Wayfaring Review : A Journey Beyond the Baggage of Pronouns In the tradition of Hafez, Rumi and Al Arabi – Djelloul Marbrook


I have been absent from blogging since long for various personal reasons. Once the issues are resolved I’ll try to be regular. Meanwhile please keep showing love on my personal Instagram page. That’s where all the action is right now. 

This is the pre launch book review of my second book Wayfaring.  The website on which it was published is not working and many of my readers missed this exceptional piece of writing. 

Djelloul Marbrook is a friend and editor-in-chief of The Arabesques Review Magazine where the review was first published.

I am sharing this with permission from the writer.

Originally from Algeria, Djelloul now lives in the USA. An exceptional poet, writer, he’s someone I look up to as a student learning the craft of writing. I feel very honoured that he took time out to read and write such a glorious review for a book very close to my heart.

 Here is the full review:

A Journey Beyond the Baggage of Pronouns,In the tradition of Hafez, Rumi and Al Arabi

(Wayfaring Tikuli, Leaky Boot Press, UK, 134pp, $12.70)

You is the crucial word in this riverine collection of poems. In their often apostrophic poise they recall Louis Malle’s Phantom India (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_India), the 1969 film that memorably traces the bloodstream of the subcontinent.

When a poet says the I word once too often poems become forests of girders, obstructing our vision. But the poet Tikuli uses the word to stir the elements of nostalgia, melancholy and fragility until all are ennobled. That is the role of the word in her alchemical project. 

Those three elements in the wrong hands smudge the past, blur it, but in the right hands, in Tikuli’s hands, Wayfaring (https://www.amazon.com/Wayfaring-Tikuli/dp/1909849545) becomes a singular act of recollection, reminding us that the unrecollected life is a job left undone, a mission unaccomplished, a task reneged. 

I see him, I see him

standing there, a body trapped in soul, 

always watching

the memories and the rubble of our home….

the poet says at the beginning of “Ghosts of War.” The I is not about her, it’s about activating an elixir, about taking us to a bombed, ruined mosque, to a ghost.  

Tikuli’s use of the pronoun you, the second person, is Sufic when it least seems so. The You of this device is the Sufi dervish’s Beloved. A man or a woman or a child or some other living thing may stand in for the Beloved, but the Beloved, who may be addressed erotically or casually or conversationally, is always that “cloud of unknowing,” that divine idea into which eventually we disappear.

The love poem of the dervish may pass society’s inspection as a tale or an ode or an elegy or a sensual adventure, but at heart it’s always a prayer, a participation in a holy, a celestial project. 

Tikuli is a skilled plein air painter; her palette of words is spare, meticulously chosen and applied in a variety of metrical patterns that, while not avant-garde, are modernist and reliable. The reader is never required to study her metrics; her focus is on the act of recollection and its requisite imperative. She has stories to tell, portraits to paint, ghosts to address, and issues to redress.

The impulse to call Wayfaring a stately transit from irregular ode to free-form ballade is checked by Tikuli’s eschewal of standard metric schemes and rhyme, and to claim that Wayfaring is nonetheless just such a transit, as I do, opens the door to a brief discussion of rhyme in modern poetry. 

End-rhyme bears with it, unlike internal rhyme, a kind of closure, and that closure is not in concert with the rush of cyber-age information and the inquiries that rush requires. End-rhyme, unless it’s handled with extraordinary subtlety, the kind Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Butler Yeats possessed, tends to trip up and shut down inquiry. That’s why Tikuli and other modernists so often dispense with it, preferring assonance and other devices. But that makes modern poetry difficult to characterize without a new poetics. 

In singing of exile, loss, remembrance, grief, journey, Tikuli often uses the pronoun you as Sufi and other mystic poets used thou, to address, to praise, to love, to mourn, but, above all, to open the door to what can be recollected, what can be salvaged, learned, what can be turned into light in the same way a solar lantern collects sunlight all day to illuminate night. Such a lantern must be placed, as these poems are, in a certain order to create a path. That’s why at the very end of Wayfaring the poet says:

….until the sun explodes in my room

separating the night from dark

naked, I wait somewhere between

a lighter shade of white

and a darker shade of black

Tikuli is one of poetry’s antidotes to the fatal, calamitous insistence on being right that besets so many societies. That insistence turns a blind eye and a blank mind to the distinctions she makes in this passage, and in so doing it menaces us. Tikuli offers the eternal aspiration of the dervish to make something in praise of the holy whole to which we belong.

One of Wayfaring‘s triumphs is to give us a collection that, like prayer beads, progresses not only to a way of responding to what befalls but a way of enhancing our observation of what we encounter. Wayfaring‘s strung poems integrate peripheral with head-on vision: the sidelong glance is not lost to central vision, and for that reason in her work we see through much better than human eyes, sometimes the way a circling hawk sees the inhabitants of a field or wood. But the poems don’t merely report, they imagine the songs of people and place. They move like a pavane from the forests of I to the seas of you to the heavens of they, no small feat for any poet. 

Consider the last five lines of her poem, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nizamuddin_Auliya):

Two lovers completing each other

like reunited hemispheres.

It is this cosmos wherein exists

the inexpressible, visible only

to those with eyes which can see.

