Four Degrees of Separation
Collection of Poems
Poetry Primero: An imprint of Paperwall Media & Publishing. 2016
Pp 134 | 300
Eloquently expression and overwhelming imagery
Not late in her book Four Degrees of Separation, the third poem to be precise, Rochelle Potkar defines the edges of the poetic prowess that is to follow. In a small poem titled ‘Doggerel,’ Potkar describes the essence of her poems, and of the personality of the poet. She writes of herself as “The one who was completely out of rhyme, out of tune, out of line, out of time” (Potkar 2016: 7). These lines reflect the spirit of the Self and the World, an idea that continues in her poem ‘Pivot,’ undoubtedly one of the best poems in the collection.
Potkar’s verse is eccentric, and refuses to confide itself into tight fitting boxes of what are traditionally identified as the guidelines for writing poetry. As the anthology progresses, the poetic character deepens, the imagery becomes more vivid and the originality of the poet reflects through every word she writes. In fact, originality in particular is one of the chief characteristics of Potkar’s poems – not of thought, but of expression. The ideas she explores in poems have been explored before. We have read them in poems or stories, or seen them in paintings or movies. We know well about Mumbai and about love. But even in such ideas, Potkar finds something unexplored, something new. These unmapped fragmented areas of love and separation, in varying degrees, are what form the basis of her poems. These areas she explores with an unimaginable poetic poise, adding novelty to old ideas with her eloquent expression, and drawing images that are too overwhelming to have been seen before. From belonging to Mumbai, with its prejudice of a big city and the poet’s small- townhoodness, to the memory of her first love which reminds her of tea-dunked biscuits, she views life as “large empty boxes of weekends that need filling.”
However, in spite of all its personified beauty, Potkar’s verse does not come without a view of the world as she sees it, as is evident in the section ‘them’ of the anthology. Poems like ‘Introspection,’ ‘Family,’ and ‘Gathering,’ in the particular section, delve into the complexities of family and relationships, and provide an intriguing and honest account of an Indian household, with an emphasis on both – the togetherness it symbolises and the loneliness it might unknowingly and inevitably generate.
In the 134 pages of verse, Potkar creates, inspires and strikes – a world that is both entirely different and precisely similar to that of her readers, a deep sense of empathy, wonder and poetic imagination, and a chord that echoes of the nostalgia of childhood, the longing and yearning of adolescence, the intricacies and niceties of family life and the homesickness of adulthood.