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

एक शहर ये भी – कविता 7 – रात आईना है …


 

रात आईना है इस शहर की बेख्वाब आँखों का
शाम ढले जब धुप का आखरी उजाला
पेड़ों की टहनियों में सिमट जाता हैं तो ये शहर
किसी पेंटिंग की तरह रहस्मयी हो जाता है
बची खुची रौशनी लैम्पोस्ट के नीचे
सिमट जाती है और समय अँधेरे कोनों
या भूले बिसरे हाशियों में छिप जाता है
सूखे ठूँठ सी खड़ी इमारतें अपननी थकी आखें
बंद किये अँधेरा ओढ़ अचेत सी सो जाती हैं
और फिर उभरने लगते हैं अक्स उस दिल्ली के
जो दिन में अपनी तन्हाई समेटे ताकती रहती है
टुकड़ों में बंटे एक अजनबी से आसमान को
शहर की इन बिखरी सड़कोंऔर सुनसान
चौराहों पे मैं भी इन्हीं अक्सों में ढूढ़ता हूँ अपना
खोया हुआ वो अक्स जो अपना सा तो है पर
है फिर भी बेगाना, ढिबरियों सी टिमटिमाती
रौशनी में आता है नज़र आता है स्लेटी खंडहरों के
खूँट पे टंगा तनहा सा इक शहर उतार फेंका था
कभी जिसे और आती है नज़र एक सांवली सी नदी
राह भूली बाँवरी सी, पेड़ तोड़ देते हैं क़तारें
स्याह सड़कों के किनारे, चहचहाते डोलते हैं
पंख सी बाहें पसारे, सप्तपर्णी सी महक
उठती है हवा, रात में ही सांस लेता है शहर
थकन की चादर बिछा कर, फ़िक्र ज़माने की छोड़
है कोई सो रहा वो देखो चाँदनी को ओढ़
कुछ ख्वाब औंधे हैं पड़े उस पुराने बरगद परे
गीत कोई गा रहा है याद के पनघट ख़ड़े
सड़क किनारे बैठ पी रहा है कोई ख्वाबों की चिलम,
उठ रहा है धुआं सुलगते आलाव से कहीं
लिए सोंधी सी महक एक गुज़ारे वक़्त की
दिन की दमकती जिल्द में क़ैद सफहों से
झांकते हैं सूखे हुए लम्हे, कुछ भूले हुए
रुकए और मिटटी के सकोरों सी बिखरी
हुयी कुछ यादें, रात आईना है उन्हीं तवारीख़
के टुकड़ों का, तुम भी कभी खाँचो में बंटे उजालों से निकल
थाम लेना स्याह सा कोई इक छोर और फिर मिलना
उस दिल्ली से जो कभी हमारी थी

 

Poem – Where We Lived


I often visit the
abandoned house
off the beaten track
Its yard
no longer tended
Here
In the forgotten places
Littered with broken shards,
Rotting leaves, gnarled branches,
Entwined vines and
Dried unruly weeds
I follow the scent
Of unseen blossoms
I trace my fingers
On the ancient walls
Moist with night dew and
On which
Memory has turned mossy green
In places
I look through the dusty windows
That reflect nothing
The sadness of which
Speaks to me
Then, as the seasons change,
In the midst of decay
The tree of sorrow blooms
Night after night
Romancing the August moon

 

First published in ‘Collection Of Chaos‘. You can buy the book from any online book vendor.

These Old Shades


 

I saw

Pictures

inside old albums

that had been hidden away from me

purposely

Your pictures

which he doesn’t know I have seen

Maybe he thought of  changing them

but then just could not

and even if he had

a face like yours will remain in his memory

etched forever

In his songs I feel your presence

The song you sang together

watching many a  sunsets

from the verdant hills

of  that quiet little town

I get the whiff of your fragrance

each time he twirls  a  glass of wine sensuously

and raises it to his lips

You are present in the

soft smile that starts from

the corners of his mouth

and reaches his eyes

You are always present

in the mirror

infront of which

he stops to take a last glance

before he steps out of house

and in the first rays of morning sun

that play on his body

as he sleeps

Often. I wonder

If the nights

we spent together

match the magic of those

spent with you

Did the fire that sets his body

aflame with passion

kindle you

and sent the sparks floating in the air

I think it did

I can see how he would have

made love to you

in his controlled manner

for he tries that with me

I  feel his hunger

fueled by ravenous passion

his readiness to devour

my voluptuous  body

( he always loved his women to be a mouthful)

I feel it reaching a crescendo

and then it diminishes

And yet

his craving rises

craving to consume your body

as I lie next to him

consumed by the  ghost of you

(Image credit. Google Image search)