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A Breakfast Of Cereals And Denials

Lakshmi Kannan

By Jayanta Mahapatra
Authorspress, New Delhi, 2016, Pg 104, Rs. 250


Hesitant Light is the latest collection of poems by the renowned poet Jayanta Mahapatra who has read his poetry across the country and around the world in various international poetry festivals. His poems find their rightful place in every globally distinguished journal. The overseas editions of his collections of poems include A Rain of Rites (Georgia, USA, 1976), Relationship (Greenfield, USA, 1980), Life Signs (Oxford, 1983) and A Whiteness of Bone (Viking, 1992). Authors Press published his previous collection The Lie of Dawns in 2009. The blurb says the poet has spent almost his entire life in the thousand-year-old city of Cuttack. One can belong, and yet not quite belong. Despite its familiarity, a city we’ve lived in all our lives, can also make us feel alienated. Mahapatra catches the stillness of his city in which nothing happens  in the poem ironically titled ‘Happenings’. ‘In a town like mine/a warm March  morning by the river/could simply look at itself,/all alone, with nowhere to go/with the koel’s maddening calls’. There are two city poems.  In ‘My City: Poem One’: ‘Everything seems so familiar:/ The roads hanging on to their worn crutches/ The dry, sulking riverbeds’ And in ‘My City: Poem Two’, he writes ‘An untold bit of news/In the city’s daily newspaper/Plucks out/The heart of the waiting dawn.’ For poets, words are their battlefield, their comfort zone, and may be their last refuge against what may look meaningless. In the poem ‘Not to be Loved by a Poem’ Mahapatra writes, ‘Words believed me, I’d always thought, /yet one more word from me/would fleck my face with blood.’ It’s a constant struggle then, with words, written with the hope that finally they may absolve us of our actions. In ‘Homecoming’, he says ‘My yesterdays are only well-worn enough/to take back to those words/where I can make symbols out of ordinary things.’ In ‘A Self-Portrait’, he sketches himself unsparingly: ‘a long eighty years/just innocence hung, a loose and crumpled shirt/upon my roofless body, /And it left me short of nakedness.’ And he faces himself unflinchingly again, in the poem ‘Fable of the First Person’: ‘Thrown away from the body I own/even I doubt my identity/ Between his race and the next/ Between this sentimental song and another.’ Where people run away from themselves, Mahapatra chooses to confront himself.  We often ...

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