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Enchiridion of Selves

Randhir Khare

By Vikram Seth
Aleph Book Company, New Delhi, 2015, Pg 72, Rs. 398


The better poems in this volume are exquisitely crafted and polished to  near perfection. Richly layered with an inner life that reveals itself as each poem unfolds, Summer Requiem seduces the senses and draws the reader into a reverie that seems never-ending, awash with shifting moods and remembered experiences threading together the sublime and the pedestrian with gentle profundity. The lesser poems, I would like to term them thus, lack character, originality and a sense of their own identity. In fact, they appear to be either reflections of the work of a plethora of British poets ranging backwards from the 1970s. In truth they read like work out poems, the ones that poets need to keep the juices flowing and their skills sharpened. I fail to understand why they are in a collection which contains some remarkably created work. I would like to avoid sweeping judgements but instead pick up some poems that stand out as one or the other. The title poem is a sprawling reflection on the slipping away of one’s life just as seasons give way to one another. What was—is not, what is—is not what should be, unfulfillment and quiet despair pervade the poem— Returning to the wastes of expression, I feel again dry ground, though sterile; From the shining sea I was thrown back always Into the harbours of regret.   And later the poem says— Memory is a poison; it has sickened my body. The cleavage of attachment has frayed my mind. Rabid and weary, autistic, spasmodic, Exhaustion makes me dance like a puppet.   The all-consuming mood is one of regret and resignedly considering the incompleteness of one’s years. Set against the past the present appears disjointed and dislocated. The summer of one’s life is nearly over and the retreat inwards has begun— … no one now can see the light in my window. I stretch out my arms to the disbanded But the flesh has pined away. The crimson sun suspended on the dark spire Can see me wander near the bridge.   And so the poem rolls on restlessly in its shifting bed, turning over and over, heaving, lapping a foot printed past, careful not to erase memory— I recreate a hunger for the dead eyes That tuned these discordant wires and made them sing, Walking tranquillised in the mist, under The serene and tender evening star.   At its close, ...

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