Book Review: Sayan Aich Bhowmik’s ‘I Will Come With A Lighthouse’

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By Suranjana Choudhury

I started my reading with “Folded Sky” and imagined a scarred sky afterwards. Oftentimes I love this experience of not beginning from the beginning. That evening, the poem led me to a sequence of keen moments of discovery and joy. And then I started from page 1 and proceeded to read the next, one or two poems every day. Most of the poems featured in Sayan Aich Bhowmik’s collection I Will Come With A Lighthouse open into tender and absorbing impressions of life’s diversity and unpredictability. A rare sensitivity informs every aspect of this book’s arrangement, its structural divisions and thematic ordering. One of the key features of this volume is the poet’s engagement with emotional complexity, especially the collaborative effects of joy and grief, pain and laughter, hope and despair. Bhowmik’s collection is divided into four sections opening with “Longing and Solitude” followed by three other segments titled “On Love”, “Political Poems”, and “On Writing”. More than the formal divisions, the book has a subtle internal organization bringing forth a sense of continuity which holds separate strands together with remarkable authenticity. Moved by the seemingly insignificant and unremarkable things, Bhowmik’s poems reflect on the indirect intimacy of human interactions with the physical and the metaphysical. As he notes in “Somewhere Else”:

“I’d still be at the table
plucking the stars from inside your clothes
working on the order of words
I’ve been meaning to speak.”

Time and space are important elements in I Will Come With A Lighthouse. Through an enduring engagement with both, many poems in the volume bear witness to a deep attention, thoughtfulness and absorption. Inhabiting different maps of time and meandering around multiple territories, the poet makes us fellow travelers witness and collect impressions of the local and the distant. Here in the poems we see a vast span of details and   also listen to a wide array of sounds – “songs about miner” played by men from Salamanca, whispers of Shahid, Bukowski and Cohen “when the stars come out”, and sometimes even the sound that arrives from “the breath between a word and its forgotten meaning.” Doing this, Bhowmik reveals a deeper reality beneath everyday surfaces. One witnesses a deep communion between beauty and solitariness in many of his poems recording a particular kind of solitude that even “a bartender is afraid to cure” and then moving to another kind that belongs to “an astronaut trapped in space.” This arrested solitariness in his poems lives on in the mind heightening an acute awareness of such intense moments. A reader would be tempted to view him as a devotee of solitude conveying its variety under a vast span of moods and atmospheres.

Along with solitude emerges Bhowmik’s investment in depicting sadness and its synonymous emotions. His poems, among other things, cultivate the idea of sadness. Take this lyrical snippet fusing rain and longing in “Time”:

Instead, I sit in a corner
sewing patterns of rain
onto a pullover of longing.

Reading Bhowmik’s poems, one also becomes aware of the unusual perspective on sky that he offers in the volume. Over and over, sky in this book affirms a poet’s capacity to look beyond the ordinary. He gives startling descriptions of sky that establish rhythmic interconnectedness between everyday objects, changing moods, and inexplicable circumstances. Part of what is so striking about these poems exploring different images of sky is the way the poetic devices prepare a reader to imagine an organic connection between the abstract and the tangible. In “Fever”, he tells us:

Finally when I leave, I put the thermometer
in the mouth of the sky.
The stars melt, the fever grows.

And then in another poem “The Stamp Collector”, the poet writes:

Someone in another town
goes undressing the skies
and unlocking old stories
buzzing around eager children.

A sustained engagement with the craft of writing and a poet’s refuge in words run as a common thread in a number of poems in the volume. What does it mean to be a writer? Writing as well as reading, if pursued attentively, can make one aware of the sense of estrangement that they may evoke randomly. It involves connection and alienation all at once, the poet affirms in “The Ledge”:

Every evening, words and forms
abandoned, discarded and scratched out
met in an alley
more sinister than politicians

How can one not be captivated to read lines such as these? In making for himself a claim to write, the poet constantly negotiates with all the conflicting emotions that writing offers. It is the same with loving. Readers profoundly experience this truth, and that is enough.

Bio:
Suranjana Choudhury teaches literature at North Eastern Hill University, Shillong. Her essays and reviews have been published in different journals and magazines including Biblio, The Wire, Scroll.in, Café Dissensus, Humanities Underground and some other places. She may be contacted at suranjanaz@gmail.com

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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Fantasy”, edited by Atreyee Majumder, National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

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