Musings of the Everyday Wonderland : A Review of Amlanjyoti Goswami’s ‘Vital Signs’

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By Sabreen Ahmed

Acclaimed poet Amlanjyoti Goswami’s second volume of poems Vital Signs is a poetic symphony about body, the implications of age and the metabolism of the body’s chemistry to the changing world and circumstances. It is about how our mind’s response to the milieu around can bring us closer to epiphany. The vital signs of mind, memory and heart corrrespond to the changing stimulus of time when the poet says :

“In time. All in good time.
The poet will find the words to live.” (Vital Signs p.13)

The collection begins with a poem that signals the signs of homelessness around the Dighalipukhuri area, a lake in the heart of Guwahati city, where  abandoned lives at times seek shelter in the footpaths around its bank. His father’s presence, the timelessness of the beauty of the flowers grown by his father, is a constant motif in the poems which resounded with the influence of his ideas as expressed in the poems “Tropical Vocabulary”, “My Father’s Petunia’s” and “At the end of day”. Food is an essential component of his poetry: from Assamese cuisine of fishes cooked by his mother and grandmother to Mid-Asian Eid delicalicies, culinary delight reverberates with the joy of living, in weaving memories amidst varied cultures in a cosmopolitan world. Metamorphoses of the self is envissioned by the poet at multiple levels of mundane reality, be it the music of Mozart amidst the clincking of breakfast cutlery or the imagined utopian land Shangri la behind a bus stop in the poem “Shangri La”. There is  a sad rememberance of  the despair of World Wars in the poem “To An Irish Airmen who didnt die”. There is an allusion to Irish civil war in this poem. The Irish soldier in the poem remained all his life in the Jaintia Hills near Shillong in Meghalaya after being strangled at war and never returned to the idyllic political space, Ireland, that celebrated modernist poet W.B. Yeats aspired through his poetry.

The second section begins with the poem “Diary” which is a measured record of his wearied perfection. Religion and myth have a festive if not a didactic presence in his poetry in poems like “Durga Puja”, “Janmasthami”, “Drona’s Wages”, etc. Many of the poems are personal anecdotes on people or poets that influence him like Leonard Cohen, Derek Mahon, Maglesh Dabral or Hemant Divate. As the poem “That Other Book” suggests:

“Inside-poems who talked, poems who sang,
Poems who cried and laughed with you,
A poem for every meaning,
Who existed because they did.” (Vital Signs p. 115)

Despite being overtly personal, the universal nature of the poems cannot be missed out. As for instance, the poem “Difference” dwells with the idea of race nestled in the freezing moment of silence that subsumed the universal sadness of loss. In the poem “Little People” he talks about a group of folk performers in a village near Tangla in Udalguri district of Assam. The term “little” is nuanced as it refers both to the size of the people in height and the limited dimension of their occupation unknown to the wider world:

“They are dramatists, artists, performers in a way
Shakespeare would be proud.
Performing their life’s drama on stage, at home and elsewhere.” ( Vital Signs p. 100)

The last poem in the collection “Bookmark” is a testimony to an ageing reader and poet who loses oneself in the printed words:

“My eyes are inside the page
And I no longer worry
If I could be a different story.” (Vital Signs p. 118)

There is no exhibition of any strong passionate appeal through memory or metaphor, yet Amlanjyoti Goswami’s words of poetic precision bask in the romance of the creative commomplace. Inspite of the marked sense of stoicism in the poems, they have a wrap up feeling of contentment with a meditative gaze and  philosophical surmise over the everyday realities of existence. This often transports the poetic self to a mythic dimension of consciousness. His poetry mystically reverberates with the mundane music of life. The collection, published by renowned Mumbai-based publication house Poetrywala in April, 2022, is a promising read. The everyday wonderland concocted through a maze of measured words is the crux of Goswami’s poetic vision of peaceful contentment in concordance with the acceptance of the vital signs of living.

Bio:
Dr. Sabreen Ahmed has received her PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Currently she teaches in the Dept of English, Nowgong College (Autonomous), Nagaon, Assam as an Assistant Professor. Her recent edited book is entitled Interface: Language, Ecology and Gender in North East India (2021). She has published an anthology of poems, Soliloquies, and also writes short stories, articles and book reviews for several webzines.

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