I have taken the title for this review from a line written by Pablo Neruda: ‘I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.’ Poetry is positioned precariously between all that is subjective and what is objective, the expressive and the expressed, or cocooned between verbs and nouns. As Abhijita Kulshrestha writes, somewhat agreeing to this notion, in one of her poems in her recently published collection titled Ambrosia Sides:

Sometimes rebellious
Led by rapscallion wind

The poems in this easily manageable collection are ‘not bound by any rigid form’ and unhesitatingly usher in ‘elements of myth and mystique to nourish’ a reader’s soul to quote Bijayalaxmi Nanda from her foreword. Poetry, let me add here, isn’t meant to resemble alien arithmetic though it can very well link minds even from distant corners of the universe. Like poems that go about their daily task of connecting minds and ideas, the poems in this collection too are forever…

Tracing a path
From your star to mine

…and must continue with their unimpeded flow of weaving space, time, and mortal thoughts. This doesn’t mean that poetry need necessarily remain fixed to notions that are already known to us and must, therefore, also contain in their body the urgency of allowing the mind to caress the soul without making it too obvious. This is what gives lines in a poem their access to subliminal intricacies as well as joyfully inject them into the veins of every action that appears mundane to most of us. Poetry, when read by someone who has had no interest in it, must also feel connected to not just the words and sentences but the obvious and the not-so-obvious thought expressed. This collection goes on to do just this and brings the ‘mystery that roams the night’ to a reasonable distance that is tempting enough for someone to reach out and know what the ‘force of words’ really means. The entire experience is surreal and almost resembles the imagery here:

Wave upon wave
As I crash into the rocks
As I lie awash on the sands
As I retreat into the liquid beyond

The poems in this collection are ‘intoxicated by the possibility / agrees to ride the current’ and converge into multiple forms. They are like a drumbeat, a gypsy dance, and sometimes ‘a folded love note’ for anyone to come and discover in them the meaning that they are searching for. I sometimes wonder if it is a reader or the poet or the lines in a poem that are forever searching for their true identity… but then this is the sort of enigma that makes lines in a poem transcend the usual to become what is exceptional.

The magnificence of lines in these poems is such that there will be those who may find a Marquez hidden in them and then there will be others who will search for yet another famous name to link them to the poetry written by Abhijita. This, to my mind, is extremely unfair to the poet as well as her poetry. There will be people finding only inner turmoil or women’s issues masquerading as beats and rhythms in the lines but that too is like chopping them all out of shape. I write this despite lines where ‘there is a void / screaming’ or…

You gaze long into the abyss,
The abyss gazes back into you

However, I find this rather like a person confronting a question that should be seeking a solution than one who is simply getting torn apart by watching the shredder of destiny at work. But as I have said earlier, each one to his or her own interpretations for I am the sort who would draw smiles even on the trembling gray remains of dead embers.

Good poetry has the power to be anyone and it invariably leaves the reader to go ahead and interpret them as anything. This is because every poem attempts to be unique and hides ‘in the curls and the whorls’ or in ‘a quick pirouette’ one or more form of ‘mystic surrender’. Poetry, I must add here, must be read by each of us because this is the only way we would know that each word matters.


Book details:
Title: Ambrosia Sides
Author: Abhijita Kulshrestha
Publisher: Har-Anand Publishers
ISBN: 978-93-88409-15-5


Ambrosia Sides. Abhijita Kulshrestha. Har-Anand Publications. poetry
Ambrosia Sides. Abhijita Kulshrestha. Har-Anand Publications. poetry




Arvind Passey
07 March 2019