'Space' and Its Significance in Life and Poetry : Review

By Urna Bose

Title : What I Don’t Tell You
Language : English
Author : Amanita Sen
Genre : Poetry
Publisher : Authorspress Publications, New Delhi
Year : 2019
Pages : 80
ISBN : 9789389110265
Price : INR 295.00

Editor’s Comment.Poetry that makes us give a pause, soak in comforting stillness, and look inwards with nurturance and profound self-knowledge.

If there’s one quality I admire in women and men, it’s the ability to give space.
To create, weave, stitch and sew pockets of healthy, regenerative space. No matter what the relationship is –parent and child, husband and wife, siblings, friends, colleagues or even neighbours.

Almost as a natural corollary, clingy, attention-seeking tacks and techniques feel silly, namby-pamby, and kindergarten-ish, as we grow older and seek more substance and meaning in life, friendships, and relationships.

Space is artistry. Space is hard work. Space is elegance. Space is the dainty needle flying in and out, stitching together the fabric of life, its myriad ups and downs, its inadvertent highs and lows. Yet the term ‘space’ is seen as nebulous, foggy, and wishy-washy by many. Instead of paying it the respect that it demands, ‘space’ is often misconstrued as indifference, neglect, or arrogance.

This beautiful thing called ‘space’ sadly and shockingly often takes up the hideous contours of some sort of “Satan”. Whereas, it is really “The Holy Grail” of what modern wellness gurus call the philosophy of “Live and let live”.

‘Space’ in poetry, if you ask me, means that the poet has lived a layered, nuanced, multi-faceted life to know how much to say, and how much to leave to the reader’s imagination. Space in poetry almost creates a positive, nurturing energy field of its own. Perhaps it is this very thing that drew me to read, What I Don’t Tell You by Amanita Sen. The book has been published by the New Delhi-based reputed Authorspress Publication, founded by the inimitable Sudarshan Kcherry, one of the most stalwart figures in the contemporary Indian publishing scene.

Amanita Sen writes both in English and Bengali and believes in soulful living through poetry. Her English poems have been featured in many prestigious global anthologies and journals. Snowy Egret, Atunis Poetry, Glomag, Our Poetry Archive, Spillwords are only a handful of them. Her Bengali poems too have been published in numerous journals in India, Bangladesh and the USA. She is a mental health professional based in Kolkata, India.

But before I dive into an analysis of her poems, I must talk about the nostalgia-inducing blue cover, featuring the tight latticework of the iron grill that covers the windows of our concrete-jungle apartments. And amid that iron grillwork, is a large window giving us a glimpse of the towering apartments outside, a cluster of trees and an earthen pot holding blossoms. Yet, at another level, this window tells me about the poet’s love for poetry. It seems to me that the expansive window on the cover, is really a cursory warming-up, the first glimpse into the soul and heart of the poet.

‘The Healer,’ the very first poem from the collection of 60 poems is a deep, intensely reflective poem that says so much about who we become, as we learn to process our own hurts and anguish. It’s a poem about becoming, unbecoming and becoming, all over again. ‘The Healer’, true to its name, healed me with its wisdom and is a gentle, soothing balm for anyone who has not yet embarked on the journey of deep-seated, internal healing. ‘The Healer’ closely looks at how perhaps the way one “grows” into a healer, is only after he or she learns to live through bitter bruises and scorching burns, thus surviving the essential rite of passage. Amanita writes,

“And then when I turned a rock
myself, that summer evening,

I rejoiced, attributed to me now
the rock’s innate quality,

I can now do to others,
what it did to me, heal.”

The other poem that left an indelible imprint on my psyche, was ‘Orbits’. The analogy of planets needing orbits to avoid collisions, and humans needing the orbits of their daily, humdrum routines threw me off the orbit of dry predictability. And, I read this poem aloud to myself, more than a couple of times, soaking up its quiet grace, its subterranean dignity.

“Orbits direct, guide, like
the moral dictum of Hammurabi’s Code
assuring the safe haven
of a flawless life,
in the regulated aroma of
kitchen spices and bath liquids.”

One of my absolute favourites is a short poem called ‘Sleep’. An ode to perhaps one of the most tried and tested painkillers of all time, Amanita writes,

“The way it cradles me,
kisses my eyelids to a day’s
closure, slowly erases from
the memory box those
stubborn drops of pain,”

Another favourite is ‘The Lights’. Caught in this eternal dance between flickering shades of darkness and light, this poem poured over my senses a deeper understanding of light. And, the way light stubbornly crawls through the “dingy tunnels of doubts”.

“For it took the dense of the black
to test the keen depth of the light,
its unflinching grit, calm, shining
through dingy tunnels of doubts.”

Amanita Sen has a refined, nuanced, articulate and sensitive voice, that has the ability to transform and transition effortlessly from the personal to the universal. She is a filigreed artist of poetry, and an impressionistic painter of words, as is evident from her debut collection of poems.

One is bound to get drawn into her verses, experiences, and emotions, which she doesn’t always spell out in the most obvious way. Yet her poetry will grow on you, and light up the hollow caves and dank caverns of your literary sensibilities. Not like the harsh, exhausting heat of the domineering summer sun at its zenith, breathing down your back. But like the gentle, recuperative, self-assured winter sun that tap dances on your shoulder, caressing your hardened knots and hurts. Letting you rest awhile, catch your breath, and be in the moment.

Finally, as the reader, you will reflect, ponder, and deeply introspection the poems in What I Don’t Tell You, perhaps because Amanita’s poetry is poised enough to give you, yes you guessed right, just the right amount of ‘space’.

And, ‘space’, dear reader, requires gentleness and craft, nimbleness, and observation.

Buy the book here

Urna Bose is an award-winning advertising professional, writer, poet, editor and reviewer. She won ‘The Enchanting Editor Award 2019’, from the Telangana Poetry Forum, the ‘Women Empowered–Scintillating Creative Impactful – Feminine Power Inspiration Award 2020’, and the prestigious Nissim International Prize for Poetry, 2021. As the Deputy Editor for Different Truths, she also devotes her time to the ‘Poet 2 Poet’ column.

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