It is a perplexing historical moment. We seem to be caught in the total animal soup of time - between coming and going, our cities and homes floundering in the limbo of opening and closing, our inner landscapes alternating between storm and serenity, avalanche and indifferent horizon. The country is stretched taut, bleeding the birth and demise of all manner of technicolour dreams. As we confront the erratic graph of the times, we are learning the art of solitude, and the quiet deception of fortitude. I take in everything that comes my way - the dissent, the fight for life, the clamping down on essential freedoms, the clamping down on breath and heartbeat, the unfettering of desire, the slow opening up, the remembering of what it means to meet, and touch, and spend time with another. I feel like I’m in a museum of emotions; raw, ancient fossils of sentiment slowly floating to the surface of the present moment.
It is against this notional backdrop that I share with you the July edition of the Poetly 2021 Digital Calendar, Voyaging to Innocence. This edition features a poem and artwork by Sharanya Manivannan, from her collection of poems The Altar of the Only World. The book is a fascinating foray into the human condition, rendered with the voices of figures from mythology, spanning ocean, mountain, forest and valley. These aren’t detached musings on distant texts, however. Each poem carves its place in a kind of wandering quest of the self, and the other. Each word, and turn of phrase, chosen with care, locates the persona in an archaeology of emotion that burrows into magical, phantasmagorical universes. There is an intimacy in Sharanya’s soliloquys that asks difficult questions in measured tones, even as it relives complex moments of desire, longing, transgression, freedom, faith, and of course, grace.
I stepped across the line,
That’s how I made it mine.
In these musings, there is, at times, no distinction between the self and the world, identity and context, humanity and nature:
Now all the wilderness
is my heart’s citadel
The poem for July is rendered in the voice of Sita and strangely resonates with the competing impulses of freedom and its abbreviation that we are confronted with today. Without further ado, than….
Let your heart flood, uncontrolled, into the river.
After fourteen years of forest exile under the thumb of empire, Sita in captivity in Ravanan’s ashokavanam in Lanka grasps all she thought she knew anew: nature, culture, and self. The forest becomes garden; the captive becomes free; the permanent evanesces into a more eternal truth.
My illustration is overlaid on a photograph I took in Pondicherry in 2008. This poem is from my collection The Altar of The Only World.
This is the seventh in the series of digital prints featuring artists’ interpretations of 12 different poems by Indian poets (released in monthly editions). This project is conceived as an anthology of digital wallpapers for desktops/laptops combining poetry and visual art. You can find the January edition here, the February edition here, the March edition here, the April edition here, the May edition here, and the June edition here.
Click on the image to properly view, download, and set it as your wallpaper.
You can follow Sharanya Manivannan, and meet her work here.