Of silence crying

Of silence crying

Of silence crying

Emerald Blades
Reijul Sachdev
2016, pp 148
Rs. 175

Come beside me into darkness,
Where Madness waits and Beauty

Come walk beside me in the moonlight
And sing to me of wilder things.

These lines from the poem Wilder Things, from this collection by Reijul Sachdev, scores full on form and content and is among the finest ones in this collection along with Ebony and Ivory, Where The Wild, Wild Things Run Free, and Lies in Darkness. The jacket blurb mentions that the poems spring from Sachdev’s experience as a borderline schizophrenic. Let that not deceive the reader into thinking this collection is dark or depressing. The mood is far from defeatist.

It is of a mind trying to keep itself steady by shutting out the ‘creatures of the mind’. In the light of this, his heightened sensibilities, the title becomes plain — blades of grass that can appear as double-edged swords and alternatively as nature’s bounty offering succour. The colour emerald or green is representative of balance; of that which creates the equilibrium between reason and emotions.

The dialectic between the emotional, joyous response to idyllic scenes of nature, of letting oneself go and that of a world-weariness, of being confined to a life of duties is a major theme. Like a mind meandering as a stream carving its course, he allows himself and the reader the beauty of the journey but stops short at the fall. His rational mind cautions and he knows that once on the brink, the only way forward is to return.

So when life seems harsh and men unjust,
Know this is meant to be
And do not hearken to the tunes
Of the wild things running free.
(Where The Wild, Wild Things Run Free)

There are poignant lines that suggest the heroic effort of one resisting ‘the heady pull of seductive suicide’; and flashes of depression. He writes of an entire suicidal episode in Remembered Glory; ‘A terrible anger to destroy’ in Intoxicating; of the ‘Mind’s own endless night’ in Masquerade; and ‘Like the man who talks to himself / To keep from hearing the silence crying,’ in Out of Tune. There is also a keen awareness that success brings both gratification and challenges:

But while each hill when bathed in
Helps uplift our weary mood,
Every summit in the darkness
Is a lonely place to brood.
(To The Hill-T).

There are recurring themes of regret, old age, guilt, falling, loneliness, the pain of beauty and happiness, society as a prison, death, destiny and the world of eternal duty. Juxtaposed as these are with the images of nature — sea of emerald grass, golden hues of the sun, silver skies, mauve twilights — there is a brilliant play of colours and symbols. The symbolism of the moon which heightens distress, or the wind which scatters friends and dreams, hold up the harmony.

Poetry has to be read with intuition. There is lilt and cadence in simple lines that draws the reader in:

When walking in the woodlands,
Listening to the breeze,
Rolling in the meadows,
Talking to the trees.
(Where The Wild, Wild Things Run Free)

Some poems in this collection are too suffused with images and words which could have been gently trimmed to make the narrative taut. But there is much that is beautiful and profound here, as in the poem Rainbow’s End, just as I was growing a little weary of the derivative images, a sudden turn of phrase and thought sprung a fresh surprise:

If you didn’t take things for granted,
Then you’d know which one is true:
Have you been chasing after my gold?
Or has my gold been chasing you?

Sachdev, who admits to being a classicist, has kept to it in form and diction. The poems are peppered with mythical references — Midas, Oedipus, Arthur, Adam, Odin, the tower of Babel, Camelot, magic, rainbows and pots of gold, leprechauns, nymphs, faeries, warriors, travellers and many archaic spellings and expressions like the ‘mead of twilight’, ‘sally forth’, ‘good sir’. The rhyming is a little forced in places and multisyllabic words take away from the fluidity of the poems.

There are images that do not blend well, as in the poem Intoxicating, the leitmotif is of life brewing as wine and yet, in the middle of it comes the clichéd image of the patchwork quilt of memories. In Silent Space and Moonlighting, the first-person narrative changes to the third person abruptly. Even if used as a poetic device, it is to no great effect. Each image, every word, must enhance the core of a poem. This rawness in Sachdev’s craft can acquire a polish with a little help, perhaps from a sensitive mentor.

Some of these poems should certainly find place in modern Indian anthologies. This is a courageous debut collection that validates the fact that poetry heals.

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