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Nandini Sahu's Silver Poems on My Lips - A Search for Love in Vacuum
'Poetic tongue is the idiom that comes the spirit. It has the potential , the innate ability, to mingle universally.' - this is how Dr. Nandini Sahu begins the preface to her third poetry collection, Silver Poems on My Lips.

NANDINI SAHU’S poems, wrote Jayanta Mahapatra are mostly build on the themes people are always thinking  about: love and death, and their various manifestations of fear, joy, pain and loneliness. Through these images of change, a poet’s life is gently unfolded in her poems.

In this anthology, there are 66 poems, which explore the personal and the poetic identity of the poet and her personae. Most poems are monologues where the personae herself is the protagonist and in which the personal , the social and the spiritual dimensions of creativity are automatically fused. The poet herself said: “I have achieved through ages of acute pain.” The opening poem ‘Poetry III’, which is a continuation of earlier two collections, the poet tells about the artless art of poetry: “…the words nude/ yet hides the nudity.”

Sahu’s ‘inky nights’ bring to her romantic memories as she said it in ‘An Evening at Konark’ and ‘Puri Beach’. The sea and the sand invite her and sunbeams descend like day dreams. Her shift into the visual mode gained noticeable momentum in ‘Puri Beach where “ love and compassion/ glow reflect and refract”. Nandini calls herself ‘a night person’ and says, ‘I have a night motif in me’. But in Puri Beach, darkness dies for Sahu who feels that “white prevails/ amid / silky sheets of sunlight  clouds.” Death is not only truth for Sahu and the assertive voice is resonant all over: “You still shine in the firmament of stars”. This is an exceptional feel for a poet who says again and again in many poems of her earlier collection entitled Silence that “winter’s end is prolonged” in our lives. At best, the poet can feel ‘an autumnal feeling / in the air’. But yet the night’s darkness beacons her as in the poem” Autumnal Feeling in the Air’: “blackens the gravel/ and the firmament.”

In spite of the intimate tone, Sahu is deceptively subjective in her approach.There are at least four very personal poems in which she is an artist who lives through her eyes, and writes with her senses transfixed by the chaotic sights and sounds around her. These poems are ‘Can I  Start Living Now?’ ,‘Loving Stranger’, ‘Memory Lane to Travel’ and ‘If You Remember Mrityunjay’. Sahu is not Jungian but she does occasionally have flashes of insight that go directly from her subconscious into her writing. These usually come in the form of images that float to the forefront of her mind upon waking from a dream.

In these poems, Sahu is very much emotional as well. A couple of lines are evocatively sensuous “I held you closely/and you smiled  evocative/Remember Mrityunjay? /Remember.” Such personal feelings ooze out at another place: “Can I ever  write a love poem/ for you? Exclusively for you?” But this personal tone is transcended in the poem ‘My Mother’s story’, which is the longest poem in the volume. It is more about a loss, a strange exile: “I love my departed, cast out past.” In this past she gets the ‘haunting smell of my mother’s /green chilli and mango chutney/ and in the evenings the steaming hot coffee”. She remembers her mother venting out her pride: “It’s through my daughters/ that I live/they are my dreams come-true”. So personal yet the tone is not somewhow not familiar and casual. There is a heightened sense of bliss. It is a kind of ballad, kind of purana story, kind of epic abbreviated – all mingled together to produce a feeling of ecstasied sadness. The use of metaphoric language is mind-blowing all through and we can call Sahu a symbolist.

Sahu never regards dreams as a source of inspiration. The volume says that Nandini has her poems on her lips, but no, she pours out poetry that oozes from the secret chambers of her heart, which is profoundly engaged in an encounter with reality, though she knows well that in an age of material pleasures, it is difficult for the heart to settle down and get assimilated. Her ideas in the poems thus rotate around a belief in human values. The nostalgic moments of her life are best revealed in the poem, ‘Marine Drive’ where Sahu is attracted by the blue associated with the sea.

Sahu belongs to Orissa and it is quite natural that there are repetitive references to the mermaid and she imagines herself to be ‘half woman, half fish’ existence. The sensuousness is purged and the philosophical height is reached when the poet says: “My Mermaid is He” obviously referring to God. Exemplified in her poems like that of Emily Dickinson's a pure and beautiful descriptive talent when she looks at something simple and everyday, with the eyes of a child exploring and seeing these things for the first time. Also the color amethyst of the sunrise is used in the description of sunset. Some images in this poem are used traditionally in poetry as symbols. The images of sunrise and sunset are recurring symbols for birth and death. Sahu is not a feminist although there is a silent sympathy for a female soul suffering in her lonely hours. She is more a humanist who writes poetry simply because “love and poetry are therapy to live, breathe and sing”. Poetry is not merely words for her but as Jayanta Mahapatra rightly points about her that she ‘is serious in her quest: “It is a longing for identity for words that will indicate  her own place in our world.”

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