Book Review: The Four Colors By Ankur
Rakhi Dalal reviews The Four Colors – a poetry collection by Ankur and tells us how through these poems the poet ruminates over the images nestled in memories – streaked with hues embodying the essence of life.
Hawakal Publishers, July 2020
Our thoughts and emotions, like things around us, seem to be carrying colours of different hues. Even words that we use for their portrayal are tinged with shades of colours. Though, they are not as stark as colours in Guthrie’s Four Color theorem since they don’t map the territories of the world. Instead, they sketch the contours of mind – places where confined realms don’t exist, where porous spheres make the occurrence of feelings and ideas more circinate due to their tendency to turn up when recalled or encountered again. In any art form, the illustration of these notions corroborates the contemplations occupying a mind in a particular instant. And since their appearance may perhaps be not linear, they might get imbued with various tints.
Ankur’s poetry reverberates with the changing hues of life. He believes that his poems, his words, reflect the shifting colours of perceptions and reveries, echoing life. He has structured his poems under sections corresponding to different colours for the sake of compartmentalizing them, though he also makes it clear that the boundaries between these colours cannot be permanently marked because emotions and experiences are difficult to classify.
There are fifty-one poems in this collection, categorized under sections green, yellow, purple and red, in that order. Where, according to poet, green relates to birth, curiosity, ambition; yellow – disillusion in the face of injustice, anger, listlessness and fear, as well as making sense of the world around us; purple – reopening to world, leading to a rebirth, with attendant wonder, dreams, fantasies, as we become ready to love anew; and red – when we start understanding and accepting, as simultaneously we find acceptance and love.
The first poem in the first section befittingly starts with “mother, I” conceiving nourishment of soul by mother as the beginning of journey of life.
In the bowl of milk and prunes, there are many suns.
Morning comes and goes, but that hand keeps moving;
Lips know it, and a soul is nourished.
From a curiosity to discover the unknown “Small boats of paper—/ afloat gingerly, what’s beyond the rim?”(Sun in The Life) to musing over ephemeral nature of human life, running from sordid relationship or asserting the human will that fights the darkness in life “As it grows cold and dark and only bones shiver, / a piano fights against the seascape” (Iron, Iron…) and still hoping and dreaming, the poet wonders what to do with his thoughts “Sometimes I see sewn clouds / floating chained in the firmament / not knowing if they ought to break loose”(An Autumn Sun).
The poems in second section rage against the injustices in world, mocking our indifference and hard hitting our complacencies and hypocrisies.
we are free, we are liberated, we read philosophy;
we flutter our wings; pinned on the cardboard
we flutter our wings; pinned on the white, we speak black.
Now, let’s have a bloodfest; now let us make a better world
while the universe crumbles.(Go Stand in One)
Lamenting men’s wilful suspension of consciousness, their selfishness and ambition, the poems clamour against their inability to wake to a higher calling.
Go on, life, go where wild rivers rush to meet.
Here they burn like paper, with envy and admiration,
most of all, ambition. They rise and conquer cities,
master Word and seduce thoughts, they create grammars
for the flag to march down the aisle, the checkered floor.(Feuilleton)
The last poem in this section “How I Was Saved”, a two pages and a half prose poem, portrays an awakening of soul followed by “The Return of Life” as third section’s first poem which resonates with resiliency of human spirit in the face of pain and loss “The rain might come or not, the flowers will choose to live / and find the lips to kiss her;” Notions of hope, dreams and exploration of newer worlds, make way for the boulevards of unfinished stories, granting them life – a canvas to paint.
the moon’s not yet quite there, and the buildings are hideous,
at most a woman on the corner,
or a student lost in sartre and making the world’s riddles,
and there will be a step to sit, a joy to remember,
draw upon the painting,
there will be a canvas taut from one end to another:
a life lived and to come.(Story….Unfinished)
Faith and acceptance of life gives way to finding love. The poems in the last section celebrate life, exploring dynamics of love at junctures diverse. In the poem “Forefinger; Fist; Palm”, the speaker speaks from inside a prison, asserting his existence and will to survive in face of oppression.
Though they may lock me here
my pleasures remain, my deeds remain.
The choices are theirs to give
but the moments are mine to take,
and this is where they lost, this is how.
I might be the one who destroys,
but I have my love to give. Let me dream
of a song of the sparrows. It’s been a long time.
Admiring the vitality of life in nature and the love that it bestows upon those dwelling and dependent upon it for sustenance, the poet writes, “Under snow, the trunk of deodar shall have no ice clinging, / Intact, it will keep offering warmth, like / A beautiful story, a true heart,” (Where Nest is). In his elegies for everyday life, he remains hopeful in face of adversities, “a piteous wind howls, a dark winter threatens; / but the stars shall twinkle, burst,” (Elegies).
Love is eulogised in human relations, “…All we know is our hands in one another, / and our whim to live.”(Love is Blue). The vigour of human life, in the unfathomable vastness of the world, is extolled, “We are the unceasing, the cycle of this universe, / Time is our home, the lap in which we sleep / As seasons, we wane and wax, but remain strong,” (The Abode of God) and the strength of word, a poet’s refuge, is glorified, “As rain falls, life comes alive, in within / The whistle sings, and the Word lives in.”(Far and Near, Near and Far)
Ankur’s poetic style is sensuous – the poetry rich in visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic imagery as well as figurative language. Brimming with rhyme and rhythm, his poems offer a fine aesthetic feast, satiating readers’ senses. The poems, which require slower and careful reading, evoke a deeply emotional response and keep stirring the mind when read over and over again. With his poems, the poet hails the quintessential human spirit which endures sufferings in the world and still strives for life affirming love. While doing so, he succeeds in his fervent wish to invoke poetry in the reader.
About the author
Ankur is an Indian poet, currently based in Norway. His poems have appeared in several literary journals including now defunct Barnwood Poetry Magazine (edited by Tom Koontz), Cha, Voice & Verse and many others. He was also guest poetry editor for Cha’s issues 16 and 35. The Four Colors is his debut poetry collection.
Rakhi Dalal is an educator by profession. When not working, she can usually be found reading books or writing about reading them. She writes at https://rakhidalal.blogspot.com/ . She lives with her husband and a teenage son, who being sports lovers themselves are yet, after all these years, left surprised each time a book finds its way to their home.