Book Review by Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B. September 2015
New Vista, New Genre
Fusion of ideas, concepts and aspirations contributes to enrichment and progress. Two poems on one theme by two who worked together to come up with a tapestry lacing the poems together into one is opening a new vista and inauguration of a new genre. Tapestry is a product of imagination, labour and skill – beautiful to look at and sweet to ponder on, thoughtful, thought provoking replete with the basic tenet of femininity. The two poets of the work under review are unique in many ways. First they are two nations, two faiths, and two professions. The first is a Briton, shifted to Israel, a Hebrew by faith and a therapist by profession. The second is an Indian, a Parsee and Zoroastrian by faith, a primary school teacher by profession.
Their themes are natural everyday ones: trees, flowers, rain, river, sound, silence, light, shadow, illusion, hatred, hope, understanding and peace. Their tropes and symbols – all display the basic tenet of femininity again.
Unknown may be the poet, and unseen by many a reader, the poem communicates, displays and reveals the poet’s mind, imaginative conception and expression. Two minds working in the harmony of understanding and producing an artefact is a delight to look at appreciating their work. The two must have spent days in constant innovation, creativity and imaginative exuberance though living thousands of miles apart.
It is pleasantly surprising that the two are devout, imaginative and innovative. With fabulous femininity they unveiled it to the reader’s understanding and deep sense of appreciation. Though belonging to two different geographical regions, born of two entirely different speeches and practices of faith, they produced a distinctive work of imaginative/expressive art.
Femininity and devoutness are inbuilt in their traits and attitudes of the mind. Of these two poets, one is a Parsee born and living in India and the other a Briton gone to Israel following the faith of the natives of Israel and Jerusalem.
Here is a sample which goes to the heart of the matter. On the subject – call it a theme if you will – of wavelength. Each has written a poem in nine lines and later interacted and collaborated too to furnish the best possible message in eighteen lines. The printed book is so designed that the works of the two are on the left and the finished artefact on the right.
On the Same Wavelength
Words flow, but will you understand?
Can my thoughts touch yours,
enter your heart
as they flow from mine?
Can we merge as one unity.
Connect on the same wavelength
to soar through the universe
on a single song? (Avril)
miles and cultures apart
we still vibrate
on the same frequency
we share the same space
we met a purpose to fulfill
let us rejoice and celebrate (Shernaz)
On the Same Wavelength – Tapestry
Words fly across distances
but miles and cultures apart,
will you understand?
Can my thoughts touch yours
on the same frequency?
Enter your heart
as they flow from mine?
Yes, it is amazing,
for we do share the same space,
connect and vibrate
on the same wavelength.
As kindred spirits,
let us rejoice and celebrate
as we merge into one entity
and soar through the universe
on a single song; a new purpose to fulfil.
(Avril and Shernaz)
The foreword and the blurbs were well provided to whet the appetite of the forthcoming readers. Friend Kumarendra Mallick made a solid statement saying Kipling’s words have been proved untenable – now the twine, the East and the West met and met with a twang. As he felt and said the duo opened a new vista and a new genre of poetry has emerged.
In the blurb Ruth Fogelman revealed to us ‘In Hebrew the number 18 signifies life: these tapestries reveal the inner life of the soul…’ Added Gretti Izak about the sum and substance of the work: ‘Here are two poets who meet, like each other and decide to experiment by combining and merging their individual poems together.’ He explained the difficulties they in their effort must have surmounted.
Femininity is the hall mark of this affectionate work. To begin with it is the dedication – to the beloved children first and then filial duty to the parents. Their themes and tropes are meaningful with no sense of pride. In all there are forty-five items in the thoughtful exposition of this brave new endeavour.
I am reminded of the Sanskrit words of Mammata Bhatta, the ancient poet of 11th century A.D., who wrote Kavyaprkaasha in which he averred that Kavya – read poetry – is one with the gentility of a woman and her preaching (kantaasammitayaupadesayuje).
Review by GSP RAO printed in Muse India literary Journal March 2014 www.museinmdia.com
Creating a new genre in poetry
'Tapestry' is a new form of collaborative poetry, weaving two strands of thoughts on a common theme. Highly innovative in nature, the 18-line Tapestry is a new genre of poetry still in an experimental and evolving phase. The work is a joint venture of two very sensitive female poets drawn from two different countries and cultures. Avril Meallem is a Jerusalem based Jew, born and brought up in London and a physiotherapist by training. ShernazWadia is Pune based Zoroastrian and a primary school teacher by background. What comes through in their work is a remarkable similarity in their humanitarian outlook of life, similar inspiration drawn from nature and same spiritual leanings. It is this shared sensibilities that would have drawn them together in the first place and helped them weave the threads of their poetic thoughts so dexterously in their collaborative work. If their verses seamlessly merge, credit should go to their common outlook on life and matters. If their perceptions were not so close to each other's, whether this venture would have succeeded so well is difficult to say.
