To be honest, when I picked up this book I was skeptical to say the least. An eighteen year old published a book of 32 poems, a collection she has gathered over the years. However, one simply needs to read through the foreword and introduction to realize that this isn’t by your average 18 year-old-girl. This isn’t her pathetic teenage sob story, as so many poems can easily be, this is intellectual, well crafted work.
The book is divided into sections, based on the stanza on the back cover, which as the poet puts it, “can be considered the essence of the book, yet each line is in itself a category”.
We start off with Feeling Blue. The first poem in this section is “Tiny Battlefields Lead To The Largest Losses”, and like in most other poems of the section, we develop a certain feeling which the poet seems to be imploring us to experience, yet she skillfully turns the tables and leaves us questioning our initial opinions –much as I experienced with the book overall. I guess you can say that the crux of the book itself is that one can’t judge a book by its cover, a man by his outwardly image.
Very obviously strong in its visual imagery, Vani Shriya’s poems feel like a movie that plays out right in front of you, and you find yourself in the middle of things right from the start; with one stanza you can feel the strong emotions rooted behind the words.
Feeling Blue is all about love and loss, in the broadest sense, and Feeling New is the morning after a night of pain; a morning of gathering your shattered belongings and putting them together to build yourself anew. Indeed, the entire book flows like a story and to anyone who picks it up I suggest that they go through the collection at one go, to really understand the flow of things.
Another interesting approach, which is how I went about the book, was to pick up the first poem from each section, and then the second, that it truly how one can see the journey as intended by the poet.
“The Girl In The Window” was the standout poem from this section for its sheer poetic imagery, and how the reader is just suspended in that fleeting moment when a boy lays eyes on a girl, and then swept away as the train moves on; moves on right to being Ensnared –as the next section reads.
In Ensnared, we reach that point of day when numbness grounds us into a place of an almost prophetic peace amidst the chaos that is life, and life goes on. This feeling of immobility is what resounds in the subject of each of the seven poems of the section. “Schizophrenic Cat” (And I like it not just because of the name) and “Let Go” are the poems that best capture this feeling, and the poet continues to skillfully manipulate the reader’s emotions and reactions, without ever descending into the tedious, annoying black hole that poems of this genre can so easily do. This review would have been way different if that would have happened in any of the poems!
The section that follows is called Undefined, and the general feel of the poems in it are true to the word. “Tears And Rain”, and Red are the poems that I instantly fell in love with, owing to their masterful imagery and once again we experience everything the way the subject feels. “Tears And Rain” also flows in perfect symmetry and that for me was the most attractive feature of it. “Chance” is also great in that it wraps the entire plot and execution of the assassination of Julius Ceasar into three crisp stanzas, in a quick pace where the tension builds and builds, and ultimately collapses at the climax of the act, much like “Leda And The Swan” by W.B.Yeats.
And so we come full circle with Feeling You, with the poet yearning to be back to a time before Feeling Blue.
“I wish to be mine, but I wish harder to be yours.”
The section captures the yearning and desire to go back to a time when things were simple and love was still an emotion untainted, and that is exactly what the reader feels, even if not in the same context.
For the poet and even for the reader, there is a yearning for a simpler time, a time without the blues, the ensnarement, being undefined, without ever having to feel new.
Finally, with all my doubts laid to rest, A Wish ended on a really good note for me and got me thinking about how the cycle can be applied to just about anything, even though it is at the end of the day a collection of love poems.
So while I’m off with my notebook and thinking cap on, grab your copy of A Wish, and let’s hope there’s another collection brewing at Vani’s end.