Poem Review: Image

I.

Who am I?

One letter. One question.

Let’s try answering that.

Close your eyes. Breath in. Ask the question. Who am I?

Open your eyes. Breath out. Ask the question. Who am I?

Who am I?’ is the eternal question all of us are in search of.

The question of identity. The question of bearing. The question of existence.

The truth is elusive. The answer is an image.

This image is part of a whole. Or sum of many parts.

And this image is formed by perception. Perception about the self. Perception about others.

Take a deep breath. In this review, we shall explore this unique theme of ‘I’ through two poems.

Poet Desiree Driesenaar’s ‘Fragment for Prying Eyes’ positions the ‘I’ as a ‘sum of parts’.

Poet Sourabha Rao’s untitled couplet explores the ‘I’ as ‘parts of a whole’.

Let us look at both poems at depth.

Poem 1: Fragments for Prying Eyes

Sheets of ice. Picture: Leonhard Niederwimmer via Pixabay

I dare to be me.
All of me.

Authentically,
radically,
me.

No boxes, please.

No nice.
No sexy.
No older
than old.

Nor even
interestingly
intelligent.

I’m all of that,
and more…
much more!

But what do you see?

My smile?
My looks?
My age?

Or do you get
a glimpse of my brain
doing peekaboo
around the corner
of my writing?

I’m the only one
zooming out enough
to see the full
flowing river
of my soul.

In winter times,
when ice sheets shatter,
the fragments are
what’s left for
prying eyes.

Just me. Only I
can feel my vibrant
dance with the
universe.

Moving to music
only my ears
can hear.

Judges, stop there!

You have no clue…

The poem gives a peek into the identity of the poet. The outside world, including her readers have a particular view point on not only the pieces she writes about, but on her identity itself. The poet says ‘ I see what you see, but what you see is NOT me’.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What you see reflects what you are. But that is NOT the argument here. It is important to walk through the poem to understand the locus standi of the poet.

The poem starts with an cognitive assertion. ‘I dare to be me. All of me’.

The floor is taken. I think, therefore I am. I dare, therefore I am. It is me, the whole. No dimension of me stands aloof or apart.

Authentically, radically me’. Note the emphasis on originality and dynamism, without filters.

Such a cognitive assertion is sending a message to the reader. You are way off understanding me. How is that? Your view is skewed and incomplete.

Being the beholder is the limitation. You tend to tunnel visualize me. How?

Don’t visualize me in a box. Do not fit me in a straight jacket. And don’t adjectivize me. No ‘ Nice, sexy, old, interesting, intelligent’.

Each adjective is one view of me that you get to see. ‘I am all of that and more… much more’, the poet asserts.

You see a part of me. The poet challenges the reader here. Each reader forms some view — smile, looks, age, or a glimpse of brainware, because they read ‘her writing’. Note the subtle sense of humor when the reader parses through an article forming opinions ( doing peekaboo round the corner) about the poet.

The burden of judgement already resides on the reader ( or the beholder) here. And any extrapolation is a subjective opinion, and may even risk stereotyping.

“(Stereotyping) is only for those without the imagination to see people as they are instead of being like someone else they understand.”
Tom Clancy, Red Rabbit

Let us leave the reader for the moment. The poet returns to explain how she sees herself.

I’m the only one
zooming out enough
to see the full
flowing river
of my soul.

The soul is within. But you have to ‘zoom out’ to see the ‘flowing river of my soul’. Only I can see it. I can zoom out and get a complete view. ( You can connect the chrysanthemum’s journey in the second poem here).

The tone of these lines again is ‘cognitive assertion’. The poet knows her cognitive abilities to seek and view her inner self, while others cannot.

So what do you get see? Only fragments of me. As your eyes pry through my exhibits — my visual images and my writings, you see broken, part images of me, even when you tear one of my masks ( my interpretation of the winter — ice sheet is again a mirror like situation).

The third instance of cognitive assertion happens in these lines.

Just me. Only I
can feel my vibrant
dance with the
universe.

Moving to music
only my ears
can hear.

Within me. Only me. So, it is the cognizance of solitude and being present in the inner self that is key here.

It is like the inner chamber of a boat or Star Ship Enterprise floating in a large ocean or space. And in that solitude, only the poet ‘ can feel her vibrant dance with the universe. Moving to music only her ears can hear’.

The positive cognizance that seeps out of the crevices of the inner self is invigorating. There is music. There is dance. There is solace from the synchrony with the universe. But I only feel it.

The last message to the reader. You are entitled to form your opinions or you can judge me. But …

Judges, stop there

you have no clue

But… you have no clue that a part image, a fragment of me is not ME.

All of me am I.

I.

Poem 2: Untitled Couplet

Chrysanthemums by https://pixabay.com/users/manfredrichter-4055600/

a half-withered chrysanthemum
crooning for symmetrical wholeness

Chrysanthemums symbolize longevity, fidelity, joy and optimism. Chrysanthemums blossom in abundance in cooler climes of the world. There are species, sub-species and individuals.

The poet seems to have chosen chrysanthemum because of its complex layers, varieties and colors. Like human species.

