Letters of the Street

BOOK REVIEW

BY ANANYA S GUHA

‘Letters Of The Stree’ is Jasper Elias’s first collection of poems. Poetry in English in India today is said to have no market, but despite this caution, paradoxically more and more poetry is written in English. This collection supposedly uses the technique of letters to write poetry, the epistolary method of writing, which has been a foundation of literature for a long time. The poems strike a chatty, conversational note and address a ‘silent listener’. The poems are a blend of tradition and contemporary concerns of a hybrid, valueless society.

The one interesting feature of the book is the use of unalloyed rhyming or verse form, combined with free verse, the characteristic mainstay of contemporary poetry. Elias in some poems uses a regular rhme scheme: 1,3 2 and 4. This invests the poems with an artful rhyhthm and the cadences of such poems break into melody. Today when very little verse is written in regular rhyming this is indeed a daunting task which creates a poetic – realistic effect. Elias’s poetry is also marked by a fictive imagination cast in the narrative mode expressing a different world twice or thrice removed from the poet’s immediate reality. It breaks away from a minimalist mode of writing poetry which again is a contemporary or modernist trend. The poet draws from his imaginative resources to tell a story, say of a man who resides in a fourteenth story of a building, and views the world, his world from this vantage point. But the weaving of a fictional world, twice or thrice removed from the poet’s world, as he has lived in India all his life, infuses fictional reality into his narrative myths – whether it be the life of a person in Europe, or the persona going shopping downtown in Europe. This is the fictional element, which leads to surprise and movement in these poems. Such poetic fiction if one may call it gives to his poetry a radical form or outlook.

The poet’s universe is not necessarily morally flawed but god centred, where the speaker moves in and and out of a spiritual crisis. The frequent references to the ‘Book’ is an allegorical or Biblical symptom of a search for wisdom. The poems also explore themes of love and relationships. They build into their texture a refinement in the quest and meaning for life. The allegorical mode of his poetic stories is also a testament to a void that one can experience in life.The poems are both artful and arty, the latter through the use of movement and rhyme. ‘Letters Of The Street’ the title of the collection is a moment of reflection on life, its humdrum existence, as well as a search for the moral or the divine. The love poems are quiet and meditative statements of wish fulfilment.

This is indeed a very impressive first collection, not because of any pyrotechnics, but because of this wonderful blending of the traditional and the modern, the fictional and narrative resources existent in literature; which the poet exploits. Such inter-textuality makes this first collection very impressive and eminently readable.

Title: Letters Of The Street

Publisher : Partridge India

Pages: 141.

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha works in the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Shillong (Meghalaya) as an Academic Administrator. He has over 30 years of teaching and administrative experience. He has six collections of poetry and his forms have been published world wide. Some of his poems are due to appear soon in an Anthology of Indian Poetry in English to be published by Harper Collins.