RAIN by Sudeep Sen; LADAKH by Sudeep Sen/Janet Pierce

Book Review

 – RAIN by Sudeep Sen &

 LADAKH by Sudeep Sen/Janet Pierce

 

In an age when the best poetry is confined to your children’s text books, and when new poetry is something you scratch your head to understand, Sudeep Sen makes an offering of verses that you can relish even if you are not literarily endowed.

His latest collection of verses, in two pocket-sized volumes titled RAIN, and LADAKH in collaboration with Irish painter Janet Pierce, are chiselled marble figurines of precise, evocative language and myriad hues of water-colour, from culture-quarries of the Indian subcontinent and the Irish terrain.

One of the most definable characteristics of Sudeep Sen’s poetic form is his economy of language- his careful selection of words for simplicity, conciseness, with sensuousness and finesse.  His imaginatively stylish poetry is evocative as is re-established in the collection titled Rain where he reflects on rain –“its passion and politics, its beauty and fury, its ability to “douse and arouse.” He compares rain to an “infinite quilt, one that buries unwanted narratives in the warmth and cosy of its apparent comfort.” He describes – “A typical start to a Kolkata day, more like an extension of last evening”- where he says – “Barek, our guard and gardener, sits outside….” – “There is a lot he could do, but he does very little, blaming his inactivity on the weather.” In the poem Bengal Rain he tells us how “Rain has sparked so many imaginations all over the world. But there is nothing like the rain in the two Bengals -West Bengal in India and Bangladesh.” Sudeep Sen’s reflections on rain are lent a strong hand by an impressive array of twenty leading contemporary artists that accompany his writing in the book.

What the poems in the two collections share, on the subjects of Rain and the Himalayan landscapes of Ladakh, is an artfully relaxed, well-groomed quality, sometimes tantalisingly withheld. The language is simple, the effect beautiful, and the craft-work sure. There is no affected sophistication, only a genuine elegance in the linguistic operation of almost every line. His words alongside the paintings have the ability to arouse an understanding of elemental truth and beauty.

Janet Pierce’s luminously exotic creations, her use of myriad shades of watercolour, on which in her words she- “draws on top and plays with the surfaces until they start to sing,” starkly bring alive the imagery of Sudeep Sen’s words, to transport one to the Himalayan ranges, for a spiritually elevating and rejuvenating sojourn.  Their collection of poems and paintings titled Ladakh- guide you alluringly through the Zoji La Pass – “at 12,000 feet slopes steeply. Hard snow cut into two by winding tarmac – a severe cold-slice freezing to a stand-still.” Then bring you out into Drypoint Plates- “Slants, slides and slopes of striated mud-screens – barren altitude’s blank-plate burr-” where “Soldiers guard this unforgiving landscape standing firm in their allegiance, mouths covered in black combat-veil, skin ruddy in UV light.”

After a visit of the Zanskar –Indus Valley, Sudeep Sen takes you along to Kargil where in his words – “Ten years on, I came searching for war signs of the past expecting remnants – magazine debris, unexploded shells, shrapnel that mark bomb wounds.” He is still your chaperon as he charmingly leads you in a palanquin of crisp words through Drass- “world’s second coldest inhabited town” into a Buddhist Gompa through Magnetic Hill, as Janet Pierce continues to hold a vibrant sparkler-torch at every page, to illuminate Sudeep Sen’s word imagery. The Prayer Flag reveals the synchronised, symphonic culmination of Sudeep Sen’s words and images, along with Janet Pierce’s brilliant artwork. Finally, together they lead you to Ireland and introduce you to Guinness and Ballynahinch. Your excursion forlornly ends with Annaghmakerrig– “brings India home to its Big House as it enacts a power cut-leaving just a hint of light.But the assurance that you can retreat to this serenity and peace by reopening the covers of Ladakh and allow your soul to soak in Rain anytime, is heartening.

Sudeep Sen’s poem “Choice” nominated (Prairie Schooner 86.4 [USA], Winter 2012) for a Pushcart Prize. Final results in April 2013. The poem also appears in The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry.

 

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