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Book Review of Exclamatory Marks of Silence

by Ananya Sarkar
(Kolkata, West Bengal, India)

Nivedita (Nivie)

Exclamatory Marks of Silence
Bhavesh Graphics, 2021
ISBN 9789385917318
Pages 32, Price INR 50

Musings on Life As We Know It

Nivedita’s latest book of verse Exclamatory Marks of Silence is an amazing animation of contemporary reality, with its myriad hues. Weaving her thoughts with images of life, the poet encapsulates both the disturbing and endearing elements to present a composite picture. A slim volume comprising a little over 30 pages, the book can be completed at one go and prompts the reader to question, accept and think along different lines when it comes to the elusive thing called truth.

Exclamatory Marks of Silence is divided into two parts – the first treading into muddy waters and unsettling the mind while the second lightens the mood with sunny thoughts. As cited in the Preface, the poet seeks to both evoke a response from the reader and help them to express themselves. In Part I, we have some of the most powerful poems such as “You Stink” and “Priest of My Conscience”. The former matter-of-factly accuses the reader of being biased towards various social and mental constructs that do not serve the cause of life:
You stink
Because you inherit
Pride, misanthropy, unrecyclable discord
And an
Orgasm for power
Touching on various disturbing facets, the poem ends on a poignant note, urging the reader to live in the true sense by disassociating from the stench of conventional fixations.

Live everyday till the stench leaves you
Or you leave the stench
In “Priest of My Conscience” the speaker requests the listener and friend to be a partaker in their journey instead of being a judge and advisor. The message resonates in the forever judgmental world where people are quick to shell out their advice and opinion. The poem “Women Activists” is empowering in its tone and encourages women to be strong to build a better future. However, the apparent simplicity with which the point is made is creditable.

You have to pick your sickle, you have
To button the discomfort and sow seeds for
A future that grows a muscle and
Strengthens the tampon.

“Amma Left Me Here” is based on the real-life story of a young blind boy who was left by his mother at the school for the blind. It beautifully shows how the child’s initial feeling of abandonment and desolation gradually melts into a future full of possibilities.

Though mental health and its various conditions have received more awareness than before, it is still sadly incomprehensible to and underestimated by many. In this context, “How Do You Explain Therapy to a Layperson?” is a powerful piece. The person treading slowly on a carpet of broken glass while being the subject of speculation by others who are running could be an analogy for any mental health condition. The poem indirectly compares therapy to healing the bruised feet by allowing blood to freely flow and massaging with ice.

The poems in Part II, as mentioned earlier, are livelier and act in the poet’s words (in the Preface) “like a cooling agent after a tight pinch”. “Steaming Cup, Waukesha” and “The Lanes of Waukesha” mark the celebration of poetry and creativity in the town of Waukesha in Wisconsin, USA. Again, “Gates at Chikkadapally” brings out the close-knit warmth of age-old neighbors “who never wanted to leave”. The titular poem “Exclamatory Marks of Silence” endearingly describes the speaker’s reaction on seeing her dog with newborn puppies. Being amazed, moved and joyous all at once, the speaker’s emotions find their way through tears – exclamations of silence that convey the beauty of new life.

The volume can be a bit intense at times, hitting home and making us uncomfortable. In this respect, in is not the choice for beauty lovers who perceive poetry as an extension of art that fascinates.

However, overall, the book is a great read for those who are willing to pause, ponder and rummage instead of being sucked into the frenetic onward journey. Going through it on a winter afternoon, on a short travel or during a break at work can help in passing the time more meaningfully. The poems evince immense potential and deliver an unforgettable experience.


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