Book Review by Anjana Basu
Knotted Grief – Poems by Naveen Kishore
Cruelty and Compassion
Naveen Kishore is that unusual combination of publisher and writer. As the publisher of Seagull Books he enjoys a global reputation for the hallmark texts that he brings out to the public. As a poet he is about to make his mark in a very different, though related sphere, with the publication of his first book of poems.
Kishore’s poems strike a careful balance between haiku and longer verse. They are short in the way they are physically conceptualised on the paper – two words can and do often constitute a line, though they continue their thought spinning out the issues. The blank spaces on the pages add to the emptiness that the poems capture, minimal layout pitted against maximum cruelty.
These are shards of emotion that shatter the reader’s consciousness since they probe the disturbed spaces of the soul. Symbolism projects the poet’s message acquiring greater strength through repetition of images and the knotting of phrases like a kind of rosary. Travelling worlds of blood, darkness, ravens, stolen shadows and the balance of the words that direct the reader’s emphasis.
The book opens with Kashmiriyat, a collection, as the name suggests, a memorial to a fragmented tradition. Kashmiriyat explores lives that were and still are not allowed to be lived due to the crushing jackboots of politics. It is a narrative of destruction carefully built over one hundred and five stanzas. The story of widows, monuments destroyed accumulate like the hard pelt of stones through the glass of grief that is the result of violence in Kashmir, a brutal continuing circle that seems to have no resolution. The lives of destroyed women are in fact picked out in a section dedicated to their solitary shadowed lives, seen through unflinching reality, which is not softened by the undercurrent of compassion that runs through the poems.
More private types of grief which come out of our everyday lives and which are very familiar to us all follow the trauma of Kashmir. The poems are an exploration of inner and outer realities – how the outer and inner reflect each out and the micro and macrocosms are inextricably linked. What is sometimes hard to accept is the reality that strikes on our face as to what human beings can do to each other despite dreams or love. He writes about swiping his screen trying to fast forward whatever he cannot bear, a feeling which the reader is likely to share many times over in these pages.
The poems were originally counterpointed by Naveen Kishore’s black and white photographs and that is a loss for those who have seen the original conjunction of verse and frame. Perhaps at another time , another book will bring the two together.
A few poems by Naveen Kishore/extract from the collection given below:
The Kashmir Poems:
the chinars have begun to shed their leaves
in this garden without light
elsewhere in the city
the streets are strewn with stones
from receding shadows
in this valley of echoes
a grieving silence resides
like an exiled dervish
the eyelids of a world
by induced sleep
drugged its dance
went shopping for a shroud
(Published by Speaking Tiger, India)
About the Poet
Naveen Kishore is a photographer and publisher at Seagull Books. He lives and works in Calcutta.
About the reviewer
Anjana Basu is a renowned novelist, poet, reviewer and travel writer.