BLACK WIND AND OTHER POEMS
BY DEEPTI NAVAL
RANJIT K. DASH
HERE is a case where the poet interests us more than her poetry. That is because the poet is Deepti Naval, actress of many years, poet in print this year. She wrote the poems back in the nineties.
Deepti Naval has gone through a lot, going by her poetical testimony. An ordinary world ling would have thought nothing of these experiences. Even the Philomela of tinsel city felt that way about these poems some years ago after she had done a bunch of them – she confided as much to the audience at the launch of the book a few weeks ago. That lends a self-effacing charm to the book. Or else what would one expect to be given in a book of poems so beautifully produced by Mapin Publishing under its literature division, which has debuted with Black Wind? The expectations, a little later.
Is a black wind, then, blowing over the writer of these lines? It is difficult to resist the impression. The repletion of emptiness, of unmet desires is evident in most of the poems. The likes of which are of course among the stuff lyric poetry is made of. The poet is rather too self-absorbed, yet the reader may not mind about that. That is perhaps because there are pieces of delicate articulation, of vivid bodying forth, of evolved indirection. “I Float in Your Arm” (“You sit in stillness / Holding my self / One candle between us / And the world beyond…”); “Incomplete Poem” (“Yes, we could have made love / It was the perfect hour / Between longing and midnight”); “The Lunatic Is Out On a Wall” Parts I and II are among those worthwhile pieces which make Black Wind a good read despite the bleak aria.
The poems are not from a copious writer. Some of them are extremely brief. “It Will Be Difficult” is just one sentence long, where the words are slashed and stacked vertically. A sixteen-word wonder! The self-assurance of a successful actress does wander to what are moments of self-preoccupation – at times lucid, often desultory – in the first section. There are, certainly, poems which come straight from the poetic self when it is given over to the subject. They move the reader.
Black Wind dallies with a spare kind of poetry, and that does not translate into very good poetry all the while. A good few of the poems are rather choppy, a flaw no amount of cinematic technique can paper over. The use of ellipses is overdone and the orthography has not had the editorial benefit of finesse. Did the publisher leave that all to the poet?
Thanks perhaps to her overweening, larger than quotidian life persona, Naval errs on the side of creative freedom and experiment, failing to realize the value of tamer syntactical texture. Technical sobriety and a measure of circumspection would have stood her in good stead. She could have kept some of the pieces out.
The invocation of Sylvia Plath and Amrita Pritam – or is it identification with them? By way of two skimpy poems is a little fatuous. The gesture of it, if the identification is important to her, could have made do with prefatorily mention.
In pieces like these the craft cannot support the intent. Something remains something which raises expectations that are not quite met. It could be the poet’s craft, to grow into the fullness of which it takes more than a mere way with words. Naval’s celebrity halo can’t see her through if she thinks her triumphal tryst with the Muse will be noted far beyond coffee tables. There is considerable art to her poems, but that art is uneven. And then, what? A good deal of felt life, lived ostensibly incompletely – as in “Incomplete Poem” – waits to embrace the reader.
But then, here is handing it to the poet for what she haws for us. She is in control of her words. A lean diction helps to keep everything light and readable. The imagery in the poem, “The lunatic Is Out On a Wall” – Part I, is the best to come from Naval with the word-wand; and Part II is well-nigh a masterpiece of the poetic indirection, where the word ‘rape’ acquires a new urgency.
In the second section titled
“The Silent Scream,” Naval has more
worthwhile things to share, unlike the wispy mush
in the “Black Wind” section. This
section has for subject matter the tragic plights
and pains of women in a mental asylum. It is a
doughty portrayal of a women’s madhouse.
As communication they serve a cause, rescuing
the Philomela behind the book.