Ananya S Guha saw the hills in many hues in his poetry: Arzuman Ara

ARZUMAN ARA

This poem falls from the mantelpiece
To desecrate the living room.
It is there, here, now…
– Ananya S. Guha, “This Poem – There, Here, Now”
 
One of the leading intellectual voices from Northeast India, Ananya S. Guha does not need any introduction. He has an established reputation as an academician and a poet and translator with a gifted creative mind and erudite language power.
 
It is a delight to hold his book of poems Hills of Slow Time and indeed a privilege to review it. There are 77 poems covering a wide range of themes — from local trivia to global concerns. His sensitiveness to the contemporary events and circumstances find a creative expression in his poems like, “And Roads…,” “Childhood,” “Egypt-2011,” “Winter’s Mood,” “In the Town that I live,” “In Hospital,” “Song.”  Guha shows a social consciousness by recording such events in his poems that make scars in our daily life. In “Childhood,” he writes, “Traumatized teachers/writing on black boards, wearing white. / the penurious were right. The naughty, crafty. / Examinations were a long wait in an endless tunnel. / breaking bounds was chasing the hound.” Our everyday worrisome experience of visiting a hospital is re-livened in the poem “In hospital” where, “…I glimpsed a hope/ even as the chatter drowned/ into the noise of hospital-talk/ and heard once again rattle of/ snakes in blood-bones/ the sick, and infirm/ we hoped will recover/ from bliss of ignorance.” Guha makes us re-look at our life through such realistic presentation. 
 
One of the major themes in Guha’s poetry is his reflections on Nature like the hills, the pines, rivers, the sun etc. He represents the objects of Nature in an iconoclastic manner presenting stunting lines and phrases, such as, “the sun on parole” () “The sun is a metabolic future, just as it is an arcane path” (Sun), “roads become/ a behemoth,” “roads are mere slaves” (In Wilderness), “The hills lie comatose/in disappointment” (Quiet Darkness), “Mists will unfurl spasmodically” (Possibilities), “Winter happens in myths of time” (Shadows In Hope). As the poet is born and brought up among the hills, hills occupy a great part of his poetic consciousness. Guha saw the hills in many hues in his poetry.
 
He feels an existential “oneness” with the hills, as he writes, “The hills I have known, paraded with/ my destiny, the hills that moulded clay/ into my mythic dolls. Yes these were the hills I knew. Molten clay, shrapnel hirsute legs the hills were/ not man made (Hills of Slow Time);” Again, “There must been a story in these/hills of time, hills of eternity/ with bluish strokes of the sun’s haze/ and a quiet bird falling/ into its oceanic vastness”. The rivers appear to be “…fantasy/ for tourists, photographers/ and the errant harbinger/ of news, foods and dithering/ danger./ Rivers are a dog in the manger (Rivers).”
 
Very often, a personal tone makes us feel the presence of the poet as the poetic personae. It also allows to visualize the events and thought as something that happens in our everyday experience- we become one with the poet while reading the poems. “Grandmother And Her Two Sons” has a personal autobiographical tone. Urban life is reflected in poems like, “Childhood,” “Possibilities.” There is a juxtaposition of the serenity of nature with the hullaballoo of the urban life in some of the poems. The Crow appears as a motif of (urban) life and deprivation in “Suddenly” and “Decision.” Similarly, the road becomes another motif in “In Wilderness” as “Roads vanish, they die, they are/ incarcerated.”
 
One can also find a philosophic tone in poems like “Half Truth,” “Lament,” “Hurt,” “Today, Yesterday” etc.  An explicit romanticism is also revealed in poems like “Possibilities,” “There must have been,” “When do We Meet” etc. The last lines of “Possibilities…” reflect a dream-like situation- “You and me will go./ Will go, to that nether land/ not where mermaids haunt/ but outlandish possibilities,/ of love.”  Guha brings a host of other hues of life, such as, relationship (“On Friendship), local tropes (“Today, Yesterday”), urban hazards (“Untitled, pg.66), seasons (“New Year Blues,” “Winter’s Mood”).
 
Guha has experimented with different styles of writing poetry. Most of the poems here are not very lengthy.  Short lines and inversions make his poems display an individual idiosyncratic style. There is a sense of abruptness provoking thoughts and daze, for example, in “Words, Heard Unheard…” he writes:
 Three words,
 ontologies;
 time, space
 myth history.
 Apostolic. 
 
Following a slightly longer line appear one-word sentences in many poems. For example,  in “ Grandmother And Her Two Sons” he writes, “I know, unexplained terrains I know grandmother as a psychic/ teller of tales. Fantasy.” Such one-word and two-word sentences are found very often throughout the book (“Those Seas,” “Untitled” pg. 16, “Soon,” “Wish,” “Void” etc). Loaded with multiple meaning, the words used in Guha’s poems really seem to have “surrendered to the poet” (“Words, Heard Unheard), as the poet puts it.
 
Poetry has been a powerful creative expression of the writers from Northeast India. This book is a contribution in enriching the Indian literature produced from this region. But do not run through Guha’s poetry. Take your time and reflect slowly while reading Hills of Slow Time to do justice to the multiple thoughts that the poems present.
 
Book title: Hills of Slow Time.
Author: Ananya S. Guha.
Publisher: Dhauli Books, Bhubaneswar, 2017
ISBN. 9788193546703
Price: Rs. 250/ (INR)
 
Arzuman Ara is an Assistant Professor of English (ELT) in the English and Foreign Languages University, Shillong campus, Meghalaya. Apart from her teaching assignments, she too writes and translates poetry.