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Jaydeep Sarangi


Jaydeep Sarangi: ‘Exchanges with the Thinker’







Book Review

RizioYohannan Raj
Exchanges with the Thinker
New Delhi: Authors Press. 2013.
ISBN: 13-978-93-81030-65-3
Pages- 129. Price- Rs.250.

Immaculate grip over poetic medium

Those who have heard of the therapeutic effects of poetry, and not experienced it so far, are recommended to read RizioYohannan Raj's latest collection Exchanges with the Thinker. Most of the poems in this fascinating collection would move your hearts. As they appeal to our senses, we unwittingly follow a call from within. And, we soon become part of their poetic process and together, we move on-the poet and the reader. The book is titled after the eponymous poem which was written before Rodin's 'Thinker' in France. Thinking here is about the process of gathering the courage to cross the border and identifying with 'the other'.

Here, an indomitable gusto turns the key to a chamber of elevated thoughts. Images are woven one into another with rare brilliance and effortlessness. Rizio does not find it difficult to articulate her poetic matter into a corpus that beautifully invites her reader's interest. No matter what we touch and we wish to know about, we simply end up in the enigma that her words forge. When poets engage themselves with such playful mystery of things, we end to begin reading again. Then, poetry invests life into dry objects and ideas.

The beauty of a poem is born out of a rich sensibility of the mind-a fine poem is a rose that gives a feeling that it holds something more to open, even as it blooms petal by petal before the reader. A powerful poetic sensibility enlivens even rusty metals and bricks; such imagination is like an intoxicating drop of wine that fuels the flame of creation. And, a lyrical moment of ecstasy follows. It transmits asynthesizing energy to the reader, and brings order out of the disproportionate and disorderly time before the creative moment. The stationed aspirations of the reader are pushed forward, and the poet makes best use of them with her available armoury. All this is true of this collection.

As we gallop from one poem to another in Exchanges with the Thinker, we enjoy a feast of ideas, and Rizio's idiom turns into a multilayered discourse.

This wordsmith has deep-seated faith in the wheel of Justice, which may have got stuck for a while leading to the oppression of the powerless, but will turn again to re-establish a just society. In time, and with sufficient effort.

At times, she writes about the potential, and the magic and charm of the female:
I am a woman; I posses
occult powers to breathe life
into your old coffers of whim. ('Wind', 24)

Some other times, what concerns her is the creative act itself, which lasts but for a brief moment. Impressions leave their shadows behind. We are all aware of this fleeting habit of beauty. Yet our mind is never satisfied with what it looks for. Now, the carpe diem motto embraces the poet and leaves her sad with what is not:
Each time roses come
I tell them to stay.
They linger awhile
in a lithe summer dance. ('Each Time', 50)

"Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement." says, Christopher Fry. Rizio unfolds her rich casket of images and symbols and the effect is amazement. No matter how comprehensive one's description aspired to be, there is always a poem that doesn't quite fit the given parameters. This fuzzy departure from all predictable sets enriches this poetry with a touch of mystery and uncertainty. Possibly, that holds the key to anything beautiful, and that is why poetry is man's delight. For Rizio, poetry summons imagery, provokes thought, arouses emotion and promotes beauty. It is a painting with words:
I am a listener.
people come to me with tales
tales
they make me blush,
when they show me my own furies. ('Listener I', 109)

Rizio has the capacity to transcend the purely personal and embrace the non-personal and finally merge with it. While her quest for identity makes her a confessional poet, many of her poems express deep sympathy for bleeding hearts. In contemporary literature by women, the feminine voice largely revolves around a claim for perfect freedom in personal matters, chiefly in relation to love, heterogeneous relationships and sex. Rizio has some poems on these issues and she is comfortable dealing with likeminded concerns. There is an all pervasive sense of hurt and languishment throughout. But love is not a Narcissus here; her mode of expression ventilates the intensity of her varied experiences and webs of thoughts. She is not a poet of wishful nostalgia. Rizio departs from the line of Kamala Das' nostalgia for the old house and for her grandmother, and makes an idiom of her own. For her, life holds a promise of connection between the outer world and the self. The poems reach across to that specific space where we all reach when we pause and reflect on what our lives mean. All that surround us is ready for the adventure and trust that would accompany us on our journey. The searchlight she turns on herself is one almost all of us shine upon ourselves at one time or another. Rizio is an engaging read whose bold, honest voice and dignified cadence has re-energized Indian poetry in English with the essential vitamins. The range of her images too is as extensive as her subject matter. Natural imagery obviously dominates this poetry collection, but among these images too she attains considerable depth and breadth and subtle variety. Rizio's immaculate grip over her medium is definitely commendable as it enables her to shift from one realm of human experience to another so seamlessly and effortlessly. She shows us things from new perspectives. Her poems engage us through the multifarious vistas of sensations and break the constructed stereotype, 'biology is destiny'.

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