A Review of Jaydeep Sarangi’s Faithfully I Wait
by Jonathan Cooper
In his eighth collection of poetry, Indian writer Jaydeep Sarangi returns to his birthplace, the ‘forest bound’ town of Jhargram, in West Bengal. As indicated by the title: Faithfully, I Wait: Poems on Rain, Thunder, and Lightning at Jhargram and Beyond, (published in 2017 by Cyberwit Press, Allahabad) the collection is imbued with Sarangi’s consciousness of place and his love of nature. Simply put, his poems use nature to describe the human experience, and the human experience to describe nature.
Meaningful nature poetry is marked by both beauty and sadness: the sunset ends, the delicate drops of morning dew evaporate. Sarangi embraces this tension from the beginning of the book, in ‘Love and Longing at Jhargram’:
I am fast losing my green leaves
Or only coming to what is really my own.
Beautiful sunsets need cloudy sky
Nature’s beauty is heightened by its temporality – and in this, the poet invites us to hold on to the moment. Sarangi evokes other notable nature poets, like the Pullitzer Prize-winning American author Mary Oliver. To sample from her poem ‘Fall Song’:
I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when Autumn
flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay – how everything lives, shifting
from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.
Sarangi asks us to contemplate the transience of our own lives. Friends and family members die, but then almost concurrently we find ourselves holding hands with our children and grandchildren. The poem ‘Mango Tree’ brings you into the shade, as a place to contemplate life’s passing nature:
As wagons of life move towards the eternal,
A quiet rise and fall under the mango tree, pure air.
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Jaydeep Sarangi – Author of Faithfully I await
Sarangi’s poems embrace a certain fluidity. Within a single poem, a single stanza, or even a single line one finds in abundance both the natural and the spiritual, the words flowing from themes of friendship to family relations, from reflections on history to contemplations on the future. This stanza from ‘Third Wave’ is just one of many examples:
Of what remains in me stretched
To the end of all struggle
I return each night, after daily joys.
My prayers are scripted on trees. The limitless.
You and I matter to each other.
Running through ‘Faithfully I Wait’ is a reflection on poetry itself. Sometime implicit, and sometime explicit – for example in ‘What is Poetry?’ and ‘Food for Poetry’ – Sarangi probes the fundamental question of why we write poetry. In this respect, his book provides more questions than answers, but this is appropriate. The question of art’s utility does not have a single answer.
The only criticism I have of the work as a whole is that certain words, stanzas, and ideas can read as ‘thrown together’. Sarangi’s book sometimes seems to engage in contrast for contrast’s sake. The lower case ‘save life, save rivers’ tacked on the end of ‘My Ringtone’ is one example, another is in the last stanza of ‘Dulung’:
How birds fly overhead
as the stream
floods hearts, green minds.
Until the last two words, the stanza flows from the earlier portions of the poem; however, it is difficult to see what narrative or poetic meaning is intended by ‘green minds’. However, Sarangi is comfortable with questions. He seeks to maintain a balance between simplicity and mystery, so crucial for the poet. In practice, this means that in a given poem, some questions can go unanswered.
There is an infectious enthusiasm about Faithfully I Wait, an encouragement to hope as one contemplates heavy questions of life and death. The style is marked by a cheerfulness that is distinct from many modern poets. Throughout the book, the reader finds little polished gems, as one might on a river bank, that become part of their own journey. To conclude, here is one such little gem, from ‘My Homepage’:
Angels appear in the distance
eyes soft as candlelight.
Jonathan Cooper‘s poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in various publications including New Plains Review, Tower Journal, Two Hawks Quarterly, The Statesman Journal, and Poetry Pacific. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.