Home Book Review ‘Too Much Pleasure is Pain’

‘Too Much Pleasure is Pain’



Title: Illusions
Author: Madhumeet Kaur
Published by The Poetry Society of India, Gurugram. Price Rs 230/$25

‘Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility,’ wrote William Wordsworth. But poetry is not a mere ‘turning loose of emotions’ as the raw emotions undergo a great churning and reflection before transforming into poesy. Emotions spring out of the whirlpool of desires, unrequited love, life experiences, surroundings and unequal and unjust order, noticed by the observant eye of the poet. In reflective brood, the bard goes through various stages of observation, recollection, filtering and eventual composition. William Butler Yeats was perhaps hinting at the hard poetic task that it is — ‘A line will take us hours may be; Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, our stitching and unstitching has been naught’. It is all the more arduous and unusual when a law student, burdened with myriad laws and volumes of case laws, goes through creative turbulence and gives vent to her muse. The Illusion (Maya in Hindi), is a collection of fifty less one verses by Madhumeet Kaur, a promising law student. The range of her poetic treatment is a broad picturesque galaxy showcasing various human situations, relations, happenings and objects which have been beautifully cast in the poetic mould making it delightful reading. TS Eliot compares the mind of the poet to a catalyst and the process of poetic creation to the process of a chemical reaction. The catalytic bent of the poet portrays subtly how diverse human emotions, situations and the social psyche mould, shape and direct human relations, often impinging on equality, impeding full fruition of human potential and thwarting gender justice. The parental obsession to have a beautiful baby; diverse aspects of love; marital discord; life events and situations, etc., are the various objective correlatives, externalising the intensely internal, articulating the mountings of the mind and giving artistic vent to the poetic churning. The poems are not mere trances of thought but real life travails and tribulations, elevating the mundane to delectable heights.

The poems are delightfully short and marked by simplicity of diction and compactness of expression. It’s all free verse. The natural rhythm, the felicity of expression, proper words in proper place, touching pictorial description, the intense feelings welling up from the deepest recesses of the heart, make it delightful reading impelling the readers to brood over the poetic illusion in which they, momentarily and willingly, suspend their disbelief and are immersed.

The true mark and testimony of the power of poesy lies in transporting the readers to the realm of the poet’s fantasy. The illusions weave such a magic that the dividing line between the poetic vision and reality thins out. The poems, though not apparently didactic, have a definitive message or underlying theme making the reader contemplate and consider the poetic affliction or predicament, even though it’s illusory. There are poems on exquisite feminine grace and charm, love and marriage, delineating diverse contours of life and the eventual denouement.

A Broken Dream, Tricked, A Marital Affair, A Never Ending Love Story, Woman of Substance, and many others, are poems which deal with different dimensions of ‘beauty’ with which, down through the ages, poets have been besotted, and about which John Keats wrote, ‘Beauty is truth; truth, beauty-that is all/Ye know on earth, and all Ye need to know’. The inherent parental duty to safeguard their daughter from ‘prying eyes’ finds captivating treatment in Boon or Bane. ‘It was a fair day when a beautiful babe was born’ and in course of time she became the epitome of feminine grace and charm, but it’s distressing ‘that she got blackmailed’ and ‘beauty devoured her’ despite the worry of her parents to save her from the ‘prying eyes’. Not unmindful of the prying eyes of the people of insidious intent, parents still, and invariably, invoke the heavens to grant beauty to their daughter. This conjures up the lines of, A Prayer for my Daughter by WB Yeats, ‘May she be granted beauty and yet not/Beauty to make stranger’s eye distraught’. The poem is rightly titled, Boon or Bane when beauty is blackmailed and it becomes self-devouring. The imagery of the damsel, ‘her walk was a glide/Bringing high tide/Leaving a trail of perfume’, is mesmerising, reminiscent of the fateful Helen of Troy, ‘…the face that launched a thousand ships/And burned the topless towers of Ilium’ by Christopher Marlowe. A Broken Dream poignantly mirrors the innate proclivity but legitimate desire of ‘marrying a prince’. But she also wanted to pursue her dreams. She ‘wanted to be wanted/But was taken for granted’, but marriage being the overpowering social norm, she was forced (crushed) into matrimony. But when the couple is estranged and the spying close ones – their number is in legion – find that she is without a ring, she gets frowned upon by everybody. The spying-muttering retreat of gossiping people is always hunting for a scandal or swift to inventing one. But the institution of marriage is such that once you enter matrimony with ‘poise and style’ and even if the groom changes colour, you have to ride the ‘van of marriage’. There is no easy escaping. As in ‘A never ending Love Story’, the feet of the bride tread over the scattered flowers or on the palms of the groom the day she ceremoniously enters her new home. The tender elusive care vanishes in a short while as her feet hit the harsh ground of reality. However, there is a certain sanguinity as the core running thread of the poems is that with time ‘things will get better and they will ‘get together well’. A lovelorn lass is tricked by the ‘still’ or the placid breeze when suddenly she feels the fragrance of her paramour and she hears in her phantasmagoric moment the rustle of leaves resonating with his gentle voice, though it was a deep subterranean overflowing stream of love which had engulfed her corporeal senses.

There are still other smaller poems containing nuggets of poetic brilliance – the words of universal, timeless appeal. There are many riveting lines across the poems. Sample this- ‘The best is short lived/But is fully lived’, ‘little did we know that too much pleasure is pain’ and ‘everybody realised that I was maltreated/In the stream of tears my body floated/I had been misinterpreted and misquoted’. The Trial is replete with judicial vocabulary which fits in felicitously and is, perhaps, inevitable for a law student-poet to use her stock in trade to a telling effect, like- ‘the proceedings began/Facts were stated/Charges were pressed but overrated/My crime was announced with cruelty/And, I pleaded guilty’.

The Illusion is a beautiful bouquet of a variety of fresh fragrant flowers from a high meadow brimmed with tender human feelings and emotions saturated with poetic bliss.

(Bhartruhari Mahtab, MP, released this book of poems recently.)