When The Snow Melts by Vinod Joseph – A Review

This is the first book I am reviewing this year, and generally in a long time. It goes without saying that the first book which compelled me to come out and resume writing reviews is a really special one. Why is it special has factors both, textual and contextual. However, let me assure you, that it is more because of textual wonders that I hold the current book in a very high stead. The fact that it is written by a dear friend, fellow poet and wonderful human being, named Archana Kumar, does not rob me off the objectivity that as a reader-reviewer I attach to each book.

So, the name of the book is ‘Cafune’. Rather strange, isn’t it? Well that is because this word has been drawn from Portuguese lexicon. The magic of the book begins at the meaning of the word ‘cafune’ – the repeated running of fingers through someone’s hair in a delicate manner. Paints quite a picture, doesn’t it?

Well, Cafune is a collection of poems by Archana Kumar, a poet based in Delhi, the depth and expanse of whose expression has genuinely stunned me. Her poems are wrapped under the aura of a very, may I say, romantic title – and they do carve out a story of love which one gets, begets, forgets, and probably regrets. Her verses, even thought profoundly drawn from the nuances of romance, are not limited to just this one theme. They are a very subtle, yet effective comment on the strange experiences of modern existence, the pervasive uncertainty which dots all our relationship experiences, the tussle between attachment and objectivity and the pining for the essence which makes life comprehensible. Heavy? No. Her verses make all these sound easy and reachable.

While having broadly talked of the theme, I find it extremely relevant to comment on her poetic grammar and syntax. Upon the reading of her third poem, I was keen to know if Archana had been inspired by the writings of the great 20th century poet – e e cummings. No, I have not forgotten my punctuations, but cummings preferred not adhering to any bit of lingual colonization of minds. He would break castles of grammar and punctuation routinely, thus being a fierce face of the avant garde art movement. Even more curious is the fact that cummings would mostly be writing in traditional styles, but his innovative syntax would completely stun you out of your comfort zone.

I located cummings in one of Archana’s poems, and was glad to know I am not completely off-guard. Her poems are a visual delight, besides being rich in symbolism and in-between meanings. She has challenged the capitalization of ‘I’ in her verses, broken free from sentence grammar and even visually represented her poems to make words and images function in tandem. An example is her poem Cancer, which is shaped like an hourglass to portend the running out time/life. The endings of her poems are sometimes constructed to throw the reader off-guard. Modern-day slangs find elegant integration in her storified-poems. The collection has a mix of pleas, reminiscences, nostalgia, bitterness, equanimity, contradictions and even gratitude statements. You will also find some Haikus in the book, which are as effective as her other compositions. Most of the poems are short, but even the longer ones manage to hold a reader’s attention with skill.

A great deal of editorial finesse has probably gone behind making this book so good. It was my metro companion for two days, which made me sigh, gasp and get transported to thought realms while jostling with huge volumes of crowd. It is not that the book is perfect, but close to it. My only problem with the verses was, perhaps, an element of repetition. This repetitiveness manifested in themes, and sometimes in metaphors as well. I also found pop-notional representation replete in her text. For example, her poem Hey There read like the famous song Hey Jude. And I am not saying it is good or bad. At the end of the day, it left me a satiated reader.

This is a four on five star book for me. And those who read my reviews would know that fours in my ratings are hard to come by.

Before closing the review, I would like to congratulate Archana on her fine debut effort. I would also like to point out my quintet of favourites from this anthology.

  1. Matter and Flesh
  2. Gods
  3. Dream
  4. Trigger
  5. Proximity
Contradiction and Intimacy of Distance form a close runners-up to my quintet.

The Poet, in one of her finest candid avatars.
The Poet, in one of her finest candid avatars.

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