Sabyasachi Nag, Could You Please, Please, Stop Singing? Mosaic Press, 2016, ISBN: 978-1- 77161-171- 8, 128 pages. Price $14.99 US, $18.99 Canadian, £10.99 UK.
Reviewed by Christopher T. George
Calcutta, India-born Sabyasachi (Sachi) Nag, now a resident of Ontario, Canada, has once again drawn on his background to produce a fetchingly evocative and varied collection of poems. Many of the poems in the collection are based on the writer’s observations of Calcutta and its people.
In a large number of his poems , Sachi Nag expresses mixed feelings, a hallmark of his poetry, as well as a transcendence in tone that passes from seriousness to humor in the blink of an eye. Thus, the title poem of the book is characteristic of the poet’s approach. In the opening line, the speaker addresses a person (I assume himself) alone on a train “with a young busker.”
The person is alternately regaled and revolted by the busker and her performance:
……….She sings of loveless nights, an endless moon-washed
……….river on the other side of the planet. On haunches, supine
……….she touches her scummy fingernails to your knees,
……….shocks you with static.
She clings sweatily to her possessions, “the material girl”—steel pins in her hair, a
glass nose ring, tapping a tin drum. . . .
“Who the hell are you? You want to ask.” The onlooker questions where he may have seen the busker before, and becomes frenetic with irritation at the festering need to make her stop singing:
……….If I stake everything: my sense, selfhood,
……….life and make love to you right now, here,
……….on this train, will you stop.
Indeed, the busker is “shattering my compass. . . sickening me with self loathing.” And yet when the train stops “abruptly” the scummy performer walks out the door the person is shocked and disappointed, a lover lost and asks, “Why is this revolutionary walking out the door?”
In “Thirteen Tonight,” a poem about the writer’s teenage son, the poet similarly nicely thumbnails the mixed feelings of a parent seeing an offspring grow up before his or her eyes. The situation will be familiar to anyone with sons or daughters:
……….My son’s shoe size hasn’t changed all year;
……….but his voice cracked the attic window and branched—like—you’d
……….think—an ancient river
……….over a landscape of poets, philosophers. . . .
This relatively short but strongly worded poem ends with a note of resignation, for it is all the father can do, to surrender to nature and the son’s inevitable growth, “like an uncertain story pivoting on invisible hinges”:
……….so much beyond the natural laws
……….you would say some ghost,
……….some superior force was acting upon him—
……….from time past to future, in one moment
……….he leapt like a lemming almost into his own
……….and all that hair on his legs and underarms
……….cannot convince me yet,
……….he will grow up to be much taller than me.
Could You Please, Please Stop Singing? by Sabyasachi Nag will provide a rewarding, beautifully
expressed experience for any poetry admirer or, indeed, any sentient inhabitant of this world. Much recommended.
© Sabyasachi Nag and Christopher T. George
Sabyasachi Nag’s first collection of poetry, Bloodlines, was published in 2006. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario with his wife and son. He immigrated to Canada from his city of birth, Calcutta, and many of his poems reflect his observations of that city and its people. As characterized in the liner notes to his most recent book, Could You Please, Please Stop Singing? (Mosaic Books, 2016): “The city’s voices offer a wide cast of characters, ranging from the cotton fluffer, the graffitist, the house help, the processionist, the busker and the bomb maker.”
Christopher T. George was born in Liverpool, England in 1948 but is a long-time resident of Maryland where he lives with his wife Donna and two cats. Chris recently retired as a medical editor in Washington, D.C. Besides being an editor of Loch Raven Review, Chris serves as editor at the on-line poetry workshop Desert Moon Review at http://www.thedesertmoonreview.com/. His poetry has appeared in publications worldwide. He is also a songwriter, artist, War of 1812 historian, and Ripperologist. With Northern Ireland historian Dr. John McCavitt, he recently published The Man Who Captured Washington: Major General Robert Ross and the War of 1812 (Oklahoma University Press, 2016).
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