Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

ale(theia), Kripi MalviyaThe jacket is black with a thick white band at the top that bears the imprint name. There is a large white and grey graphic in the black area of a woman covering her face with her hands. Below this 16 flowers of various bright colours. The title and author's name are centred in lower case white font in the middle of the jacket.  There is a white endorsement quote at the top of the black area

Hawakal Publishers, 2018      Price:  INR 150.00 | USD 6.50

Distractions & attractions

The unusual title of this pamphlet caught my eye. The whole word ‘aletheia’ is defined inside as ‘an ancient Greek word meaning unconcealed, unclosedness, disclosure or truth’ (p. 7). The highlighted ‘theia’ is ‘a hypothesized ancient planetary-mass object in the early solar system’.

A glance at titles of the poems then led me on a hunt for meanings. I spent quite a while exploring their etymologies and mythologies before settling down to read the poems.

This is in fact a chapbook of two parts, ‘Thailand’, and ‘Finland’. I find the first part unsettling. It keeps me on edge (which I don’t mind). The opening piece, ‘Sans Titre’, is a poem of disclosures, in which ‘he is anger’ and ‘she is red surging rage’, where ‘he shoots feathered arrows for truths’ and ‘she explodes for each silenced life’.

In ‘Isochronic’, I start to wonder about the way I read ‘saturate awe’ and ‘learn the choke of home’, and this diverts me for a while. I’m not sure I’m reading these phrases in the way the poet means them (though does that matter?). 

I’m more at ease in ‘Finland’, and especially in the first lines of its first poem (‘Corrade’), lines which reflect the ‘unclosedness’ aspect of aletheia:

I wish we always loved
the way we love
when we leave

These words are a sharp contrast to other lines in the pamphlet which keep me wondering, reminding me of Catherine Belsey’s comment that ‘from the perspective of the reader, undecidability keeps the text alive: it’s why we come back to it for more’ (Criticism, 2016).

However, I keep returning to ‘Mielikki’ for different reasons — its immediacy, its fairy-tale feel, and because of its love of place (‘Mielikki’ being the name of the Finnish goddess of forests and the hunt). Here are stanzas two and three:

It’s difficult to tell whether the purple on her eyelids
are her own
or something she takes on from the lakes
but they cause a hailstorm when you look at her
just the same

It’s hard to look at her.
Like taking in all of her at the same time
will root your muscles to her ashen ground

Enid Lee