As they define in the Preface, Tapestry is a collaborative poetry writing by two poets where each composes a 9-line poem on a common theme and these are then interlaced into an 18-line poem, merging both streams of thoughts and that would stand on its own. Editing is restricted to achieve a smooth flow of language and to iron out rough edges in the juxtaposition of ideas and metaphors. The authors have aptly chosen the name 'Tapestry' for the amalgamated verse to denote the weaving of warps and wefts of the two streams of thoughts. While the hallmark of the book is the skillful merging of poetic flow of ideas of the two writers, what also stands out is their fine poetic sensibilities and felicity of expression.Both come through as highly gifted poets who present their perception of life and nature with simplicity and compactness. The themes chosen are fairly broad based, even touching upon issues of social injustice and gender discrimination. In many of the poems, the spiritual yearnings of the two poets come through strongly.
Poetry is all about expressing our innermost feelings and often becomes the medium of self-introspection and discovery. It also takes us on imaginative flights into the realm of the unknown. Avril and Shernaz take these flights with felicity, drawing lessons from nature and life around us. The individual poems are kept concise at 9 lines that does not give the luxury of elaboration. The combined poem is reasonably compact at 18-lines, neither too short nor too long. With the mix of the two streams of ideas, the content gets some elaboration.
The book is more about the effort involved in weaving the strands together, to give birth to a new poem that should offer a smooth flow of thoughts and words. It should stand as a complete and well-structured poem in itself. The challenge lies in integrating the two poems through adroit editing. Avril and Shernaz had decided that they would retain most of the words and metaphors of the original poems and that editing would be as minimal as possible. By and large they succeed in this and they come through as master craftsmen in seamlessly stitching the two strands of thoughts. Initially they thought they could merge the poems line by line but soon realised that to integrate the ideas and metaphors this was not always possible and that certain extent of restructuring and repositioning of the lines was unavoidable. The more important aim was to retain the two threads of thoughts and interweave them through skillful editing. The authors succeed in this.
It is only rarely in the book that the weaving of lines gives a feeling that it could have been better handled. Just to give one example, lines in the first stanza of the combined poem 'Beneath the Waves', reads: 'as I dive into the tranquillity / under the rippling surface / of the raging sea'. The terms 'rippling surface' and 'raging sea' were used separately in the two original poems. They have been brought together here with the objective of retaining most of original words. However, together they don't jell well as a 'raging sea' would have a roaring wave rather than a rippling surface. While editing stronger focus needs to be on retaining the ideas, even if it means sacrificing certain original terms. This has been pointed out here only to emphasise that over eagerness to retain original words and metaphors could be avoided in tapestry. As suggested earlier such instances are extremely rare in the book and editing has been handled quite effectively in the book.
Both Avril and Shernaz should be complimented for their joint enterprise and creating a worthwhile 18-line new genre of poetry. The success of Tapestry in the long run would depend on how many poets would be willing to work on such a collaboration with another poet (preferably with similar bent of mind) rather than seek glory in work that has stamp of their individuality.
Review by Dr Kumarendra Mallick -Scientist, Poet and Editor of 'Your Space' section of the literary e-journal 'Muse India.' www.museinmdia.com
Can there be a sky without birds, a sea without tides, a rainbow without colours and girls in spring without dreams? Perhaps never, so also there shall be no poets without imagination.
On the screens of a sky, a sea, a rainbow and in the youthful hearts the poet often enacts Act 3 with peaks and climaxes of human life. Poetry is thoughts, says Thomas Gray, that breathe and words that burn. It is also true that mind is a flow of thoughts. Thus, mind, thoughts and poetry are inter-related and provide a 3-D view of the society from sublime to mundane.
Here are two poets, eminent in their own right, Avril Meallem from England, now settled in Israel, and Shernaz Wadia from India – a twain from the west and the east have created magic in poetry by arresting their two minds and mixing the two flows of their thoughts. They have proved Rudyard Kipling, the great poet, wrong. Kipling scripted,
‘Oh, East is East, and West is West and never the twain shall meet Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat; But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the end of the earth!’