It’s the poet’s ambition to express the inexpressible. But to do that, ego must be divested. That’s at the heart of Sufism. It’s what the Sufi saint of the poem understood so indelibly. It’s what Hafez, Khayyam and Ibn al Arabi, among many others, understood. Finally, beyond the I, you and they is the holy of holies into which the wayfarer must disappear. None of the pronouns suffice, nor do our names and our possessions. 

Addressing the Beloved in poetry is rather like alchemy. To win the patronage of rulers, those coveters of wealth, the alchemists said they intended to transmute base metals into gold. But their real purpose, the best of them, was to ennoble the human soul by finding the elixirs that would ennoble the soul’s baser elements. That’s what is happening when poets like Khayyam and Hafez and Tikuli address you. This you is an elixir.

We wayfare to become the verb, to absolve ourselves of the profane pronouns and the nouns. Wayfaring is testament to this recognition.

                                                                         —Djelloul Marbrook

First Review Of ‘Wayfaring’ And City Musing


 I’ve watched this city moult. The change in its personality. The struggle to live and work through the masquerade of urban beautification. The slow and painful makeover. The contradictions. The altered demographies. The inequities. The restlessness and the river that quietly flows through it all.  I’m composing a new set of Delhi Poems. Somewhat ungrand this time.

The city around me is a fucking cemetery darkened with age where buildings stand cramped together like old, forgotten headstones representing a rift between living and dead. Pigeons, like monks at prayer, line up on balconies and window ledges. Nothing romantic or mysterious. Nothing historic or glorious. Nothing eerie. What lies beneath is dead. What lies above is stagnating. Slowly it will all crumble and die to give place to a yet another set of graves. Funeral is the word filling my mind right now. Somewhere a bird sings a mournful song. Must be a nightingale.

I muse about this as I walk around the city of Delhi. I feel that the culture has died in the eyes of almost everyone you see. If this is a fact, then I guess we must be independent of it, and seek out those who are also independent of it, in order to live at all among the ruins. I look at a different perspective. Vitality lies in the past, whose traces remain in those very ruins, but we cannot go there: our relationship to that, like our relationships to those we love, must advance, change – which is the very thing the ruins refuse us – but in its balance of decay, a change disrupts it, so any thought is a victory. Nightingales can learn plenty new songs. Delhi has layers and layers of surprises. It is a city full of emotions.

Emotions make me think of a blue Yamuna, a river we have collectively brought to a slow death with our neglect and apathy. No one cares to visit her banks or give a little thought to her. The monsoon rains give us a glimpse of the glorious river momentarily but then again she reseeds to be dismissed as a dirty sewer. No one thinks who turned her to be what she is now. I think of the women in my country as I look at her from a distance longing to reach out and touch its waters. There is something so deeply comforting and soothing about sitting at the bank of a river. I am dreaming of a blue Yamuna.

The River Yamuna from Nizamuddin Bridge, Delhi.

I’m sailing on silent waters
between dreams and 
half rememberings
In a floating world 
where nothing is as it seems

 

November has been benevolent in more than one ways. Someone special has brought good tidings in my life. A daughter I always yearned for. Bless her. She’s an exceptional poetess too.  There is still a hint of autumn in the breeze but slowly we’re heading to the real Delhi Winter with all its glorious flowers, snug, colorful woolens, fests, music and art festivals, visits to the monuments and parks. Winter is also the ideal time to experience the incredible Delhi Street food, the pipping hot aalu tikkis, kachoris, gajar halwa, hot jalebis, spicy sweet potato and fried potato chaats and also cold rabri falooda. yes, I’m one of those who love to eat ice creams and kulfis in winter. 🙂 exploring the city for authentic food is a journey of discovery in more than one ways.

Speaking of journey reminds me to tell you about Djelloul Marbrook. He is the editor-in-chief of The Arabesques Review Magazine. Originally from Algeria, he lives in the US now. An exceptional poet, writer, he’s someone I look up to as a student learning the craft of writing. You must check out his website and YouTube channel. It is a gold mine for poetry lovers. When my publisher and friend James Goddard told me that he’s reviewing my book I was slightly nervous but at the same time extremely happy too. This is the first review for ‘Wayfaring’ before it releases on the 20th of Nov. I don’t have words to tell you how proud I feel right now of my evolution as a poet and as a writer. He has written a glorious review of the book and touched the soul of my poetry.

Here’s an excerpt : 

Tikuli is a skilled plein air painter; her palette of words is spare, meticulously chosen and applied in a variety of metrical patterns that, while not avant-garde, are modernist and reliable. The reader is never required to study her metrics; her focus is on the act of recollection and its requisite imperative. She has stories to tell, portraits to paint, ghosts to address, and issues to redress.

The complete review can be read here – A Journey Beyond the Baggage of Pronouns in the tradition of Hafez Rumi and Al Arabi 

The review moved me deeply and to place my poetry in the league of some of the greatest poets of all times that I love and admire is very humbling.  Thank you Djelloul for this precious gift. I will cherish your words forever.

On another note, I have not been very regular with my blog post except the recipes but will soon resume updating the other blog categories too. I plan to visit some old, historic places this winter.

I’ll meet you at another place, another time, another field. The prettiest and most resilient flowers grow in broken spaces like the cracks in the sidewalks. Look out for those places.