Rev.-1 (7.1)


Teesta Review: A Journal of Poetry, Volume 7, Number 1. May 2024. ISSN: 2581-7094


August Rituals

by Ritamvara Bhattacharya, Writers Workshop, 1 January 2022, ISBN- 978-8195664870, Pp.: 53.

--- Gary Robinson

    It may be that a reviewer of poetry should strive for impartiality in order to skirt charges of bias: I will not do this because for several years I’ve been reading the poems of Ritamvara Bhattacharya and consider her to be one of the most exciting and original voices in Indian poetry. August Rituals confirms that she is a major talent the public would do well to listen to.

          In August Rituals’ initial poem “Hope” the poet reveals herself as a “trembling ghost.” Throughout the collection this ghost-poet traverses death and Nature, birth and the gods, and a gamut of emotions: fear, loneliness, and desire. She is an insatiable curator of observations and nuances – “aren’t we an exhumed history? / a wink of dust in the air?” To see life and death properly we need a poet to show us sights not only ethereal but mundane too: “I prefer to look at the long tongue of the lamp / on the wall”; sights that in the poet’s words dazzle and restore a sense of wonder to our lives. Poetry must visit places where most of us would hesitate to go: “She sails across lands, / as quicksilver spills venom—a semi-dark sun.” A poet must be fearless in this journey: “I take worms in my body for a dance” signifies the poet’s willingness to go beyond limits in order to wring from her ordeal a creation of poetry, to give birth to poetry no matter the torment: “My body rumbles with the weight of a thousand wings, days / and night, / like ghosts sinned / tremors run down my veins, / crackle a broken leaf, / strum a spent flower, / disperse decaying seeds.” What could be more unselfish? From her suffering she joins in solidarity with the sufferings of others: “if the world ends tonight, / believe—We have had our day.” But poetry isn’t solely about pain and suffering. Poetry celebrates Nature as well as the human condition: “If you listen closely—the song of the night is in the blade of a lemongrass.”

          Ritamvara’s voice is unique. I could spot a poem of hers among thousands. And what is her voice and what makes it unique? It is: “A pulse navigating—an incision on vacant bodies / in the endlessness of coagulated space.” If the human heart had the power of speech I am convinced it would sound like one of her poems. It would be: ‘…the song of the night / when the moon is curtained / by the dark emerald clouds.” She speaks from a great distance or a place that no one can see, yet she is so very close as well. She seems to fly bird-like to alight nearby: “in the thicket of turbid and motionless time, I eavesdrop.” There is a great ache in her work and a tremendous reverence for Nature that William Wordsworth, the great Romantic poet, would appreciate. How could he not admire these lines: “The cherry-brown rum clouds / cut out spaces in the sky / like collages on cardboard.” Her poems are both personal and universal. Isn’t that the sign of a genuine poet? Take a personal experience and hold it up to humankind to say: We share a similar experience, a common bond in this complex word of computers and information networks. Poetry has always shown us we are not alone, despite the isolation and madness we sometimes succumb to.

          So, August Rituals gives hope, as all great poetry does—hope in the face of what may all to often appear to be the pointlessness and despair of life. To allow us to see “God’s eyes at twilight.” Is it a coincidence that the first poem in this sparkling collection is entitled “Hope?” Perhaps, but I also believe it points the way to the journey it takes us on. Life’s hardships may seem incurable, but catch your breath, allow Ritamvara Bhattacharya to lead you on and with poetical flourishes you will see life is not merely bearable, it is a beautiful miracle too and “a peak that garlands the sun’s eyes.”




Gary Robinson lives and writes in Ottawa, Canada. He has written poems, short stories, and novellas. He is currently working on a novel.