Book Review by Gopal Lahiri
Vinita Agarwal’s latest collection of poems titled ‘Two Full Moons’ is a journey in search of self-exploration and looking for real answers. The contents and forms are so fitting for a world in which life seems to spin in an endless circle and captures the sameness of the view. Her poems evoke the subliminal changes of perspective stirred by the shinning images and lovely metaphors.
Not burdened with drumming symbolism and histrionic morality, her poems are suffused with a pulsating, almost magical spontaneity and confiding intimacy. Jayant Mahapatra, the noted poet, has rightly pointed out, ‘Vinita Agrawal stabs you through the heart. These are fine, engaging poems.’
The qualities that make her, and this book, fascinating are her quest and restlessness, her questions and anxieties, her desires and passions, all of which are channelled into the making of a few pieces of gemstone that will stand the test of time.
Vinita Agarwal in her note remarked ‘Two Full Moons’ symbolises the quotidian journey of life. A cyclical voyage that brackets our experiences into cusps of grief and jo, tears and smiles, pain and happiness, loss and gain. The esoteric elements of existence are enchained in the circumference of time.’
The poet can easily catch the reader off guard with a sudden shift in tone, ending a poem in a very different poise than where it begins. His ardour for the natural world takes frequent root in her poems. Here nature begets odes and perhaps much more. She intertwines the wound and striated agate with compassion and insight. A dauntless examination of the inequality and domestic malaise that can unsnarls the knots of history, class, caste, fear and trauma and render the common women so visibly indiscernible.
Swirls of autumn-hued thoughts
Drag me into an abyss of fear
Undoing me with visions of wounds
And scars as permanent as striated agate,
The poet uses the commonplace as prism, splitting the bands with which it plays
into a surprising spectrum of colours. Most of her poems delight or provoke in
some way or other and are filled with sobering thoughts on injustice, determination and redemption.
In demon’s darkness
Flames burn inside rasping voices
Beneath my window,
Rush along with the winds
End up as heaps of collapsed sunsets (Swirling Agate)
She is vivid and compelling in some of her poems which evoke a feeling of
precision and accuracy.
I swallowed the sky
Just to feel its destitution. (Blue)
The question here is one directed to live in disguise but also to the pain and wounds of the closing hearts to be given their due.
Can I hide behind your calm façade, Moon,
The sandstorm of a closing heart
And this year of wounds? (Behind the Moon)
This acclaimed verse collection is an excellent illustration of how a collection
poem enrich literature as well as the mind of the readers, dredges up a sequence
of memories and beautifully adept at shifting perspective,
Tonight, a tender breeze wraps me in scents
I’m on my knees, open your door, my friend. (One Half)
Sometimes Vinita strives for a quiet lyricism, crafting delightful poems, while at times she is busy in capturing lively verse that reflects the current moment.
In the drive and attention of its cultural evaluations, at times Two Full Moon seem consciously contemporary a book of poems. The themes that preoccupied her most keenly are those that haunt every poet, the nature and women, myth and personal history and above all, life and its unevenness. Her poems are unsettling, surprising and yet brainy, gleaming and rewarding at the end. She has taken references from our past and seasoned them with history and tenderness.
Arundhati Subramaniam, the noted poet, remarked ‘Vinita Agarwal’s poems
seem to reach for something that just beyond their grasp.’
For countries war-torn,
Let darkness build a dawn
Wherever you are, write on (Writers Without Borders)
The poet also addresses social themes of increasing significance, suggesting, that the reserve of words must cleanse the earth. Citing buddha’s contemplation, the poet’s observation is noteworthy, ‘in that sense for me, the period (read Two Full Moons)
A bare garden
A corner gardener
Rooms of shadow
And smears of grey
On black corded drains
The branches of her body
In the singing
Of a crow (Dementia)
The above poem must be read very slowly, since most of their uncanny power is
hidden in overtones that must be listened for in silences between lines, and still
stranger silences within lines capturing the colour, motion and energy of the solitude.
Yet there are about her work an intensity of purpose- heightened by a formal style. Her mature work is known for her versatility, sometimes soulful language and the immaculate poetic device. Sometimes the words are propelled by passionate cries and lit up by visceral verse unafraid of the consequences.
Woman, girl, female foetus…
The world stands hushed before you
Like the air of stillness before a storm;
Say whatever it is that you have to say. (Bespoken)
It is as though this dazzling poem filters up to the readers like echoes from a bottomless well and yet it strikes their ears with a fresh energy. Here the close-up view affords us to learn how words can operate on the warmest scale.
I don’t trust the sky
The accordion play of two full moons
The fragile twigs of fate
Soaking quotidian journeys
In the brine of time (Two Full Moons)
She presents her thoughts afresh including all those alluring details out of nature
and pains of life. The tender and troubling humanity in our life are all there in her vibrant poems. She at her core a poet above all else and her poems are heartfelt and honest.
Whatever effaced-is love
Whatever is secured is love
This overwriting is love. (Overwriting)
Vinita’s brilliant layering of images and metaphors is one of the many marvels of this lyrical and engaging collection of poems. It’s also true that Two Full Moons gives a good account of life at the most intimate level, suggesting a sensitive poet is at work.
The cover design is arresting and the book takes readers deep inside their psyche. A must read for every poetry lover.
Gopal Lahiri is a Kolkata- based poet, critic, editor and translator with 18 book published- mostly solo, A few joint! He has guest edited Setu’ an online journal. His work has been published worldwide!