Dream Keeper: Marriage of Poetry & Photography / Review by Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar

Dream Keeper: Marriage of Poetry & Photography

Photography and Poetry are called beautiful and captivating forms of artistic expression. Both have a lot of things in common- color and light, contour and pattern, structure and texture, shape and form, feeling and emotion etc. While a photographer captures the pictures of external reality as it is, giving meaning to the vision and perspective of a viewer, a poet deconstructs images to form cohesive perspectives broadening them on the horizon. A poet deals with the written word, whereas the photographer creates images.“Poetry”, writes Christopher Caudwell in ‘Illusion and Reality (pag 204)’, “is composed of words; dream is composed of memory-images. Dream-images do not follow rational laws drawn from external reality, but as psycho-analysis shows, the flow of images is explained by affective laws.” This statement holds true to the poetographical album “Dream Keeper”, sub-tagged as a Poetography Ensemble, ‘written in the spirit of shared humanism’.

“Dream Keeper” is a beautiful casket of brilliant, thought-provoking and evocative poems that celebrate the experimental and innovative marriage of poetry and photography- poetry by Bindiya Bedi Charan, a linguist and photography by Komal Bedi Sohal, an advertising veteran. This enchanting book offers delightful feast to the eyes of a reader and a viewer alike elevating their souls to the realm of harmony imbued with artistic and aesthetic excellence. Divided into eight sections, the book explores myriads of themes ranging from woman and her power, love, romance and passion, suffering, humanity, innocence and experience, marital angst and bliss, subjective mood swings, self-introspection and realization, and longing for eternal communion, art, beauty and hope, mysticism, spirituality, philosophy, nature etc. Impregnated with her experiences and observations, interspersed with befitting photographs the poems contained in this book are painstakingly presented with vivid visuals. Poet Bindiya reveals: “In my search for beauty, benefit and goodness amidst economic and social struggles, I found poetry. My sister Komal, has been my rock star in this voyage of self-discovery. Her expression is a visual treat.”

The first section ‘An Ode to Women’ throws light on the power and plight of woman in Indian society. Singing for her beauty and grandeur she glorifies woman in a number of ways. The very first poem “Pursuing Perfection” sums up the essence of woman with beautiful, comprehensive and befitting epithets used for her. She is ‘Dutiful wife’, ‘wonderful daughter’, ‘all embracing mum’. The poet remarks: ‘In being you/You find all.’ She is an epitome of all the grandeur of the world, with heaven at her feet.

In another metaphoric poem “I Coloured my Glasses Pink”, the poet is suggestive and determined to not let ‘minor impediments’ become ‘big mountains’. She wishes and lets ‘love’ overflow ‘ignoring dirty devils/ Residing inside and outside’. With modernist mode and node of broad outlook she never hesitates to accept:

“My pink glasses
Bring me courage and joy
I shine and smile
No matter what
My pink glasses
Colour my life
I live in sync
With myself
Above all.”

The last poem of the section “Woman’s Day” celebrates the magical magnanimity of woman. The poet encapsulates the power of woman in this short yet powerful poem:

“Woman, you are magical
Of immense
Magnanimity
Amplitude, to be loved
Nourished like
Sweet everything
Day, in and out, for with
Amour
You win, the world with you wins.”

The second section ‘The Very First Time’ contains some brilliant poems that throw light on the personal and familial life of the poet. With autobiographical elements, these poems seem to be universalizing their personal feeling and experience in a poetic manner. For instance, let’s take the poem “Home Alone”, short and simple yet very penetrative. In the poem she recalls ‘the darkness of night’ in loneliness. Coming to terms with ‘shock’ and ‘fright’ she realizes:

“More than a tear
There was a fear
Big lesson learnt
Exists in every situation
An unknown quotient.”

The poet is endowed with an extraordinary power to magnify and signify even the inexplicability of experiences that common people either ignore or keep in oblivion due to inhibition. She gives a vivid account of psycho-somatic experience of love and romance in a realistic manner. It becomes even more interesting particularly when this emotional intensity is unlocked with a feminine perspective. In the poem “First Kiss”, she boldly expresses ecstatic ‘feel of a kiss’:

“Heart pounding
Rush of emotions
Exquisite, unique
Little explosions
Excitement, apprehensions
An incredible first kiss.”

The poet is so careful that she conjures up images of all the first things of her life, be it kiss, love, hangover, apartment etc. Poems such as “First Love”, “First Hangover: Oh, Yeah”, “First Apartment” etc. are beautiful examples that candidly highlight the poetic beauty of subjective utterances.

