Illumining Strains, Sparkling Visions: a review of Shimmer Spring: prose and poetry, edited by Kiriti Sengupta

Shimmer Spring Front Cover

By Dustin Pickering

Existence aches of the same truth—the same reality is spoken from Christ’s mouth in Jerusalem to the poets of India, Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Shimmer Spring is a global anthology curated by prominent Indian poet and translator Kiriti Sengupta and published by Hawakal Publishers. The theme is enlightenment, and the editor defines the context in several lucid ways. Writing in a conversational style, Sengupta opines, “Establishing freedom of expression helps light play in our lives in ways more than one.” The anthology is not specifically political, but its social and political cues are present. I bought the book and read it on the evening the miraculous Christmas Star, or Great Conjunction, was present in our sky as if to symbolize the rebirth of hope after disease and destruction callously take lives and pillage our environment. Sengupta notes that “light is a common metaphor for all that is good, illumining, enchanting, truthful, or exuberant.”

There are many cultural views of this established metaphor present in the volume. Anu Majumdar writes in “New Desire”, “The prayers will come, the water, the rain, in the ceremony of one who is alone…it never once died…” Tabish Nawaz writes in “Destination”: “Light— / resting inside the puddle—incapable of hiding. / Springs to shimmer.”

In both of these verses, the theme of ever-present renewal takes form. Water reflects light in pure harmony with Nature, shimming as the wind breezes through it. Mamang Dai writes in “Oasis,” “The oasis is a memory of rain.” In the same poem, “The land is a master of disguise— / a burial place, a mirage, a resurrection.” The theme of memory in this poem reverberates with Plato’s theory of Forms. We, as readers, are also reminded of the multifaceted nature of existence. The oasis serves as a metaphor for place and its variations of purpose and use. It is not either a place of renewal or death, but both.

Einstein once remarked, “I have always believed that Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God the small group scattered all through time of intellectually and ethically valuable people.” Ethical light is a matter of importance in several of the poems. Gayatri Majumdar writes in “Painted Storks in a Surreal Dream,” “we can accommodate each other in this shared dream—it only makes it so much more delightful.” Geetha Ravichandran writes, “…light converged / outside my 11th-floor apartment. / Braving monsoon winds, / it stood above the heads of the trees.” In this poem, light is personified almost as a friend in the absence of others.

Writing about enlightenment is a precarious event. One must have a sufficient understanding of the breadth of meaning. Enlightenment is a state of mind and being rather than a momentary eclipse—we are granted access to its furtive sorcery from time-to-time. This appears to be the overarching theme of Shimmer Spring. The title loans itself to an understanding of human intelligence. Majumdar writes in “Dancing with Your Higher Self”: “The Higher Self is you—it just needs goading.”

The omnipresence of luminescence is another theme incorporated into the volume. The book contains color paintings from Pintu Biswas in the style of Expressionism. The illustrations are vivid and energetic, synching with each poem’s meaning. For instance, Joan Kwon Glass’ poem “Paris, June 2017” is accompanied by the figure of a lounging woman beside the Eiffel Tower met with a pigeon from the air. In the poem, Glass writes: “What I remember most about Paris are the pigeons  / beneath the Eiffel Tower. How when my daughter / chased them, they filled the esplanade like dandelion seeds. / What I remember most about Paris is that when / the birds took flight, their wings unfurling beneath / 10,000 tons of iron sounded like the collective breath / of every mother giving birth; at that moment when your child / is still yours, but not for long—not for long.” In this poem, we navigate the personal nature of truth: how one absorbs one’s environment through observations. In a sense, one is conditioned by such observances.

Some poems even navigate the dark reaches of Time. In Sanjeev Sethi’s “Orbicularness,” he writes: “Gaps in a poem / are for the reader / to tenant.  Sometimes / one belongs without belonging.” Sudeep Sen profoundly notes, “only in the understanding of what is, / is there freedom from what is.”

Many of the poems echo the language of spiritual traditions. Basudhara Roy writes, “like dust motes in memory’s beam” (“Reflections”). This reflects Jesus as well as Buddha. Sometimes the poems are deeply personal, as in Devika Basu’s “Memories in Mountain Chain,” where COVID-deaths remind her of her deceased father. This returns to the theme of shared humanity.

There is a wide range of poets in the volume. Jagari Mukherjee, Satishchandran Matamp, Sonya J. Nair, and Alan Britt are all in this collection and many others. Shimmer Spring is sophisticated and beautiful in its presentation, with each poet in alphabetical order and with only one or two poems/prose to each writer. The expressive color images highlight the central themes and accentuate the beauty of the volume’s presentation.

This collection is not for the weak-willed or -minded.  Each poem/prose retains a bright reality and sage wisdom. From cover to cover, this volume is intellectually fastidious. Shimmer Spring contains both prose and poetry, as the cover states. Rather than being merely edited, it is presented. It is a perfect gift for bright and disciplined students of literature.

Dustin Pickering is founder of Transcendent Zero Press and editor-in-chief of Harbinger Asylum. He featured for Houston’s popular reading series Public Poetry in 2013 and was a Special Guest Poet for Austin International Poetry Festival that same year. He was shortlisted at Adelaide Literary Journal’s short story competition in 2017.


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