BOOK: MY MAGIC TREE by P.G. Rama Rao / BOOK REVIEW: Leonard Dabydeen


Author: P.G. Rama Rao
Binding: Paperback – 62 pages
ISBN 978 938375571 4
Publisher: Global Fraternity of Poets (Haryana)
Pub. Date: 2018
Price: $13 ₹ 170

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. ~ Rabindranath Tagore.

This book, MY MAGIC TREE is a scintillating, yet intensely embroidered collection of 61 poems knitted in a small bundle of 62 pages by P.G. Rama Rao. Unequivocally, the poems relflect on human life and the core concatenation of man’s self-realisation and spiritual approbation. Deeply intensified in this enchanting and philosophic promenade ésotérique, author Rama Rao invites all of us to partake in this magical glory. In the last paragraph (i) of his PREFACE to this book, Rama Rao writes :
I invite lovers of poetry and the general reading public to relax with me on this lofty, cosy perch of my « Magic Tree », where they can be brought in a magic lift, and enjoy supernal pleasures like touching the limitless sky, culling the stars, riding the clouds, and feeling the loving grace of the Supreme Spirit.
It’s as if Persian poet, Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi of the 13th century, in transcending boundaries, speaks to Rama Rao, “What you seek is seeking you …stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” And in supplanting this thought, the front book cover presents a warm, colourful picture of a tree with red cluster of branches and leaves with a magical touch, reaching for the skies. And Alfred Joyce Kilmer, an American writer and poet of early 20th century makes a prompt of such a tree, saying:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;/

This is Rama Rao’s eighth poetry collection book.

The back cover of MY MAGIC TREE features author Rama Rao’s profile of his distinguished academic and literary career. An octogenarian (b. 1935), reclused in retirement from the P.G. Dept. of English, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, in 1955, he played a prominent career as a teacher of English and American literature.
Author Rama Rao also brings to the jewel crown of his literary world distinguished research work on the Hemingway papers, starred as a Fulbright Research Fellow and Adjunct Professor in the University of Massachusetts, with presentation of lectures in many American universities. In 1986, he was awarded a British Council grant, visited Oxford and Edinburgh universities, where he presented several lectures.
Apart from guiding several Ph. D scholars during his academic and scholastic career, Rama Rao’s compelling career is laced with authorship of twenty-five books and a plethora of research articles.
Let’s see by random selections how this MY MAGIC TREE will espouse our poetry choices. As in Realization (p.2):

Short is this Life;
Exhaustible is pelf;
I feel the breath
Of dreaded death
At my back;

How I wish
I had thought
More of my “Self ”
Than of myself,
And of pelf!

Here you could address the old adage: if wishes were horses…instead it’s more appropriate to understand trend and tone of thought by the author from a page by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.
This is the true ‘realization’ of ‘self ’. For pelf succumbs to evil that men do …that lives after them.
And look at The Gardener (p.5):

Their heads decked
With beautiful flowers
The plants get showers
From me, their devotee,
At dawn and dusk.

Their feet deep
In the cozy bosom
Of Mother Earth
I wash with care,
Devotion and love.

I treat them like
Gods and goddesses
With the tenderest
Assuidity, and keep
The surroundings

Neat and clean for the
Visit of kindred souls;

But, alas, come along
My employers with their
Guests and ravage the garden.

They pluck flowers fragrant,
Lovely and colourful, to
Worship their Gods and
Goddesses, and for their
Vases and themselves.

I suffer mute pangs in my
Mind and heart, for to me
The plants and flowers
Are deities, big and small, and
The garden their great temple.

From this garden I hope to
Graduate to the sacred garden
In my heart, where kind
Thoughts, tolerance, sympathy,
Empathy, and Love grow;
For they will take me
To the greatest
Gardener of all.

Here we may wish to retreat in discontent at the manner in which the employer and his guests ravaged the garden, after all the care, comfort and love for the flowers by the Gardener. However, the Gardener is very hopeful to be able to ‘Graduate to the sacred garden’, so enthused that in his heart there are ‘kind/Thoughts, tolerance, sympathy,/Empathy and Love…’ – for these are the human qualities requisite to take mankind ‘To the greatest/Gardener of all.’ Esoteric whispers!

And in searching for his ‘Greater Self ‘, Rama Rao exhorts in this poem (p.8):

My Greater Self

After a lot of search I find,
In the depths of my mind,
My own “Greater Self “,
The mentor of my “self “;
For decades did he hide;
Now I know He’s by my side.

