The poet bares her immensely gifted creative soul to the readers.
Poetry, it is said oft, is the most cultivated written form of art. For ages man has been working on poetry and for ages poetry has been providing man with pure delight. Poetry, by its essence, can be momentous and can be epical too in dimensions. Poetry can depict a particular moment of life and can also bring to the fore pure lyrical joy. Poetry is fluid and so it moves from one end to another like a river, having its own music.
But to find a collection of poems which transmutes moments of life to eternity is a task as difficult as searching for a needle in a haystack.
‘Under the Apple Boughs’ by Santosh Bakaya is not a book of poems, it is a document of the poet’s journey, a document so engaging that once you start reading it, you go on moving from one poem to another as if you are sailing through a river, and the breeze and the water are conjuring a magical journey for you.
The journey begins with ‘Shards of Memory’. Out of 131 poems in the collection, 35 belong to ‘Shards of Memory’. As the name suggests, this section presents different pieces of the poet’s memory. Put together, they form a fabric of narration which is unmistakably dipped in sweet recollection of childhood and dreams.
If ‘On Revisiting My Childhood Home’ springs up the petrichor from the days of yore, ‘Is That the Sun in Your Eyes?’ makes one lose oneself into a world of gnawing feeling. The word ‘again’ comes back time and again like a refrain in poems in this section and I find there can never be a better alternative than to use ‘again’ with such poetic yearning. One will definitely be floating like a tiny paper boat, colorful and ‘Burning Bright’ if one, like Santosh Bakaya, chooses to rediscover childhood. But then again, there are poems like ‘A Retrospective Precious’, which like a true retrospection put things in the proper perspective. The line arrangement of this poem in particular provides a visual treat and semblance as the lines get shorter and shorter till only one word forms the last line as if someone is erecting a staircase, with meticulous precision of a designer.
Yes, a poet can be a designer too if she wants or wishes to be. The inverted staircase leads one back to the old days of innocence and acute observation.
If that is what the shards of memory bring, the next section, ‘Crippled Rhyme’, encapsulates pure literature and academic brilliance. Being a teacher and an avid reader, the poet’s involvement with literary devices is conspicuous here. But like a true craftsman, the poet never overdoes and so her poems remain candid and humble without being overtly esoteric or pedantic. Her worldly view mixes well with her learning, her wisdom rhymes well with her musical repertoire. So we find how she cries for Brussels in the poem ‘Brussels, Our Hearts Weep’ before she sings a song for Orlando in ‘O Orlando!’
But things do not settle down there. Soon we are taken to another celebrated realm of poetic outpour in ‘Nature sings symphony’.
Here one finds another important aspect of Santosh Bakaya. Who can be a poet if she cannot find the beauty of Nature at its supreme best? Here she ignites, providing hope and love divine. She sings with assertion, she sings with pride of a glowworm: ‘And I Ignite Becoming a Furnace of Glinting Light’. But her romanticism is also Coleridgean as she dares to talk of Frankestein. She conforms to the romantic canon and also breaks away from it as she chooses and she does that at her own sweet will. This amply demonstrates how much variety she carries within her. When life is not monochromatic, poetry can never be. When variety is life, poetry is bound to be varied. So, pantheistic devotion keeps company with daring adventurism quite fittingly in the poet’s magic box. They combine and conspire to create a fragrance of wilderness. Potpourri is what we get here, filling up minds’ rooms of the readers.
The last section, a fructification of the poet’s sojourn to Accra, Ghana, titled ‘O Africa!’ is purely human. The book is itself dedicated to the people of Africa, especially those of Accra. Their life, their struggles, their music is what the section presents in an enchanting and lucid fashion. Here the poet draws in abundance allusions. She cross refers to Kipling (‘My Boy Jack’ in ‘The Fisherman’s son’ ) , Maya Angelou ( ‘Phenomenal Woman’ in the poem ‘The Fire’) and gives a tribute to Dylan Thomas (in ‘Rage, Rage’ following patterns of Dylan Thomas’ hearty wish as penned in his most famous and oft read and quoted poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’).
It will not at all be an exaggeration if one calls the book a poetic saga of an immensely gifted creative soul.