Book review by Rakhi Dalal
Title: Inqallab on the Walls
Author: Sutputra Radheye
Publisher: Delhi Poetry Slam, 2020
Sutputra Radheye is an Indian poet. His works have been published in several national and international magazines and journals. This book was published by Delhi Poetry Slam in the year 2020.
Inqallab* on the Walls is a collection of 50 poems. As is reflected by the title, these poems are poems of resistance. In choosing to name it thus the poet, in times disrupted by oppressive forces, seems to be making an attempt to claim a space for his resistance. Walls are spaces which have always become a site of defiance, of resistance of common man against injustices of State in a society. The poet appears to write with the intention of registering his resistance, and the voices of those oppressed, loudly for everyone to notice.
In his essay, “Resistance and Poetry”, K. Satchidanandan writes:
Resistance in art has a complex relationship with this resistance by the people. It tries to discover parallel aesthetic and emotional structures and create new languages adequate to express the new energy. In one sense art is essentially oppositional as it works against hegemonic ideologies and status-quo structures and ever strives to “make it new”.
The poems in this collection, echoing the voice of common people, reflect an artist’s opposition to the oppressive structures, like state, capitalist system, caste and patriarchy. In the first poem, “Singing like a Crow”, his defiance in the face of accepted structure of poetry comes forth quite forcefully.
You. Yes you. I am talking to you. Look at me. I too am a poet. Listen to me. Though, my feather is burnt in the fire of corrupt sun, I carry a bleeding pen. Ugly, and dangerous, I fly like the dragonfly. Cage me. Please try. My wings won't screech like the tyres
The poet’s pen is ugly and dangerous because it is bleeding. And though his feather is burnt he knows he can soar like a dragonfly and wouldn’t falter. This poem starts with a promise as the poet appears to challenge the privileged world of Indian English poetry which follows certain aesthetic principles and has long been the domain of a small elite group reading poetry in comfortable spaces. And just as the reader becomes engrossed in the voice, a little sloppiness jerks the attention. Why compare wings with tyres? One wonders if a better simile could perhaps be used, the impact would have been more pronounced.
This is a stanza from next poem “The Dictator”:
There is a hummingbird in my throat, dictator, Singing the songs of free beckon. There is a hummingbird in my throat, dictator, Afraid, who is not, of your weapon.
As much as a reader may wish to admire the intent of poet in giving a voice to resistance, the experience is marred by the evident laxity in choosing words for the sake of rhythm. This happens with many poems in the collection. The choice of similes and metaphors do not add to make the poems impactful which may have been the poet’s aim.
In some poems the poet uses Biblical imagery. For example in following stanzas from two different poems:
When I die- I shall go to the hell And meet comrade, Lucifer To listen to the anecdotes Of the first rebellion Of oppressed on oppressors. (When I Die) I shall light up the torch extracting fire from the sun To burn the forbidden, puritan trees for freedom Living hidden from the barbed gates in a corner Waiting for the comrades with kerosene to reach. (Walk Alone!)
In “When I Die”, Lucifer is referred to as a comrade whom the poet wishes to meet in the hell after death. He doesn’t wish to go to heaven, which might be the place that home his oppressors, but rather to hell so that he may listen to the stories of first ever rebellion. In “Walk Alone”, the poet speaks about burning the ‘Forbidden tree’ for freedom, the reference is to the rigid societal systems which oppresses certain classes of people. However, by making use of such imagery, the poet seems to be drifting away from his notion of reclaiming space in the otherwise established conventions of the art form.
As one moves along in the collection, reading one poem after another, the poems which should speak to you because they seem to be coming right from the heart, the poems seething with anger against oppressors of all kinds, the poems seemingly calling the readers, the fellow people to stand up and take control, somehow fall short on the intended impact because of slack, and sometimes very casual word selection.
*Inqallab — Revolution
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/ .
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