I look up to see His face,
And find a loving smile in space.
By day it’s a dazzling eye,
By night a glittering sky,
His breath I feel in the air,
I realize He’s everywhere.

So imbued in this philosophic find of “Greater Self “ as mentor of “my self “, perhaps reflecting Homer’s (Odyssey) thought of a friend of Odysseus being assigned with the education of Odysseus’ son Telemachus. Rama Rao is so exhilarated about this ‘self’ …”He’s by my side.” And “He’s everywhere.” A virtuousity unbound.

And look at this poem (p.11):


Is there any gold
Brighter than the
Dazzling light of the sun?

Is there any silver
Whiter than the
Argent light of the moon?

Is there any gem
More precious than
A heart pure and loving?

Is there a smell
Sweeter than a little
Act of love and kindness?

Is there a melody
More magical than
A kind word in this cruel world?

Wow! The quest for answers in this poem would bring tears to Socrates in any of his philosophic overtures. Values that serenade in the mind “Chacun voit midi à sa porte” (Everyone sees noon at his door).

Now let’s look at the title poem by the centre page of MY MAGIC TREE (p.31):

My Magic Tree

I live on this magic tree;
Here the air is pure and free,
And fancy untrammelled,
Not unlike Salvador Dali
On his eccentric tree.

I had always wanted to
Live on a mountain peak
Or a tall tree top,
Like a great condor
Conscious of its power.

Sensing my silent wish,
The Supreme Master of
The creative impulse,
Here, aloft, has put me,
Quickening my creativity.

Fancy me culling the stars
As if they were glow worms,
And brushing aside asteroids
As if they were rocks
Hurled by mischievous urchins.

Incredible things happen when
Creativity is at its white heat;
Starry flowers adorn my magic tree,
The fruit of which is immortality,
And I call this tree POETREE.

Author Rama Rao is satiated with being on this magical loft of his magic tree, symbolic of Salvador Dali (1904-1989), the Spanish Surrealist who demonstrated painterly skills influenced by Renaissance Masters; best known for his 1931 painting: Persistence of Memory. And Dr. Indira Babbellapati, Professor of English (retired), Andhra University College of English, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, aptly promenade Rama Rao’s poetic systole and diastole in a Foreword of an earlier book of poetry, WHISPERS OF IMMORTALITY by P.G. Rama Rao (2016), thus (last para.):
Like Tagore’s poetry Rama Rao’s poems offer a ‘meditative experience that will transport the reader…to a world of personal communion with the Maker.’
In this title poem, My Magic Tree, Rama Rao vehemently postulates in the last stanza …
Incredible things happen when
Creativity is at its white heat;/

And let’s look at this poem, The Swamiji and His Karma (p.51-52), with a spiritual/satirical glimmer,

The Swamiji and His Karma

An ascetic, focused
On “self-realization”,
Gave up worldly possessions,
And started a rigorous
Spiritual life.

He was clad only in
A loincloth; a pair
Of them had he – one to
Wash when he wore the other.
Meanwhile gathered devotees.

One day discovered he
To his horror that the
Loincloth, washed and dried,
Was damaged by rats.
Devotees rained nice loincloths.

As a security
For that precious garment,
Ferrocious Persian cats and
Milch cows for the ‘Swami’ and
The cats were also gifted.

Rich and famous people
Came from far and near
To hear his wise discourses.
Manners made him wear a
Robe over his loincloth.

His poor old hermitage
Is now transformed into a
Luxurious bungalow
With many well-dressed men
Looking after it and him.

If you ask him, “Swamiji,
What’s all this?” he’d smile and
Say, “SukhaPrarabdha”
(Happy result of my good
Karma in my past life).

I’m aware of my true state
Within, and watch all this with
Detachment. Inspite of all
This outward pomp, I remain
The simple hermit within.

The last stanza stands out to emphasize the essence of the thoughtful flow of the poem. The Swamiji assured everyone that the change from his hermitage was as a result of his good Karma in a past life. Rama Rao would rather stay ‘The simple hermit within.’
Overall, each poem in this collection of THE MAGIC TREE will certainly make the reader enjoy the roller-coaster poetry ride on the magic lift, with flowered spiritual and philosophical thoughts to embrace rich reading pleasures. A book for all seasons in your library.


BOOK REVIEW: Leonard Dabydeen

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