“Rage”, the third section, underlines the progression of poetic and aesthetic thought of the poet faced with existential concerns and stern realities of the world. Poems coming under this section are mature and reflect the way of the world. The poem “Recoil” is reflective and philosophic in tone and content. The poet feels saddened to see humanity being destroyed in the fires of ‘human greed’, because of their ‘endless desires’. Human greed poses threat to existence of other lives represented by a snake. However, she is of the view that

“To forgive your cruelty
Karma will play its own role.
……………..
As for me
I am homeless
I roam the earth
To return
To where I belong.”

In her poetry she deals with some burning social issues- deforestation, human degradation, child abuse (paedophile), sexual assault, girl child marriage etc. In the suggestive poem “Guardians of Innocence” she raises the issue of child abuse and makes us alert against the arrival, at home, of so-called ‘uncles’ who take undue advantage of absence of parents of the children. She addresses working parents to be aware of such goody goody people:

“Think! You wannabe parents
Before you produce the brood
Do you have time
To take care of your progeny?
It’s yours alone
To uncles, don’t pass the buck
For it will result in a life of much.”

Another poem “Purification” gives a horrendous description of sexually assaulted girl:

“Soiled by the assault
Feeling defiled
She lay in bushes, under dust
Abandoned after spent lust.”

She is a poet of social awareness. Strong voice of protest is palpable in her poems. She is opposed to the exploitation of the poor, the mute and the meek, particularly, of fair sexes. Her poetry has a note of resentment at the exploitation of woman hinting at the male aggressiveness. In the poem “Heart of Gold”, addressed to man, she declares:

“Injustice, exploitation
Of the meek
Let it not continue
Be that man
Stand up for your
Daughter, sister, wife, mother
Be the real sanctum sanctorum
Be a just man
With a heart of gold.”

The poet appears to have philosophical viewpoints. She takes recourse in the profundity of philosophy. She is aware that everything is transient and must return to dust. Her realization is best reflected through the following lines of the poem “Pyramid Parody”:

“Let a new life begin
The cycle must continue
Die, release, rebirth
Cosmic drama is forever
The divine takes over.”

As a poet of humanism, she always stands for humanitarian establishment in society. As human beings were created in ‘God’s own image’, divinity in each being is something to be revered, realized and appreciated through ‘love’ and ‘beauty’. She remarks:

“I look up to you
Find the divine
In humanity
Above all.”

She is sympathetic to the marginalized section of society. Her poetry reflects plight of the refugee. The refugee crisis is one of the biggest problems facing the world. People across the globe have to flee their homes ‘to avoid bloody violence’ and also ‘for a better tomorrow. She raises this issue in the poem “Refugee” which reflects her refugee experience. With a cosmopolitan and humanitarian perspective the poet stands up for their cause and speaks out for them ‘in the spirit of shared humanity’.

“In a foreign land
Refugee or citizen
Same blood flows
In all veins
To embrace, accept
To live as one
In the spirit of
Shared humanity
Is above all
God’s refuge”

Social concern never escapes from her observation and she captures, in her poems, burning issues prevalent in society. “Muted”, a heart-touching poem, deals with the theme of child marriage. Sympathizing with innocent and muted girl child, she condemns such a cruel practice. She feels guilty for the child- Sold in child marriage/ To an aging landlord. She appeals to all to listen to ‘silent voices of girl children.

Fourth section “Shades of Love” describes various forms and shades of love. Nature and its beauty is fascinating to her. Her love for nature is well delineated in the poem “Bewitched”. She presents, in the poem, a very beautiful picture of nature. Personifying nature she calls it ‘a damsel in deep pink’. She feels tempted to ‘step into/ The nature’s parlour’. She expresses her wish-

“I wait to sweet her up
Into my arms with honour
Unsure, afraid
I look for my valour
I wait for her sign.”

Love seems to be central to her poetry. Without love, she holds, nothing is vivid or complete. To her love is the centre of everything which keeps rotating around along the existential and earthly circumference. Her “Crazy Love” reveals this –

“World is a blur
You are the centre
Do I even exist?”

Love, to her, is a trajectory of exploration of self, a quest to be fulfilled through

“In your eyes
I find myself
In your touch
I discover myself

Hence, she says

I feel so alive
Stay on
Crazy, insane love.”

From love of nature she wishes to step into the metaphysical realm of ‘onenesses. As ‘Love sparkles’, she realizes its magical power of ecstatic bliss. She reveals in the next poem “Silent Speaks”-

“Witnessing magic
You, me
Finding the One
Sprinkling stardust
Journeying beyond
Into rapturous realms
Of no return.”

