Journeys in verse

Last Bus to Vasco Poems from Goa
by Brian Mendonca
Published by Brian Mendonca
Pages 68. Rs 150.

"For me, poetry is like a photograph in words. The capture of a fleeting moment in time and space to which you may want to return to, to savour in this brief existence." This is what poetry means to the writer. A senior editor with a publishing house, he finally found his poetic voice when the Sahitya Akademi published his poems in its journal. Even in Chandigarh, when he read aloud his poems at the Creative Circle, people could identify with the themes despite the geographical and culture divide. The audience clapped to the verse sang to the tune of his guitar.

Brian’s travels have given him a vast reservoir of subject matter which he deftly weaves into verse, sometimes rhythmic at others jagged, to convey the essence of experience. Whether he is talking of the middle class family travelling by Mangala Express or celebrating the architecture of Qila Mubarak, the verse resonates with the cadence of Goa and India. In the poetry is an expression of multilingual, multicultural India. It is almost as if he speaks in several voices, registers and styles.

Most of these poems are based upon his travels across the length and breadth of India as a result he is a keen, perceptive and sensitive observer of reality that surrounds him. So much so that the perceptual content scores over the emotional content.

To an extent, these poems could be described as dispassionate documents of personal observation. He has apparently been influenced by early modernists such as Ezra Pound and Eliot and has a strong inclination towards intertextuality and erudition. Brian draws upon his vast knowledge of English literature, poems and poets to draw a world that is truly cosmopolitan as well as rooted in Goa’s soil. What one misses in the poetry is a lyrical strain and musicality. Perhaps it is a comment on our times that poetry, the most rhythmic and musical of literary forms, today hobbles along on jagged rhythms.

If this poetry is to be understood in the light of the famous "poetry communicated itself much before it is understood," it falls short. It is much too densely textured to be instantly understood. The glossary has been overdone. It is listening to his poems on the CD provided with the book that is a unique uplifting experience. The baritone and music holds the listener in thrall. An entry by the National Book Trust to the Frankfurt Book Fair, it gives the reader a sense of India in all its plenitude—its stories, its colours, its moods. — A.N.