A flower, in its own, is part of a plant, which can bear many flowers. In a garden of chrysanthemum, one cannot tell one chrysanthemum from another.

So if the flower was searching for its ‘relative’ identity, it is a lost battle. The individuals are hard to chose from one another.

But wait, that would the problem of the beholder. Let us get back to the flower’s point of view.

It is clear that it did not search its ‘relative’ identity, from an external world. Focus on ‘half-withered’. Withered indicates a significant time has passed in the flower’s life — from being a bud to a full blossom.

The fountain of youth. A phase of romance. It would have been chased by butterflies. It would have been the envy of many admirers.

The beauty of youth would have flown within as pride and self-worth. I would not call it ‘vanity’ but a self-worth based on accolades. An identity carried in based on an external view.

Then, finally, it would have started ‘withering’. The same sun that fueled its beauty is accelerating its twilight years. The air is slightly hotter. And no butterflies or bees chase it. No human eyes, ‘pry’.

That is the time of solitude and silence. Things of youth, including the din of euphoria are past.

And it is time for introspection. As the inner search begins, it reaches a point of understanding the self. A complete image or a sense of wholesome identity.

The poet uses the word ‘crooning for’. My mind wanders to a stage, where, a middle aged human ( that is the metaphor that we should connect now), sings a high pitched soprano, which resonates and echoes in an empty hall with no audience.

And, that concert hall is the mind.

The soprano reflects a high pitched search within the mind. A search for a new bearing, identity and existence. Half withered and seeking within — the chrysanthemums search for ‘symmetrical wholeness’.

Before it all ends, before the chrysanthemum withers away, the search for wholeness — an identity that it seeks to form, and understand is a race against time. But let us not add another dimension to it.

Instead, there is a search for symmetry. Wholeness covers all planes and dimensions, but symmetry is perfection within the wholeness. Using symmetry as adjective, instead of a noun, is a choice the poet seems to have deliberately made.

When do you search for wholeness? When you feel that you are incomplete. When you feel that you are a part. There are missing pieces of the puzzle called ‘I’.

When do you search for symmetry? When you are asymmetrical and arrhythmic.

Now let us try this.

Close your eyes. Breath deep. In and Out.

You will start feeling the wholeness. You begin to understand about your innards first, then your inner self.

Now, add a rhythm to it. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat. As you repeat, you get into a wave pattern.

That wave slowly brings in a symmetrical, rhythmic cycle.

If your mind aligns, then you feel wholesome AND symmetrical. That is the search of ‘symmetrical wholeness’.

In the autumn of its life, the chrysanthemum endeavors to take this journey of discovery.

The chrysanthemum is me.

I.

The Lens:

A simple word ‘I’ becomes the most important word for us. Our existence. Our bearings.

And the question of ‘who am I?’ is answered within, and without.

It depends on whether you are a seeker or believer.

Seeking is within, believing is without.

The first poem brings out the poet’s cognitive assertion as a wholesome part, while the external world, the perceiver, get to see the only parts.

The second poem brings out the inner search of a middle aged person, to seek symmetrical wholesomeness.

The images we form, and others form ourselves, are kaleidoscopic. That is why, the question is eternally puzzling.

Who am I?

I.

PS:

For this review, I have moved the poet introductions to the last.

Desiree Driesenaar:

Desiree Driesenaar is an inspiration for me. Some of her poems and writings have touched me at the bottom of my heart. You can reach her through her medium ID and from there, to her ID’s on other platforms. Her Linkedin profile reads thus:

Freelance activity to combine what I do best in business (explaining complexity, initiating innovative projects, writing) with my passions (creating a world in which planet and people thrive).

My activities are e.g. in the international Blue Economy network to help build regenerative business cases. There is a future if we regenerate ecosystems and learn as humans together how to live happily as part of these ecosystems.

Sourabha Rao:

I hope to connect with Sourabha Rao through this article. I picked her poem through the hashtag #poems that appears on my Linkedin feed. I fell in love with this couplet.

I took the liberty to review her poem based on the topic I was looking to write on. Here is a blurb from her Linkedin profile.

I’m a professional writer, translator and freelance journalist with six passionate years in environments of excellence.

I deeply care about producing stories on nature and wildlife, social issues and art. I strive to write truthfully and creatively in an earnest attempt to create content that both educates and entertains, has impact and mobilises positive social change.

I am also a bilingual freelance journalist, contributing editorial articles to Deccan Herald and several Kannada newspapers. An unbridled poet long-listed for the Toto Awards for Poetry in Kannada and English in the past, I’ve also worked on an IFC (World Bank) project — a documentary on Indian sugarcane farmers — and have collaborated with many artists in India and across the world to publish books and comics, notably as the first person to translate cult publication, Zen Pencils, into an Indian language (Kannada).

Copyrights of Poems and Italicized words in my review belong to the poets. Acknowledged.

~ Ashok Subramanian

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Ashok Subramanian

A poetic mind. Imagines characters, plots. Loves Philosophy, Literature and Science. Poetry-Short Stories-Novels- Poetry Reviews-Book Reviews