Odissi dancer Jaya Mehta calls the poems in her book The Poetic Saree ‘dance poems’. The term is fitting because there is a certain fluidity in her words, like the graceful drape of a sari. They undulate with a gentle cadence. Perhaps it is the exuberance of her thoughts that creates the impression of movement. She writes about magical tunes of the forest; about stringing together a garland of lights; about feelings drizzling lightly on her rainbow heart…. Happiness is rarely static.
It is no wonder then that these poems have been performed. The Mango Tree, Javakusum, Sculpturesque and Sakhi were made into videos by filmmaker Shabani Hassanwalia in The Poetic Saree Project. Sakhi was performed as a dance with kathak dancer Anima Jhagroe-Ruissen at the international poetry festival in Rotterdam. A short film inspired by the poems is being made. Her poetic journey, she says, began when her grandfather recited poetry to her when she was young; he made her recite it as well.
The poems are divided into three parts—art, nature and emotions. My favourite was the section on nature. You can get drenched in the radiance of fierce peaks and the trails of glowing fireflies. It creates a bittersweet longing in you, which I have always thought strange. Why must you long for beauty when you are basking in it? Longing seems to me the most inappropriately appropriate reaction to poetry, and it is what I felt while reading Mehta’s nature poems.
Some of Mehta's phrases are rather cliched, but what she has going for her is the intensity with which she writes. There is an irrepressibility about her poems. They are not words; they are a symphony of emotions that demand to be expressed.
THE POETIC SAREE
By Jaya Mehta
Published by Notion Press
Price Rs375; pages 52