Avril and Shernaz are no two warriors with swords and shields. They are two delicate women with pen as their weapons. After a brief meeting in Mumbai their hearts struck the same chord, the wavelengths of their minds matched and the outcome is sublime poems they called ‘Tapestry’, an amalgamation, a confluence of two flows of thoughts, first composed independently and then combined. This experiment by them has been widely accepted and lauded by critics and poets alike.
This in fact is a mosaic of the rhythms of their emotions and the melodies of their dreams that transcend borders – a mosaic that is rare and unique, and yet fascinating and exciting. The two flows of thoughts, like two rivers, coalesce at the confluence to be one with same ripples and same murmur – a voice within a voice, a dream within a dream and a creation within a creation. The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings of Avril and Shernaz expresses their inner voice, the passage of time, the beauty of nature, the power of silence, unknown fear and many other attributes of life.
Though poets often live in a cloud-and-cuckoo land, the present duo are not only nature poets admiring trees and the sun, but are rooted to the ground as seen in ‘Roots and Branches’
There is a strong undercurrent of philosophy when the poets think of their return journeys. Avril wonders if the soul has to go through several cycles, whereas Shernaz is confident of ‘life morphing into eternal life divine.’ (Coming Home)
Silence is golden, it is said. The poets do aspire for such golden moments in ‘The Sound of Silence’
the sound of silence
secures my spirits’
Poets are seldom pessimistic. They always see a ray of hope. Such thoughts and philosophy of life are reflected in a series of their excellent compositions - ‘Go Away’, ‘As Dusk Falls’, ‘Cloudless Night’, ‘Travelling through the Thicket’, ‘Crossroads’, and ‘In the darkest Night.’
However, at the same time they are disappointed with the illusions of life,
Nothing is as it appears
in the play in which I’m acting.’ (Illusions)
This positive outlook runs deep throughout the anthology and in all their compositions. In a very significant poem, ‘Opposites Attract’, the poets realize that there is vast difference between them. They ‘do not share the same religion, culture or history.’ One hails ‘from the west’ and the other ‘from the east,’ but their ‘love for each other brings us together in distance.’
At times unseen pain pervades life and sadness is heard in unspoken words. Yet beauty in life overrides and they wait for the glow of the glorious, 'Come, let us see the sun rise.’ (Unspoken Words)
Words often fail to express the sublime emotions called love. A simple smile that blossoms in the eyes can be a poem to connect two souls ‘beyond time and form, in the vastness of eternity.’ (In Your Smiles)
These two poets are aware of the plight of women and do lament over their suffering. (Prison of Pain)
In recent time there is erosion of moral values. Corruption in high places has plagued the society. The poets are disenchanted, disturbed and show their deep concern (Corruption).
Terrorism and religious intolerance are the biggest menace of the present time, and more disturbing and woeful is that the younger people are being brainwashed to enter this deadly game (Seeds of hatred).
Freedom is always a celebration for it dispels fear and head can be held high. The poets cherish fond hopes in ‘Celebrating Freedom.’
To sum up, the anthology of ‘Tapestry’ by Avril and Shernaz opens a new vista and a new genre of poetry. The individual poems are very sweetly composed, and are amalgamated with great care and precision in order to heighten the effect. It has been a great pleasure for me to go though the anthology and I feel honoured to write a few lines on it. I wish all the very best to Avril and Shernaz in all their future endeavours.
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Review by Padmaja Iyengar -poet and web manager of the literary networking site www.ratemyliterature.com
If you wish to get drenched in a soft rain of words, if you wish to savour the
ambrosia of sheer poetry, if you wish to be treated to a fusion music of lovely
lyrical sounds, then just start browsing through the pages of ‘Tapestry Poetry –
A Fusion of Two Minds’ by Avril Meallem, and Shernaz Wadia. I did that and am
left asking for more...!
Will there be more journeys to complete
In the cycle of my soul
softly it emanates
the sound of silence
the sound of silence
(Excerpts from the poems and ‘The Sound of Silence – Tapestry’ – pages 56 and 57)
The above poems and Tapestry are just a sampling of how the two poets, residing across continents, have been able to think independently and then find a common ground for their poems. Here’s another that just blew me away:
(‘Travelling Through the Thicket – Tapestry’ – Page 71)
One cannot miss the poets’ deep philosophy on the journey called life in the above Tapestry. I could find an immediate personal connect with this one...
It is not easy to review a book of this kind that on every page, has a multi-layered poem each on the same topic by the two poets, that have been then merged into a single poem through the sheer magic of their word craft and wordplay.
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