Book Review: The Remnant Glow by Meera Chakravorty and Elsa Maria Lindqvist

By Nilesh Mondal

remnant-glowIt isn’t rare for a poetry book to plunge its readers into uncertainty regarding how to perceive it. The Remnant Glow does the same, at times feeling like intriguing monologues between two strangers who’ve met at a convention or on a flight to the said convention, and then switching into an interesting back-and-forth banter between two friends who have known each other all their lives. These two voices, sturdy but distinctive, bring a much-needed balance to the book, and can be considered probably the greatest triumph of this beautiful collection.

The Remnant Glow is published by Writers Workshop, and in all respects, bears the trademark exquisiteness that comes with every WW publication. Gold embossed, hand stitched, hand-bound with handloom sari cloth, this book is a joy to possess, if only for its sheer aesthetics. The book is divided into two parts, one for each poet, with each section containing 20 poems.

The first part, which contains poems by Meera Chakravorty, manages to successfully set the tone for the collection, as well as give us a detailed insight into the poet’s perception of the city around her. The poems deal with a myriad variety of themes, but the unifying trait they all possess is the intense voice of the poet, which doesn’t falter at any point. An example of her unwavering narration is found in the poem “In Harmony”, which talks about the time when at a children’s play, the actress playing Sita decided to willingly accompany Ravana, much to the amusement of the audience. Another poem, and one of my personal favourites, is about a coconut tree which was struck by lightning and in the process, saved the poet from being the victim instead.
“That day I felt the agony of living at the cost of someone,
whose roots and tendrils I will never see again.
The tree stands still in our garden, but not solitary
totally un-green but straight
without any vile shadows ever and yet; we address ‘his’ species in neuter gender.”
Although a couple of her poems teeters on the brink of becoming pedantic, the majority of her work features minute observations, a strong sense of nostalgia, and multiple mentions of those who have influenced her, from Chinua Achebe to Sherlock Holmes.

After a strong first act, I wondered if the second act would be able to weigh up to the expectations I had subconsciously let flock into my mind. Would the transition be smooth, or would the two parts have too much distance between themselves?

Thankfully, for the second part, Elsa Maria Lindqvist works her words into an excellence which shines forth from the very first of her poems. She dives on head first into the depths of honest emotions and memories which clearly bear the weight of having stayed with her for all this while, not conjured at whim. Her poems often seem magical, transforming familiar circumstances or people into a spectacle for us to revel in. An example of this, and again, one of my personal favourites from this collection is her “Untitled” poem.
“In my body, materialized
Breast, legs, womb, much head,
nerve endings with domino effect
thrown out
throwing myself out
falling down or flying”
The beauty of her poems is in its simplicity, sensuousness and deep reverence for nature, which she claims influences her poetry to a large extent. An example of this influence is clear in her poem “Untitled II”.
“Fall asleep and have bittersweet dreams
where you play the leading part
voluntarily assign you that which should be mine – burden and meaning
give you a basket full of roses and thistles
believing you will – like a dog, from the unknown depths
lick my hand, kiss my arm”

It is hard to find any glaring flaws with this poetry collection, and with a strong first act and magical second act, this is one of the books which show a well-balanced relationship between sentiments and the words expressing them. 2016 has certainly been a patron for good poetry, and this collection reminds us of that fact again.

The reviewer is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Power Engineering. When he’s not overwhelmed by the intricacies of engineering, he lets himself sink in a quagmire of unfinished stories and unwritten poetry.