GSP Rao: ‘Tapestry Poetry’
Avril Meallem and ShernazWadia
Tapestry Poetry - A Fusion of Two Minds
Pune: Self Published by authors.
ISBN: 978-965-91954-0-4. Pages- 109. Price- Rs 230.
Creating a new genre in poetry
'Tapestry' is a new form of collaborative poetry, weaving two strands of thoughts on a common theme. Highly innovative in nature, the 18-line Tapestry is a new genre of poetry still in an experimental and evolving phase. The work is a joint venture of two very sensitive female poets drawn from two different countries and cultures. Avril Meallem is a Jerusalem based Jew, born and brought up in London and a physiotherapist by training. ShernazWadia is Pune based Zoroastrian and a primary school teacher by background. What comes through in their work is a remarkable similarity in their humanitarian outlook of life, similar inspiration drawn from nature and same spiritual leanings. It is this shared sensibilities that would have drawn them together in the first place and helped them weave the threads of their poetic thoughts so dexterously in their collaborative work. If their verses seamlessly merge, credit should go to their common outlook on life and matters. If their perceptions were not so close to each other's, whether this venture would have succeeded so well is difficult to say.
As they define in the Preface, Tapestry is a collaborative poetry writing by two poets where each composes a 9-line poem on a common theme and these are then interlaced into an 18-line poem, merging both streams of thoughts and that would stand on its own. Editing is restricted to achieve a smooth flow of language and to iron out rough edges in the juxtaposition of ideas and metaphors. The authors have aptly chosen the name 'Tapestry' for the amalgamated verse to denote the weaving of warps and wefts of the two streams of thoughts. While the hallmark of the book is the skillful merging of poetic flow of ideas of the two writers, what also stands out is their fine poetic sensibilities and felicity of expression.Both come through as highly gifted poets who present their perception of life and nature with simplicity and compactness. The themes chosen are fairly broad based, even touching upon issues of social injustice and gender discrimination. In many of the poems, the spiritual yearnings of the two poets come through strongly.
Poetry is all about expressing our innermost feelings and often becomes the medium of self-introspection and discovery. It also takes us on imaginative flights into the realm of the unknown. Avril and Shernaz take these flights with felicity, drawing lessons from nature and life around us. The individual poems are kept concise at 9 lines that does not give the luxury of elaboration. The combined poem is reasonably compact at 18-lines, neither too short nor too long. With the mix of the two streams of ideas, the content gets some elaboration.
The book is more about the effort involved in weaving the strands together, to give birth to a new poem that should offer a smooth flow of thoughts and words. It should stand as a complete and well-structured poem in itself. The challenge lies in integrating the two poems through adroit editing. Avril and Shernaz had decided that they would retain most of the words and metaphors of the original poems and that editing would be as minimal as possible. By and large they succeed in this and they come through as master craftsmen in seamlessly stitching the two strands of thoughts. Initially they thought they could merge the poems line by line but soon realised that to integrate the ideas and metaphors this was not always possible and that certain extent of restructuring and repositioning of the lines was unavoidable. The more important aim was to retain the two threads of thoughts and interweave them through skillful editing. The authors succeed in this.
It is only rarely in the book that the weaving of lines gives a feeling that it could have been better handled. Just to give one example, lines in the first stanza of the combined poem 'Beneath the Waves', reads: 'as I dive into the tranquillity / under the rippling surface / of the raging sea'. The terms 'rippling surface' and 'raging sea' were used separately in the two original poems. They have been brought together here with the objective of retaining most of original words. However, together they don't jell well as a 'raging sea' would have a roaring wave rather than a rippling surface. While editing stronger focus needs to be on retaining the ideas, even if it means sacrificing certain original terms. This has been pointed out here only to emphasise that over eagerness to retain original words and metaphors could be avoided in tapestry. As suggested earlier such instances are extremely rare in the book and editing has been handled quite effectively in the book.
Both Avril and Shernaz should be complimented for their joint enterprise and creating a worthwhile 18-line new genre of poetry. The success of Tapestry in the long run would depend on how many poets would be willing to work on such a collaboration with another poet (preferably with similar bent of mind) rather than seek glory in work that has stamp of their individuality.