Beginning by Mitra Samal

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Note – The book Beginning written by poet Mitra Samal is published by Authors Press. She is a bookish acquaintance and gave me her book in return for a review. I was initially reluctant because I was busy and poetry isn’t something which can be rushed. She agreed to wait and I thank her for patience. My hesitation also stemmed from the fact that it’s the first book of poems that I was about to review and I don’t think poetry can be reviewed as such (not by people like me at least!). So what follows is my takeaway from the poems.

There are 50 poems in the book and I read them over the course of a month. Beginning is accessible poetry for the common reader where people like me can appreciate poems without feeling the need to whip out a dictionary. Her simplicity is her strength. It is written in free verse. The poet said it was better than forcing it to rhyme and I agree.

Fairy Tales started well about the girl wanting to be the hero and her own saviour then became about a working woman being better than a homemaker, a bias which I never truly understood. Because work is work and both contribute to the GDP. What a woman chooses to do should be her own choice. Unfortunately we are far from a society like that.

Still got a Chance reminded me of Neel Mukherjee’s A State of Freedom which had the insider’s point of view as opposed to the outsider looking in here; the former worked for me.

Her poem Scars covers the entire gamut and this line really resonated with me – Scars that stay whether or not you want them.

Trust me Father is about an offspring telling a parent to let her fight her own battles. Letting go as an Indian parent (most just want to swoop in and take care of the problems for their children) is hard even when the children are adults. In this regard, like in many others, animals fare better than humans.

Will things be back to normal again? asks a line in Will the Rains Feel the Same. The normal is always changing but it remains our single minded pursuit to go back to what doesn’t exist and only remains in our memories.

In Clouds we go from literary clouds to metaphorical clouds in a seamless transition.

The inspirational poems didn’t quite work for me except for Rise. It might be because I wasn’t in the right mood for them. I don’t want to be preached to, I just want to be understood, and in essence, feel less alone. Rise no matter what is the crux of Rise. The last two lines I really connected with – Rise because rising is your culture, rising is in your blood,

in the cells of your human body and in the seeds of your soul.

The poem Grains of Dust begins simply but ends on a deeper note.

And then maybe the grains of dust would mix

And the air would be thicker and heavier

Because our union would cause a small storm

To wipe out the mundane stuff and start afresh

Live a Little urges us to live in the moment. We all know it but rarely do it. The thoughts of the past cast a gloom on the present and the anxiety wondering if things will work out in the future take up most of our time.

Some poems like the Future tell us more about the poet than the subject she has chosen to write about. That’s interesting because it gives an insight into the poet’s mind.

The Moon and the Street Light is one of my favourite poems from the anthology. Here the moon and the street light debate with each other about who is better and talk about their place in the world.

The poem Silence took me back to my childhood. It captures a simpler time in the past and contrasts it with the convoluted present.

When you still believed in promises,

When you still hoped for a fairy tale to come true

A Bit of Madness talks about how we are all a little crazy here and a bit of madness is essential, from the potter to the writer, to not only continue doing their jobs but to produce their best work.

The poet said that the poems were grouped together as per themes (also mentioned in the foreword) but it would have been helpful if the segregation reflected in the contents because I failed to see it.

There are typos and errors which could have been easily avoided. This is the author’s second outing so she would have known it comes with the territory. There is a blank page within a poem. Just a quick check before the final print run would have done the trick. It’s a shame because these little things take away from the poet’s sincere effort.

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