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K Pankajam
“Crossing the Shoreline” by Gopal Lahiri
K Pankajam

Crossing the Shoreline | Poetry | Gopal Lahiri |
Haoajan Publishers (202 2 ) |
ISBN 978-8195479382
| Pp. 119 | Rs. 300


A medley of theme, theory, technique, and reason, yet modest in presentation!

Gopal Lahiri’s book ‘Crossing the Shoreline’ (2022) published by Haoajan Publishers is the book under review. This book contains 90 selected poems divided into three groups under the tags: Voices of Concision, 14 Liners and Haiku and Haibun. Lahiri’s literary pursuits are spread in English and Bengali languages through 27 books and other publications. It is noticeable that his poetry is extensively equipped with abstract images and manifest metaphors.

Each human being is a book. There would be something to take home by reading such breathing books, only if one observes deeply. Some of them, rooted in ethical principles, spread rays of luminescence to the society they belong to through their creations. Gopal Lahiri is one such personality, who creates a sublime world of luminescence through his poetic sensibilities.

In a world that is becoming increasingly contaminated with hatred, terrorism, war, and crimes against women to filthy proportions, it becomes necessary to find pragmatic solutions and for that one needs to embrace simplicity to imbibe inner peace which can transform complexities and ease such entanglements to arrive at discernible resolutions. As far as I believe, to acquire such inner peace, poetry is one of the effective tools. The poetry of Gopal Lahiri is seemingly simple yet carries a gamut of strong emotions in their folds making the readers travel through the poet’s thought process, which is rich in ideals and empathy.

Now comes the question, Why poetry? Why not Prose? The answer is that poems allow one to express things differently, think differently about words, reexamine them, and find new ways to use the words most effectively. So, while writing poetry one is supposed to evaluate each word, as poetry is the condensed form to get to the heart of the matter, naturally requiring one to spend more time before finalizing his/her word choices. Lahiri is aware of these essential requisites of writing poetry, which is evident in the poems in this collection.

Waking up to the idea that one can achieve substantially the betterment of society is the springboard for any new venture. For this, self-confidence is the kicking force behind. Consolidating works and presenting a book of poems of this nature showcases Lahiri’s self-confidence in his own works and his conscious efforts have resulted in a book of high stature.

The poems under ‘Voices of Concision’ are factually concise and deal with varied topics, as the sub-titles suggest, concisely, clearly, and confidently. The very first poem (the title poem) is conspicuous and striking for its conciseness, vivid imagery, and pithy wordplay.

“Unknown alphabets draw humpbacked sand dunes
aligned in endless rows on the shore
of my sleep”

When the speaker of the poem “Story Elements” looking at the picture of the mystic land at Café Wall says;

“Limbs, lungs or even wings are now
stitching garments on the canvas.
the floral landscape hides the topography of the
table, pot and plates.”

The poet takes the readers along, and they can feel the ambience vividly. With such brevity of words, the cafe interiors are unveiled before the readers.

“City Skin” is a beautiful poem, short and cute, and its stunning images would haunt one.

“Solitary tree stands on the roadside
woodpeckers write the evening lyrics,”

A poet’s mind is always preoccupied with alphabets, words, and stanzas, whatever he does and wherever he goes. The poem “My Poem” reveals the birth pangs of an unborn poem.

“Every day, the words shuffle their feet, they waltz
around the books and shelves,
Near the open door, the alphabets wait like a patient
for the touch of my hands,
The stanzas get stuck and sulk at times but revert back
right up to the alley, crisp and plain,”

All sensible poets can relate to this, who spend hours chiselling their work to bring out a flawless creation, yet a feeling is sure to stalk that something more could have been done.

There are beautiful poems such as “Love Alphabets”, “Search”, “Crossing”, and “Old Letters” among others, which will certainly take the readers to the peaks of poetic bliss.

The second section comes with 14 liner poems, all offering a rich reading experience, “Biography” “Far and Beyond”, “Freedom”, and “Winter Verse” to mention a few.

So much is said with so few words in the Japanese form of poetry called Haiku. There are 50 short poems under the title Haiku/Senryu in this collection. Deforestation is a burning issue everywhere and is the cause of global warming. The cunning real estate mafia throws to the wind all cautions and indulges in ruining our environment by eliminating forests to achieve their motive of profit-making. With just 9 words see how the poet is stirring the sceptical mind of the readers on this sensitive issue and it vouches for the poet’s social responsibility.

“dense forest
now a clean-shaven look
bullish real estate”

Another one here is on a morning walk. The morning, its loveliness, pleasant winds, chirping birds, peeping baby rays of the sun, and pleasing atmosphere around, all come alive in our thoughts reading this Haiku. And migratory twins who greet us in silence create before us a stunning image.

“morning walk
migratory twins
greet us in silence”

A third one I want to quote from this section is;

green grass becomes
white sheet”

Through these lines, a beautiful winter scene comes alive before our eyes.

Long after reading these poems, some lines and the feel they create refuse to fade away from the readers’ minds and travel along with them, for their sheer beauty seeps deep into their senses. Hence, as a sincere thought, no one should overlook the poems in this section. As for me, I experience the images rioting in my mind. They are full of wisdom and beautiful images. The pleasure of reading them is beyond words.

I have quoted only three out of fifty, for brevity’s sake. It is such a pleasure to appreciate the finesse of these poems. The magic of Haiku has been carved by the poet with brilliant precision and mastery.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge said that in prose, words are in their best order; in poetry, the best words are in the best order. I can see these conditions being fulfilled in Lahri’s Haibun poems. To show just one example, here is the poem “Snapshots”:

“Two kingfishers’ pilot in daybreak. The pigeons surge into the roofs in their hundreds and the breezy morning gives away to the sunlight-infused noon. Out of horizons, I make rainbows and in sleep, my dream touches the curve of my pristine city. I still remember that during rainstorms in my childhood used to chase pigeons down the avenues, down past the branches, the leaves, the blossoming flowers. The lonely butterfly did sit on the edges of the window and tried to inhale the solitude inside. For days I was drawn to her stripes, to her colour, to her beauty. And all these drenched in the vermillion of the setting sun.

grey sparrows
share ghost stories.”

Lahiri has proved himself as a powerful voice in Indian English poetry and I wish him all the very best. He wields a discerning eye for the mundane details of life, transporting the readers to an arena of pure poetic pleasure and his collection, Crossing the Shoreline is a medley of theme, theory, technique, and reason, yet modest in presentation. Navigating through the poems in this collection, I can emphatically swear that this book comes packaged as an intellectual entertainment and lovers of poetry will find it memorable.


Issue 109 (May-Jun 2023)

Book Reviews
    • Sukanya Saha: Editorial
    • Ananya Sarkar: “The Song of Distant Bulbuls” by Simrita Dhir
    • Annapurna Sharma: “The Wait and Other Stories” by Damodar Mauzo
    • GSP Rao: “Why Stories Work” by Somdev Chatterjee
    • K Pankajam: “Crossing the Shoreline” by Gopal Lahiri
    • Purabi Bhattacharya: “Wild treasures &Adventures - A Forester’s Diary” by Sunayan Sharma
    • Pushpa Subramanian: “Behind Latticed Marble - Inner Worlds of Women” by Jyotirmoyee Devi Sen
    • Sapna Dogra: “In the Domain of White Heron” by Raghavendra Patil
    • Sapna Dogra: “The Adventures of Sirdar – The Chief of the Herd” by Dhan Gopal Mukherjee