselves to puzzles and paradoxes of sorts, to riddles. As the poet herself says these poems are knotted together by verbal nooses. It's interesting to see how the poet builds ambiguity and terseness in the poems through ways that fork on the themes of the poems. In a way the poet does not start with any theme in mind. She gropes and the words come her way and start to form the theme. Knots are already there for her to undo. Words are already waiting for her. The words are nothing but the seeking of her heart. Her ruling metaphor appears to be invisible chains that keep us captive and in mental servitude. Breaking the chains, visible or otherwise is the way of the poem, the way of life. Silence, forced or otherwise, is the basic leitmotif of her poetry.

Breaking invisible shackles to express the most innermost thought, often in deep conflict of the tradition is one of Anuradha's choicest forte. She gives different metaphors to this singular theme like heathens stormed by crusaders, truth spilling on patterned embroideries of civilized shawls, knots of imaginary servitude, a piquant whistle shattering the window panes, captives without bars invading hot tongues of secrets, swarms of lies come wolfing jaws gaping at eternal joy, from the corpse of emotion visualize a bleak future etc.

She uses different methods to reinforce her iconoclastic ideas. One is to juxtapose two very opposite words to show a new line of associative thought: life takes ash faces / not as residues of consumption/ but as consummated /libidinal investment. Another is to weave a magic of assorted images asymmetrically: I'm ground into the machinery, passion pleads absence (p22), A whirling hair/ sucked up/ in vacuum (24), A qualm less sky has/ flared up asleep less swoon. (27).

Some poems are deceptively simple but are unlike many that sound like riddles. Apple is one such poem that reads :
Each apple/ when tasted/ feels sweet/ when chewed/ quite sour/ when swallowed/ leaves a bitterness/ in the mouth.

Look how she spins the yarn and builds the edifice:

Every falling star
Is a wish -
If I retire now
Accepting defeat
No new star falling
Will be perceived
Loss is theirs
Which I weep.
( Idle)
A sudden storm burst
The equanimity of
Of the dazzling white
Moistening the arid brown flesh
In a frenzy
The high sun
Shrivelled up
The wet curvatures of sturdy bones
In quick sytrokes
Subtly painting a rainbow.
(Paradox)

The poem has more than one layer. On one level, it reads at three experiential levels: surface, subterranean and deep structured. Blood, Filth Soap My Scars, Caresses and, Recreation are poems with strong narratives. These have ready appeal. These rise up sharp on the reading scale. Word play, unusual and fresh imagery, uncanny verbal situations, tension born out of internal conflict, innovative use of language, understatement, obliqueness and use of new stylistic devices are some of the powerful tools in the poetic arsenal of Anuradha Bhattacharyya that are rare to be seen in such rich measure. Knots is a trendsetter book of poetry that has enduring undercurrents of charged language, the words sitting in their most uncommon company. The book belongs to the next line of poetry, the poetry of the future tense.

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