However, she is apprehensive of the way of the world where evils, pretending to be love, lie in ambush. She makes it clear in the poem “Bad Love” which expresses her apprehension-

“In the madness of the milieu
In this daily race
Will I ever again meet the One?”

In view of the above, she turns introspective, injecting herself with the serum of determined enthusiasm and zeal. Warning to stop the mockery of good lovers, and the so called pretence, she resurrects herself-

“Let me love myself first
Goodbye, my bad love.”

“Tears”, the last poem of the section, talks of ‘unrequited love’ and ‘crushed ambitions’. Tears exhaust fears, and purge the sufferer and get him prepared for the ‘new day’. Through the metaphor of the person agonized, she brings home the point –

“Smiling in wisdom
Of one who had suffered
Chose to let past love go
For life is today, and now.”

The fifth section “Marriage Mirage” is remarkable for profound and highly sensitive poems, transcending the physical union of the bodies to the realm of metaphysical communion with the Supreme. The poet, with utmost dexterity, moulds the mundane and the social into the spiritual or metaphysical, so say. Her metaphysics of thoughts and experiences is elevating and ennobling. Major themes of this section move around the periphery of marriage—both positive and negative aspects-. The poet calls the marriage ‘union of souls’, sent by God, only to sing ‘the song of joyous togetherness, despite all odds or differences. In the poem “The Vows” she avers:

“Volatile union of spirited souls
Sometimes sour, mostly sweet
Sparring, walking or on jogging trail
Marriage may or not be the Holy Grail
It’s a sweet sail for the not so frail.”

In most of her poems, her philosophical musings find brilliant articulation in terms of symbols and images. Sometimes, she becomes suggestive, as in the poem “The Lighthouse”-

“Either find a lighthouse or be one
Just have to climb and climb
Shedding the baggage behind.”

She is more concerned with problems of woman. Her feminine perspective runs throughout woman-centric poems, with a tinge of homour and satire. Her “Requiem for the Waist” bespeaks of aging concerns of woman and her marital blues. Her portrayal creates humour yet towards the end evokes sympathy, finally leading to a reconciliation. Sensitive in tone, the poem moves beyond the fear and tears to enjoy the ‘dance of life’. Physical waning has no meaning to her when it comes to living life, ‘in gracious gratitude’.

With subjective experiences, she describes mother- daughter relationship in the encouraging poem “Stand Tall”, negating a sense of alienation. Her daughter is a source of happiness and succor, a light ‘in moments of darkness’. She is a sheet anchor when her marital boat capsizes in the ocean of suffering, ‘abyss of loss and betrayal’. Thanks to her support, she moves on in life with joy on the face-

Moving on from the
Altar of messy matrimony
I too stand tall
I to learned to shine
No whimper or whine
I smile.

In the poem ‘The Soldier’s Wife”, she expresses her sympathy with the widow of a martyr. The poignant portrayal of the soldier who laid down his life for the sake of his mother land, is highly moving and evocative. Nevertheless, her ( martyr’s wife) take- on the adverse situation is encouraging which makes her a true Indian lady-

“Sad but proud she stood
For the final picture
With him wrapped in tricolour
The soldier’s wife is
India’s pride.”

The sixth section “Myriad Moods” contains poems dealing with choices, separation, frustration, compromises, celebration of loneliness, introspection etc. She is a singer of varied moods. Paradoxical and axiomatic expressions characterize her poems coming under this section. The following lines from the poem “Choices” are exemplary:

“Heal the crack
Before it becomes
A chasm of no return”

Compromising nature of the poet is at its best in the lines, suffused with mystical touches, extracted from the poem “Closed Door”-

“The unknown secrets
Hidden for a reason
I chose to let it go
Blue closed door.”

In the poem “Me and My Shadow”, which presents ‘the patterns of light… at the edge of darkness’, she seems to celebrate her loneliness-

“I choose light
For my phantasm
Together we dance
Mimicking rainbows
Rippling on waters bright
Me and my shadow
One, and still not one.”

The seventh section “Finding my own Path” is worth reading and enjoying for the beautiful lines such as –

“All answers lie in the One
Supreme and sublime ( Why, Oh Why?)

Do the right thing
Let the evil twin sleep within ( Why, Oh Why?)

In this poem she proclaims-

I seek the wisdom
To submerge in love
Of the One, the only One.”

“A New Day”, an optimistic poem, brings to the fore the quest of the poet for ‘peace’. She wants to break free the existential chain of all emotions. Hence, she says-

“I pray
I let the churning happen
Tears roll
Releasing the angst
Out of my chaos
Order will come
In hope to move on
I let go of dead emotions
I wait to create
A new day.”

