Let the light in, Shriram Sivaramakrishnan
Ghost City Press, 2018 Free download
The telephone box as symbol and connecting device
This long poem shapes itself in various ways on the page to connect geographical locations separated by space and, sometimes, time. The consciousness streams from one stanza to the next, using commas and slashes and line-breaks for pauses but no full stops (unless I missed one).
It is necessary to go with the flow in reading this long piece, to be swept along. One tends, nevertheless, to grab familiar objects as they float past. One of these for me was the telephone, which acts to some extent as a motif in a sometimes confusing medley of impressions and thoughts. The phone literally connects India (the narrator’s homeland) and the poet himself alone on mainland Orkney in Scotland.
The narrator remembers past phone calls, he talks to his parents, he deliberately visits a site where there will be no mobile signal. I liked the way the parents come through, two people in a busy existence contrasting with the poet’s chosen isolation. There are playful implications about the relationship, the familial affection but also much needed distance. All this is evoked with vivid immediacy:
[ ... ] rushes and reverberations broken by tring tring of the landline telephone but to pick up
the receiver is to hammer the trying trying of the telephone to meld in with an assortment
of ambient sounds in our house, such as my father’s high-pitched tenor
as he argues with my mother, saying how difficult it will be to conduct
the function at our house [ ... ]
While there are episodes of actual telephone communication in the poem, there’s also the telephone as symbol of broken communication, an old telephone box used to shelter from the rain, the phone as something the poet talks to and at.
Let the light in is, as a whole, an ambitious experiment. For me, it did not wholly succeed but I found it full of energy and intelligence. And I loved the last three lines:
at a roadside eatery nearby,
a Jalebi wala drops his signature dish/ by mistake/ breaking it in
to a series of Chinese characters/ for everyone’s tongue