Book Reviews — 19 September 2018

Madhuri’s review of the new poetry book by Prartho.

Indian Rope Trick by Prartho

In her new volume of poetry, Prartho Sereno explores death and life with a voice that is masterful, earthy and sublime. She looks on these mysteries with both the tender awe of a new mother gazing on her child, and the experienced sweetness of a long-time lover. I was many times brought to tears by these fresh, vibrant, and innocent poems.

Prartho’s own painting makes the book-cover so attractive and beguiling I want to pick up the book and hold it to my chest… against a bluey-violet-cloud-dissolving water-color sky, mysterious, misty mountains support a golden temple. Above the temple an orange-garbed fakir climbs a rope which has no visible means of support – its upper end vanishes into the mottled sky.

And so it really is with life.

On the back is a sweet, laughing picture of the author, and her accolades are beside it: Poet Laureate Emeritus of Marin County, California, and a multi-award-winning poet; this book itself has already won the 2018 Blue Light Book Award.

I can understand why; books of poetry are so very rarely celebrations of all, like this one is. It is so refreshing to meet a book that understands our native, transcendent connection to joy, even in the midst of impermanence – maybe especially in that midst.

 

At the front of the book is this quote:

The rope must be thrown into the air
and defy the force of gravity,
while someone climbs it
and disappears.

– Robert Elliot of the London Magic Circle, is his challenge to world magicians to recreate the Indian Rope trick.

Aha. Now we get it.

 

The poet is, clearly, passed into a phase of life blessed beyond measure: the ability to exquisitely apprehend and articulate the life around her; and simultaneously to feel the current pulling it to its inevitable transition. The compassion she shows us in these poems is simply breathtaking – and I cannot imagine any book of prose, or any self-help book, which could do this job with anything like the effectiveness that Prartho does… in her observation of and fealty to beauty; to poetry as graceful observation, helpless observation, of what is and must be.

In On the Train from Paris to Provence, the elder Prartho wonders if the younger one, on a similar train, knew anything of her… the elder one: “Maybe it feels as if the train / has briefly entered a patch of tenderness / where something old awakens in her…”

A wise man I know leads a group where we bring time around like this – the young getting the benefit of the old – and I have the vertiginous feeling of circling a drain…

In Another Life, we add to the creative sense of dislocation by looking at a past incarnation; and in What Shape Sadness? we come to: “Sadness is the beautiful / nameless thing the dying friend / brings through the door, / the baritone warmth of his body / leaning on yours.”

Yes – we are all going through it now – the leaving of friends.

She’s got some fresh, yet very old memories here: Tornado, Sisters is great – about a tiny tornado experienced together with her sisters, in her early teens.

February in Maine goes to a time when Prartho’s own babies were small, and ends, “…We’ll shiver / together, like we did in the birthing rooms. / We won’t hold back.”

Everything’s here…

And suddenly, with Willy at 92, we come right back to the moment. Willy’s lost her dog, and misses talking to him: “What did you talk about?” I ask. / “Oh, whatever was happening right then… / He was very here and now.”

And there are poems I can coast with, glide with, appreciate – but I don’t weep, as I did at the beginning several times, and I don’t need to write about them, and this is a nice breath of space – but, on second reading, it’s not that simple, because now I am caught and held and pummelled with love. Pummelled with love – at this: because I recognize it:

refusing grace

sometimes
all you’re given
for days
are tears
which you can
of course
refuse
you can
keep repairing
the levees
you can
hole up
in the cobwebs
of your skull
you can
refuse
the weeping
which only
wants to float you
like alice
out the door

And then, in Evidence:
Death carries us in her mouth – softly / as if we were her own

As I move on through the book, I am again near-breathless – the weight of all this vision upon me – we have “radiant, mango-eyed” aliens – we have angels “excitedly stirring the air.”

Piano – about a bereaved neighbor starting to play again – is just wonderful – simple, accessible, it takes you with it and releases you at the end into joy.

Towards the end of the book we have a little whimsical visiting of reincarnation in Wish, and then, the final poem brings us to an even more transcendent truth:

Last Words

The master lay dying
and his disciples gathered round
to plead, Master! We’re not ready.
Please don’t go.

To which the Old One laughed
and gazing through waning-moon eyes
replied; Don’t be ridiculous.
Where would I go?

With this book, we can see that Prartho Sereno deserves, and fully inhabits, the title of Wise Woman. And we see that this happened through not saying no to life or to death, in all their power and their subtlety.

The heart is a country of aches and shadows, of cliffs above a bottomless sea; of shooting stars and half-made caresses, of things that are all mixed up together, and felt, and are not one but many; and are not many, but one – but most of all, of beauty – space…

She takes us there.

Review by Madhuri

Read the ‘title’ poem from this book on Osho News:
Indian Rope Trick

Book available directly from the author at prarthosereno.com, alternatively also from amazon.comamazon.co.ukamazon.deamazon.in

PrarthoPrartho – prarthosereno.com

Find more articles and poems by this author on Osho News


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