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

Two New Poems


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1. SOLITUDE

I linger unperceived
in the labyrinth of solitude,
not knowing the onward path
or the path of my return
I see a flight of stairs
a portal to a past forgotten
the contours of shadows
create a landscape of dreams
something forgotten stirs,
a lost memory returns
from between somewhere and nowhere
seeking something nebulous
that is always out of reach

 

Copyright Tikuli

2. INSOMNIA 

two a.m. on Delhi’s post-rain Sunday
I try to wash away the sleepiness
from my insomnia laden eyes
pick a fresh sheet of paper
spread clean water till it sheens
like fresh snow on a sunny day
clean and load the brushes with colours
drop and watch in wonderment
as the colours bleed and waltz
into the white stillness
the ripe colours of autumn,
a drop of sea, the harvest fields,
the washes of sunsets layer after layer
and a moon laid on lake waters
a tender breath of green
a river filled with apparitions,
here now—then gone
wet roads winding around echoing hills
the crisp autumn breeze
floating across the valley
steam rising from a coffee left at the deck
my eyes closed I feel the calm glow
of lights at the water edge
the silent shadows
the peace of the submerged river banks
I dip my brush again as the pigeons rise
followed by the squirrel
and the upstairs neighbour
pounding fresh ginger for morning chai
the trees rise, the day rises
night slowly walks towards summer morning

New Poem – The Convergence


she stands among the ancient trees,

hair fluttering protestingly over her full breasts,

strings of beads resting around her neck,

draped in red cotton her dark skin glistening in sweat,

her kohl eyes like fiery embers,

a sliver of sun on her forehead,

behind her, smeared in symbolic vermilion,

the Goddess sits cross-legged,

leaning against the matted roots of a tree,

defiant, wise, independent,

the power stemming from her womb,

non-conformist, non-submissive.

from a quiet corner I watch them,

fierce, unapologetic; both born of the soil,

somewhere beyond the hills a river turns red,

an embodiment of the eternal truth –

sa’ham asmi

the Aashad clouds gather

beating their ancient drums

as the earth receives its first rain

Poetry News -‘Wayfaring’ Is Now Available To Pre-Order


It is a beautiful day in my city, cool breeze, cotton clouds and a melodious cacophony of birds and crickets outside my window.  I’m listening to Nina Simone on YouTube with a hot cup of coffee and some clotted cream shortbread next to me.

A perfect time of the day to share another good news with all of you.

My second book of poems published by Leaky Boot Press is now available to pre-order. It has a very different set of poems from ‘Collection Of Chaos‘ which was published in Jan, 2014. This book is very special to me for various reasons. The entire process of writing and assembling this book was a learning experience in various aspects of writing, editing, and presenting a literary work. I also realized how hard an editor’s job is. No one thanks them really.

James Goddard, who is a fantastic writer/photographer/editor/ mentor gave hours of dedicated time all through the making of this book and before that to help me polish my writing.  You will see what a fabulous job he’s done. Thank you Jim.

Here is the cover, a gorgeous photograph by James Goddard. I will tell you the cover story later 😀

 

There were times I felt that the book was jinxed but here it is to pre-order  .  Soon it will be available with other booksellers and online retailers worldwide too. Keep checking.

You’ll buy, won’t you? Show some love for poetry folks, we need it especially in the times we are living in.

The printed copies have arrived in England and will soon come to me too. The book releases on Monday, 20th Nov, 2017 and will be available with all online book sellers across the globe.

I will be getting some extra copies that I have earmarked for a few people. Some will be on sale too. Maybe at a lower price. Need to figure out the numbers and other logistics.

I will keep you updated on events connected to the book though there won’t be any readings etc for now.

Stay tuned.

Cheers !