Poetry review: 10/07/20
THE FOUR COLORS
Feelings told through moments - a scent, a cry, a colour.
“Word comes. Like mosquito bite” Ankur writes, in 'Far and Near, Near and Far', the final poem in this collection, “auguring rains, monsoons, dinning tin/of the roof, milling frogs sin.” It’s a fair and accurate description of the way his words emerge, biting, succinct, precisely epitomising every tiny, telling detail. It has a slightly staccato effect which takes a while to fully appreciate, and reminds me of Japanese poetry - although Ankur is Indian, now residing in Norway: in its sparse, visual quality, its metonymic use of a few significant images to detail a particular moment.
'Sun Behind Me' provides a particularly fine example of this quality in his work. Here he describes a border guard, only in passing, as “tight buttoned, half-sleeved, a bored face, a peaked cap” - a perfect collection of telling details to encapsulate an indifferent official. “I show my hands: they are empty, were always./Except for a few lines/that no one knows to read, and a pulse beating at my wrist.” The tight economy of the language presents an entire story with the barest and broadest of brushstrokes.
The Four Colors is divided into four sections - green, for beginnings, growth, curiosity; yellow for disillusion and injustice; purple for renewal, rebirth, wonder; last, red, for understanding and acceptance.So Ankur explains in the introduction, but in truth I found these distinctions between his words almost imperceptible: vastly more unites than divides them. In each section we see a clever, inventive use of language, decorated with glorious lyrical flourishes: his work has a musicality that demands to be read aloud, and dances aloft like the butterflies and sunlight that dapple his pages. This is an intense, joyous book, telling of a delight in words, sensations and life. Ankur has a poet’s eye and ear for the small sensual touches that craft a scene with perfect accuracy and inventiveness. He forces us to look at the world anew, like a child; small wonder children and childhood are so often referenced in this collection. Not twee, innocent children, children as adults would like to imagine them: more often Ankur manages to capture the sense of fear and isolation that so often accompanies childhood, the blind panic of being sent out to play a terrifying game before anyone explains the rules. Here butterflies struggle on pins and the sun scorches. Life must also encompass death and decay, and death unexpectedly materialises in several last lines, even in the sunniest of poems.
'A Village Shall Arrive' describes a child left outside - something, somewhere, it isn’t made clear precisely what; but the sense of fear and isolation this instills is tangible. It’s in the dusty doorway where he seeks shade, the heavy wooden door with the weighty knocker his child's fist struggles to grasp. “One does not count”, he says, over and over; this village is indifferent to his plight; indeed, they are “pleased/he’s learning life, he will learn….and thus,/an afternoon goes by, a beautiful afternoon.” There is menace here, but we only see the child’s grasp of it. We aren't allowed to understand its true meaning - or its savage absence of meaning.
Feelings told through moments - a scent, a cry, a colour. With a unique voice as well as something to say, this is poetry at its rawest and finest.
Review: Melissa Todd
Ankur - THE FOUR COLOURS
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