Today, I present a book review by literary editor L B Chhetri on poet Bhisma Upreti‘s book ‘What if the Sky Falls?’
A love of life in What if the Sky Falls?
– L B Chhetri
Bhisma Upreti, a well-known poet and essayist of Nepal who has several books to his credit, has come out this time with ‘What if the Sky Falls?’ The more affectionate about this creation is that it is published by GREY SPARROW, an America publishing house. It’s a collection of 28 poems, initially composed in Nepali and translated by different translators from Nepal only.
Out of 28 poems, 14 are titled from Natural objects such as Rivers, Hills, Seas, and Flower etc., illustrating the poet’s attachment with nature. He sees deep meaning in these natural objects and through these meanings, the poet tries to establish the relationship between man and nature. For example, his first poem ‘River – I’, may leave an impression on readers that to the poet the relationship between nature and man is somewhat problematic,
In the flood last year
my parents were lost to it
but, in the very second poem ‘River – II’, the poet reconciles and paints in admiration the beauty of the river, a meaning, to some extent, beyond ordinary people’s observation.
On the rivers,
thoughts and feelings surge, then subside like ripples
their softness settles in my heart
as their dynamism moves towards my feet.
A good reader will notice the poet’s love of nature in ‘their softness settles in my heart’. Similarly, in ‘River Tinau and old tree’ he discards the idea of contaminating rivers with ‘tears and blood’ because ‘it washes away all beauty.’ He abhors crime.
Bhisma Upreti enjoys liberating his poems from a set of meters and rhyme schemes, but his words maintain a rhythm with artistic expression. The poems in the collection are short and in some exceptionally short lines are used with frequent breaks (Sea I, Sea II, for example). This provides serious readers with plenty of room for pause and reflection.
The vitality of Bhisma’s poems is undeniable. ‘Black’ for example begins with a single line – ‘I am actually just a color’ and readers stand with the poet and visualize several colors standing in a row -red, green, blue and yellow. These are colors, only colors, but complete and each ‘carrying independent identity’ in them. Color ‘black’ is also there with enough pride of being a color; ‘yes, black which holds all color.’ The poet is dealing with enormous themes of apartheid, racial segregation, and discrimination. Through this poem and others, we feel how strongly the poet is associated with the causes and sufferings of the common masses. To me ‘Black’ is the best poem in ‘What if the Sky falls?”
The key themes woven into the poems in this anthology involve a love of life, question of humanity, identity, hope, social discriminations, etc., but mostly his poems speak on the theme of disparity and inhumanity. Two more poems in the book are most remarkable – the title poem ‘What if the sky falls?’ and ‘Sea – I’. The poet is worried about the gradual loss of humanity. He fears one-day humanity may disappear from the earth.
Poetry to Bhisma Upreti is life. He wants to express himself through his poetry. He wants to converse with his environment, with nature, with society and even with the god and for that he chooses poetry as a medium. He is sincere in his poetry. In diction, he is choosy in the sense that he avoids exaggeration. He seems to be reserved on several issues but his poetic voice is consistently in command for the material throughout. The message in each poem leaves an impression on the readers. ‘A Teashop Boy’ seems to be a simple poem of destitution but the poet’s concern is worth noticing-
with no school
what future does he have
and the light to explore it.
The poems in ‘If the Sky Falls’ exhibit a mature style and advanced understanding of the poetic techniques and wordplay. ‘Statue’, though a short poem, tells a great lesson. Man is not to stand like a statue. He is for action. Similar themes are there in ‘River –III’. Rivers are to flow. Human is to act.
Where is the first poem? As per the content page, River I is the second poem. Is it a printing mistake, an oversight? Or, maybe the beautiful cover page, portraying a picture of the Himalayan Range is the first poem (call it a picture poem) of Nature that depicts the beauty of Nepal.
The review was originally published in Asian Signature on 17 June 2018.
Presented by Dr Sangita Swechcha
Dr Sangita Swechcha is a Communications Professional, Researcher, and a Fiction writer. She has over 15 years of experience in international communications and media relations. She is a Guest Editor for Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI) and coordinating ‘Nepali Literature month’ – November 2019. She is a novelist and a writer who has written a novel ‘Pakhalieko Siundo’, a joint collection of stories ‘Asahamatika Pailaharu’ and a collection of short stories ‘Gulafsangako Prem’ in Nepali.
Forthcoming in English translations in 2020 in e-book formats first: A novel ‘Pakhalieko Siundo’ and a collection of short stories ‘Gulafsangako Prem’, titled in English as ‘The Rose: An Unusual Love Story’ (looking for international publisher/s for publishing print versions of these books). Her twitter handle: SangyShrestha. She can be reached in her email: firstname.lastname@example.org Connect to her on Facebook.