XXL by Aditya Shankar

The cover to XXL by Aditya ShankarBhubaneshwar, India. Dhauli Books. 2018. 126 pages.

Young Indian English poet Aditya Shankar is a man acutely aware of the quantity of material objects that are piled up against human sensations or emotions. His new collection of poems, XXL, by the very title, references the clothes of various sizes draped on human bodies. Thus, “Fashionista” labels him obese, and the realization dawns that “brands love the sculpted mannequins” while “the rest of us are their placards.”

The brands of global capital announce that we are nothing but our sizes. Even a nostalgic heart can be reduced to consider itself as a cog in the machine like “the coil of a spring.” The human predicament is so pathetic that for a dog its curvy tail, which it brandishes like a brand, becomes a noose. “Even a bird sits and hoots, hoping to make it to a logo.” The brand or the logo becomes the new noose for the postmodern man who is “a fool like us.”

But is there redemption from this hopeless situation where the market demands our full-time attention? In the poem “Folklore,” we find a God who gathered together words, vision, memories, and anger and “tied them together in a single stream of thought, / and gave poetry / to his follower.” Nevertheless, there is something beyond words as “no word is big enough / to be its meaning. No word is good enough / to be a prophet.” Poems thus have the tendency to fly as “if they had wings,” and that is how they beat the market.

There is a deceptive quantification of life in these poems, which the poet is cleverly offsetting against the fashionista. The poet declares that “the balance sheet of a poet is a sum of all such barters humanity has ever made. Numbers, words, numbers, words.” He envisions “the pigeon descending on [his] window as a messenger with the voice of what [he has] lost.” A poet cannot be cut to sizes like L, XL, or XXL. Living in a country overrun by the machinations of globalization, Shankar builds his wall of poems against it.

Ravi Shanker N.
Palakkad, India

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