P. B. Shelley’s in his 1821 essay, “A Defence of Poetry,” famously stated, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” The times and situations may have changed, but the nature and work of the “antennae” of society (as Ezra Pound would say) has not changed. This sensitivity and thoughtfulness is thoroughly reflected in Dr. Pragya Suman’s poetry collection, “Lost Mother.” The title may strike the readers as being simple, and they may have thoughts of poetry to be based on just the title, but that is more like the tip of the iceberg (as Hemmingway would say). The content that is to follow carries much more depth, and it is apparent that the poetry is born out of the deep musings and introspection of the poet.
The cover of the volume features a mother and her child. It relates well with the title and some of the poems that are written in the collection, but the readers should be ready to read and understand the abstract and loaded ideas that Suman has, which she would share in the coming pages. She gives her own definition of poetry when she says,
“Poetry is, among many things, the art of saying the unsayable.”
Her attempts of saying the unsayable bear fruit in “Lost Mother,” which has more than 70 poems on a variety of subjects, which include not just the bonds between parents and children but also subjects which affect humanity or find their roots in literature and mythology. By the time the readers finish reading, they realize that “Lost Mother” is much more than just being limited to the surface meaning. The poems having the theme of bonds between parents and children include “Lost Mother,” “Father’s Lesson,” and others. Poems like “Ambivalent,” Yesteryears,” “Yeats Became Modern,” “Old Yeats is Still Young,” “Black Hole,” “An Enlightened Buddha” highlight the fact that Dr. Suman is not only aware about the happenings of the present day but also have the influences of not just the giants of English literature along with a fair idea about greek mythology and men like Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka who were known for their mind-blowing ideas in their lifetime. The poet has written other poems which have different subjects and this is the factor that does not let “Lost Mother” be restricted to any one kind of poetry in particular.
Keeping the present time and situations in mind, “Covid-19” (haiku) “Sisyphus Would Smile” is one of the poems that every reader today would like to read. The existentialist thoughts and the feeling of absurdity, which Camus once talked about in his essay, find a poetic reflection with a modern flavour in the poem. In poems like these, Dr. Suman wholeheartedly attempts to give words to what many people would feel and are unable to give words to their thoughts. This makes her work relatable and quite universal. In the coming time, when covid-19 would become a part of history, many would want to go back to Dr. Suman’s writing and understand the state of mind of the people in the present time.
The poet also does experiments with other forms of poetry writing. Apart from not worrying about the rhyme in her former poems, she also tries her hand at micro-poems and the Japanese form of Haiku. Although the poet chooses to keep the language simple and vocabulary, which could be understood by all, the poems have layers of meanings that the readers can only decipher when they read the poems again and again. This makes the work essential for reading by mature and grown-up readers. However, the poems are also equally interesting and have the profound spell of pulling the readers back to the book for being read repeatedly. Yet, the readers who are interested in reading fresh and new content and want to go through abstract yet concrete thoughts of a poet can try reading the poems of “Lost Mother.” The manner in which the poet handles the content and the subjects she chooses for writing is worth noticing and appreciating. Apart from mature and well-thought ideas, they would also see the presence of classical writings and people who are a part of the canon in the present-day.