Indian Poetry, in general, and across languages, has always sided with the sentiments, concerns, thoughts, traditions, problems and solutions that resemble people’s aspirations. The poems in the pre-independence era echoed the need to be independent. The poems of the post-independence era reverberated about the causes of good governance and other issues that concern the general population. In English, poets like Sarojini Naidu and Sri Aurobindo wrote about the concerns of the country before we got our independence. Once we were free, poets like Mahapatra, Ezekiel, and Kolatkar voiced the social issues (not solely). And the tradition goes on. Today, I am discussing a recent poetry collection by a very young and talented poet Arav Rajesh – Melodies of Society. The subjects that this poetry collection deals with reminded me of these poets from the past.
The poetry collection is about 50 pages long and includes 14 poems decorated with illustrations, opinions and reviews by a few noted personalities, brief introductions to the themes and subjects of each poem by the poet himself. A small package that contains some of the most intense poems written by a teenager (I have read hitherto). Ironically, these are not love poems or poems about someone’s eyes and lips. Arav Rajesh, surprisingly, has used his poetic skills to inspire his readers to ponder various situations – poverty, political hopelessness, human trafficking and child labour, inequality and social justice, and the havoc that out-of-the-blue global pandemics can unleash upon humanity. These are the themes that only mature poets can risk writing!
The poems have been written in a prosaic style, in general. However, there are rhyming and lyrical treatments to the sentences as well. Well, it is not the style of writing in these poems that compelled me to put this article. It is the choice of themes and grave subjects by the poet. For example, a poem in the collection titled Why Me discusses the discrimination that many still face in our society… and if they are mentally not strong (in many cases), they might succumb to such alienation. The poet writes:
The anxiety continues, debilitating its victims
Why did it choose me?
Is it because I look different; my features often make me stand
Differences are meant to be embraced, but the slurs compel me to
Likewise, there are other poems like Slain Dreams and The Weight of a Thousand Bricks that would make any reader think about the social conditions we live. Arav tries to portray his emotions and observations in a distinct style, by embracing the identity of the protagonist himself and thinking like one.
While one can conveniently observe that the poet enters into the sphere of poetry with overpowering emotions, he also thinks and experiences. About poetry, emotions and this relation, the poet has very unique ideas. In Arav’s own words:
“Poetry, though traditionally existing in an emotional sphere, is essentially about expressing matters of the heart. However, emotions are determined by experience and experience is determined by one’s environment. Our environment is the aggregation of the people and ideas around us, which is why poetry discussing social mechanisms is of the utmost sincerity.”
When you read the poems on the democratic problems, social fabric of the country, terrorism at large, inequality and injustice in this debut poetry collection by Arav, these words quoted above may instantly flash in front of your eyes.
Overall, Melodies of Society lives up to the straightforward title. The poems indeed come directly from society. However, these poems are not sweet or pleasant melodies, exactly. These poems rather strike the problematic chords of our society and compel us to think whether we enjoy these melodies or we may need to get rid of the old, weary and difficult strings that voice these melodies. The poetry collection poses questions, difficult ones. Answering such questions is not an easy task.
Aesthetically, these poems are composed with passion and emotion only. Reality and rhythm further enhance the appearance of these compositions. However, somehow, these poems linger upon one centre and seldom move to the next – a reader may enjoy seeing problems and probable ideas to overcome the same. Nevertheless, this opinion does not take away anything from this young poet’s attempts at poetry. Melodies of Society is a must-read for anyone who loves reading Indian English poetry.
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Review by Chitra for Active Reader
Melodies of Society by Arav Rajesh – Book Review
- ACTIVE Score
These are some of the most thought-provoking poems by a very young poet. A must-read poetry collection!