How does poetry tell stories? Uddipana Goswami’s collection of poems “Green Tin Trunk” addresses this- can a poem tell us a story? Underlying all these poems consisting of three sections and spanning the years 1996-2014, is a remarkable narrative evincing reality, myth, personal trauma and relationships. The political, personal, cultural and the historical are interwoven into the texture of these powerful poems in an intricate and complex manner. Poetry can have a directness about it, and Uddipana Goswami’s poems make direct statements, appealing not to the head but the heart. The poems move from the personal to the folklore and the mythical. They move gregariously to the violence which the poet has seen in her home state Assam, for years. How does it matter if two or three people have died in a bomb blast? People have become insensate to such happenings.There is no anger, but there is deep within a troubled sadness, which evokes a lacerated soul, which shows the inner predicaments of being and becoming. Nikhilesh da’s death is another episodic tragedy. The poet empathizes with what he represented, but cannot understand why he had to die.
In the matrix of discord and festering wounds Uddipana’s poetry points symbolically to violence and love. Who is responsible for this violence, what happens when you love, your people and they die in this enmeshed violence? Are they all “responsible”; for it but why have they got trapped in this vicious vortex? Love is an antidote. But happens when your personal love fails, and you experience the deep laceration of violence as well? This anguish marks her poetry in a most blistering manner. Here is a voice who would simply love to listen to Bihu songs, narrate Assamese folk tales, wallow in local cuisines, but it is ironical that during Bihu one is away from home, tending perhaps to a broken marriage.
The book is divided into three sections: Jajabor Jibon, Personal/ Political and Green Tin Trunk. the “personal and political”; runs into section three as well.However section two is intensely political with poems such as “A history of violence”, “Laughing, bombing”, “For Nikhilesh da, shot dead” etc.
Uddipana Goswami’s poems are vigorously interrogative. They ask, but they also plead a little more for, “sweetness and light”. They are rhapsodical, experimental and lyrical. She gropes her way into words to eke out a particular emotion or feeling. Yet there is an ubiquitous love:
… I did not know I had to love you then, Guwahati,
When I lived, walked, danced, played, breathed
In your streets. ( “Guwahati” ). As Professor G.J.V.Prasad says in his excellent introduction, love is looked at in exploratory ways.
This is a fascination collection of poems – poetry of witness. Symbiotically all the sections lead to a greater whole. It is complex, yet real, passionate yet dispassionate. It is the poetry of felt experience and realities which are universal. Is love not universal or violence? Is death not universal? Are myths and legends not universal? Such are her “realities”. Yet the wounds are unmistakable. However in all this disorder, poetry survives. It is poetry which makes things real and comprehensible- the jajabor jibon, the life of a wanderer. She is not a pretentious poet, she is a poet who will tell you: “…look at the blood in the streets…”.
And, there are stories within stories, each wanting to “tell” !
Title: “Green Tin Trunk”
Publisher: Authorspress, New Delhi
Pages : 136
Price : Rs 195.