Paresh Tiwari’s latest collection of haibun and hybrid poems is evocative, exquisite and melancholic. Revolving around close encounters with love, loss, memory and imagination, Tiwari’s work experiments and explores the mundane and the fantastical in an innovative way, and yet manages to remain as refreshing and accessible as ever. And perhaps, this is where his mastery of the form lies.
For a taste,
all the could-have-beens
laced in one breath”
Here you will find remnants of childhood and cigarette stubs, old loves and divorce papers, trinkets and seashells rescued from the waves, loneliness and the strange glimmers of hope. Tiwari’s pen distils quiet moments from everyday life and the occasional flights of fancy, into beautiful words- words that will haunt you and surprise you when you least expect it. His love poems have subtle erotic undertones, and he details the trajectory of failed relationships with frankness and pathos- that moment of tragedy when “someone else chooses/ our song on the jukebox” or the excruciating weight of separation in the lines,
we end up deleting
There are many ways to read his book.
Divided into 4 sections, you can read it from cover to cover, pausing to notice the illustrations and the etchings that repeat themselves like a leitmotif. You can turn to a random page and find yourself lost in his word-paintings of a familiar world. You can read each piece slowly, pausing to reflect how the prose poem and the haiku complement each other- and they do complement, contradict or even converse with each other in interesting ways. Often, a haiku will give a completely different twist or perspective to what you’ve just read, or simply jolt you awake. You can even choose to read them separately, follow the trajectory of haiku and then return to trace the lineage of his prose.
It’s certain that with this book, Tiwari has carved a name for himself in the Indian haiku scene. Although human relationships form the crux of his work, he occasionally uses elements of thrill and magic realism, to alert his readers to the miraculous in the mundane. In fact, there really isn’t anything to criticize here. Perhaps, the Indian ethos in his work could have been sharper, perhaps there might have been a deeper engagement with LGBTQA+ narratives, perhaps the lingering hangover of Romanticism in certain images could have been less persistent. On an aesthetic level, I felt his haiku to be stronger than the prose, but that doesn’t take away the fact that his hybrid poems are still brilliant and beautiful in themselves.
Moreover, Tiwari’s hybrid poems have a visceral, surreal quality to them. He’s the sort of poet who makes you feel rather than think, and feel so deeply, that familiar emotions will feel unfamiliar and then familiar again. His pieces like “Dear Vincent”, “Fossils”, “Moving on”, “Noir in my bones” and “Voiceless” resonate so powerfully, with the concluding image of voiceless mannequins gathering around a grizzled watchman for a story, lingering on like a tattoo.
If you’re a poetry lover, you will love this book, and even if you’re not, just pretend for a moment that this book is like a date with a stranger. A stranger you’ve obviously never known, but who seems familiar. And then afterwards as you walk back, after a night of meaningful conversation, you’ll realize that our ideas of strangeness are just self-generated boundaries. Give this book a chance, and perhaps on lonely nights, you’ll feel less alone.
I’ll leave you with this gem:
an unfinished poem
Next Up: Interview with writer & cartoonist Paresh Tiwari coming up soon!
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I’m always open to reviewing books of poetry or in the genres of YA, fantasy, sci-fi, magic realism, speculative fiction and graphic novels, so if you want your book featured on my blog & promoted on my social media channels, do feel free to contact me.