The first poem is the title poem in which Trace ultimately becomes "a swiftly vanishing sweetness." That might also define Pramila Venkateswaran's 25 page collection-- I could easily write on each poem for each stands on its own/ has its own breath & breadth and also functions in relationship to a wonderful, and brief, collection. Indeed, a functional range of meditation's depth and breadth through word is brought forth in the title poem Trace as it is in many of Pramila Venkateswaran's poems in this collection. We see not only where her mind ventures, but also where her body dwells in meditation, for they work in tandem--in the poems as in the Yoga Practice the poems evoke: "The body's pose/ and the poem's body/ are at attention" (3) to quote the first lines.
In "You Are That," (4) a friendly code-switching begins: whether one is familiar through cultural connections with South Asia and/or with Yoga, or not, one can pick up overtones of significance of the languages used in these poems, albeit, with study, for some, and with the acknowledgement that each reader's interpretation touches a surface, others reach from a different slant. In this second poem of the collection, the poet identifies her relationship to Patanjali, as implied in the phrase "Tat Tvan Asi"; the poem's last stanza
You are thatcould be seen to mirror the front cover art. Indeed, the artist, Jayashree George, evokes a visual image that corresponds with much of the poetry's imagery -- a view within the opening of the hands in dance, the seed, beej, or the solid exterior cradling a watery green line of life water, the inanimate encircling the alive, my mind goes on ... Wanting to clarify and "complexify: definitions for which I (not someone with any formal Yoga training) was approaching Pramila's words, I looked up some of the poses and less familiar words. The word "beej" in the poem "Mouthing God" brought me to websites such as beejbachaoandolan.org and navdanya.org. Somehow the process the poem initiated, the seed, if you will, is what this poem observes in the relation of word and seed in the mouth of God.
joining in the
held up by a disappeared
As someone with a birthday in early February, "February Meditation" (5) caught my attention. The poet narrates her meditative journey: from "New born" through confrontation of the "Tsunami of thoughts" and "unhappy endings" that weaken her and return her to an unnoticed "undercurrent," by which she is "cradled" then fantastically lifted "to the tallest pine" where she is "as light as nothing." As a reader, I am transported on a journey I will probably never take, and think back to another poet's friend's "Viaje." While it may seem odd at first thought, to compare raulrsalinas' "Trip through the Mind Jail" to Pramila Venkateswaran's meditations on meditation, the connections between the worlds of these poets suggest that transposition may be more about finding common "trace" in divergent experience than some kind of "universality."
Like these poems, the entire collection has its own integral chronology that takes us through various poems/ poses (and places) to the final poem: Shavasana (corpse pose); but should this sound like a predictable ending, think again. The last lines suggest otherwise:
that generates life
this un-song/ that contains
songs of aliveness,
into the beginning
before I became, before this body
touched the elements.
Book Description: Ardha Matsyendrasana
Imagine that fish motionless on a lonely shore
listening to Shiva whispering the secrets of yoga
into Parvati's ears. The burden is no longer
the goddess' alone; the fish suddenly gains
divinity, pronounced by Shiva himself
as Lord of the Fish, to spread on earth
a rarefied mystery.
A path opens on earth beckoning all
to trust it to take them to the answers
Oh, to be that fish! To let the spine melt!
My right hand wrapped around my left knee
moves further toward the outer reaches,
so my torso aided by the momentum
of my left hand swings further left, until
I feel utterly wrung.
I surrender to Matsyendra, my mortal
effort replicating a fraction of his amazing dexterity,
while desiring his natural, chosen blessedness.
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