Her next poem “Break Free” gives out a message to her reader-

“The life must flow
The songs must play
Let no unsung words remain
Let no waters stagnate
Move on, lighten up.”

And the poem “Let Go” exhorts us-

“In letting go
We find
In finding ourselves
We let go.”

The concluding section, “Oh My God” is replete with philosophical and metaphysical speculations and reflections. The poems under this section reveal the spiritual and philosophical quest of the poet. In these poems, she reiterates her utmost longing to get at the ultimate reality of life. This is the reason why she, through the metaphors of ‘birds home into nests’, rivers flowing into ocean etc., expresses her pursuits as witnessed in the poem “reverie”. She exhibits her intense feeling to attain the inexplicable yearning:

Every day every moment
Like a phoenix rising
From the ashes of yesterday.

Further, in another poem “You, Me and Him”, her introspective nature is revealed. She holds that the ‘universe of God’ has ‘no end and no beginning’.

Expansive universe envelopes you
In its gigantic embrace
You bask in the brilliant glow
Partaking the divine energy
You become the light itself
You become the sound itself.

‘Symphony of the cosmos’ is ever reverberating in her spiritual poetry. She suggests us-

“Let yourself loose in the
Nirvanic bliss, infinity, continuum.”

This is what she calls’ the sweet symphony /of bliss and freedom’ for a yearning and wandering soul in the poem “Divine Cosmos”. “Golden Ratio’, another beautiful poem, is the churning summation of her profound realization that the journey of self to the ocean of super-consciousness is the ultimate reality of life. The entire poem, short yet powerful, deserves to be quoted here-

“In to the light we are born
Into the light we disappear
The journey on this earth
Is that of shared humanity
It must rise above only self
Into the expanded consciousness
Of the divine cosmic reality.”

The penultimate and the concluding poems are more significant than any other things in view of the metaphysical vision of the poet as contained therein. While the poem “Release” describes deliverance of human soul from the shackles and sheaths of worldly garbs, through unflinching faith and devotion in the divine entity enabling the soul to have ‘tryst with destiny’, the poem “Wings to the Soul” encapsulates redemptive submergence of soul in the sound-light oceanic wave of divinity-

“Mists of time
Soaring emotions
Diving within
Engulfing
Senses
Rising joys
Etched forever
In Him
I submerge.”

To conclude, “Dream Keeper” highlights personal, social, feminine and spiritual, philosophical patterns of thoughts, with iconoclastic vision of the poet, with aesthetic lens of the photographer. They explore the meaning of existence and search for identity and express modern Indian sensibility in modern terms, experiences and observations. All the elements, required for evoking a reader and a viewer, are fantastically fused together in the poems, with a view to presenting a holistic dimension and viewpoint to the reading community. Imbued with mystical, transcendental, philosophical broodings, social, personal, spiritual awareness, her poetry has a powerful undercurrent of universality of appeal. Apart from expressing Indian cultural ethos and pathos, the book under review also articulates reveries, past memories, man-woman relationship, pain, anguish and angst, depleted love, melancholy etc. giving a peeping hole into the contemporary social realities. Both sisters, Bindiya Bedi Charan, the poet and Komal Bedi Sohal, the photographer, deserve accolades for this unique experimentation and innovation which is sure to bring about a noble revolution in the field of photo-poetry: poetry turning into photography and photography turning into poetry.

 

Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar
Poet, Critic and Reviewer , Mumbai

Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar is a trilingual poet (Maithili, Hindi and English), critic and reviewer. He has to his credit two collections of poems in English: Soothing Serenades: Straight From the Heart (2018) and Two Indias and Other Poems (2019). One of his poems on Nelson Mandela is included in the academic syllabus prescribed for the school students of Philippines.
Besides, he is also a contributor to journals like The Criterion: An International Journal in English, IJML (International Journal On Multicultural Literature), The Anvil (Forum of Literature & Academic Research in English), Harvests of New Millennium, The Interiors, Taj Mahal Review, IJES (The Indian Journal of English Studies) etc.. He is also a part of several anthologies like ‘Epitaphs’, ‘Purple Hues”, “Whispering Winds”, “Just For You, My Love”, “Heavenly Hymns”, ‘I Am a Woman”, “The Significant Anthology”, “Umbilical Cords”, “A- Divine-Madness” (Five Volumes), “Amaravati Poetic Prism”( 2015,16,17,18 & 19) “Searching For Sublime” (Australian-Indo Poetry), “She the Shakti”, “Whispering Heart”, “The Current” etc.

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