I accept that writing poetry does mar my objectivity as a poetry critic. However, I will also maintain that it is not a usual business and it only happens at times. As a reader who reads my critical opinions on books, you might ask the question – when does it happen? When do I let my personal biases guide my critical efforts? And the answer to such questions will be quick, frank and unscripted. I lose my objectivity only when I find that the poetry I am reading is trash and meaningless and without the very idea called poetry. Therefore, I am mostly very selective in terms of my reading choices. I pick up the titles after initial verification and also looking for a certain degree of poetic depth. After many days (or months you can say) I have picked up a title by Sanjana Saksena, an emerging poet from India (Bangalore). Sisyphus is Happy and Selected Poems is a collection that only contains 10 poems — a harbour only having 10 ships inviting the traders to invest and purchase? Interesting, isn’t it? And that is why some of the leading book review websites in India have already taken a note of it.
The title is extracted from the Greek depth that has Sisyphus, a cruel king punished by Gods. The poem dedicated to Sisyphus is the very first poem in the collection and it adds beauty to an ugly life that Sisyphus is having. A highly monotonous task of pushing the spherical rock on a hill and continuing it for eternity could have been infinitely painful and soul-wrenching for Sisyphus but Sanjana’s imagination has added beauty to it and showed a way that Sisyphus could follow and become happy. What a man’s life without purpose would be? And the purpose of Sisyphus’ life is pushing the rock to the peak… and he should relish it.
The next poem talks about a traveller who has travelled the world just by reading the books. The ancient world, future world, present world, Asia, Europe, Africa and so on and so forth… book is a ticket that can offer the readers a package that no other tour company could ever think of. The poet’s excitement is worthy of being read in verse. A Tale of Two Women takes the readers back to the time of Mahabharata and to the Trojan War. Hellen and Draupadi are the subjects whom the poet presents as the helpless human beings who were made the cause of destruction without their will. Though the subject is debatable, the poet’s imagination and its link with powerful expression are commendable.
Society Tree has been there seeing everything that goes underneath it. Birth, life, death and the cycle goes on… Sanjana has expressed her feelings very well in this poem which is longer compared to others in the collection. Poems like Ladybug and Passport Stamp are purely subjective expressions of the poet that lead the readers to the ecstasy that the poet may have felt and wants to invoke the same in her readers as well.
Terror and Prisoners are powerful expressions taking the form of impactful poetry. Readers will the persuasive strength of Sanjana and the way she takes the readers to the strength of her art is praiseworthy.
There are flaws in the poetry collection as well. The first one is that it is very short and leaves the readers in a want for more. That can easily be dealt with by the poetess in the next poetry collections she may publish. On a serious note, the poems are unpoetic and by this expression, I mean that the verse is persuasive and impactful most of the times but lacks the symmetry in terms of lyrical qualities. Rhyme is largely absent and for most of the readers who read poetry, it takes the priority before anything else in the poems they read. Though the poet might have her reasons to suspend rhyme and trade it for reason.
The strength of Sanjana’s verse lies in her selection of the topics and she has been successful in expressing most of it beautifully. Her poems provoke the readers to think and this is the perfection most of the poets strive to achieve. Though it is her very first collection and we have only a glimpse of her art, it has been impactful and effective.
If you want to have a taste of it, you can get a copy for yourself from Amazon India by clicking the link below.
Sisyphus is Happy and Selected Poems
I liked the conviction in the poetry of Sanjana Saksena. It does seem lacking in terms of lyrical beauty and aesthetic embellishments, it has plenty of strength measures – themes, issues and impactful expression.