Salt and Pepper: Selected Poems by Sukrita

Author:  Sukrita

The cover to Salt and Pepper: Selected Poems by SukritaMumbai. Poetrywala. 2023. 196 pages.

Indian academic and poet Sukrita Paul Kumar’s recent collection of selected poems, Salt and Pepper, traces the trajectory of the poet’s life from her birthplace, Kenya, to the place of her ancestral roots, India, where she lives now. Poised in her language and inventive poetic expression, Sukrita’s extraordinary brilliance lies in how she braids together the personal with the universal. Though her poems excavate her life and variegated experiences, her poetry seems to percolate through the feelings and emotions of every individual and to encompass a wide variety of themes. 

Her poems, as she says in “Seedling,” are the “epitaphs of experiences”; the experiences of displaced individuals, womanhood, loneliness, spirituality, hope, and love. And these experiences weave a rich tapestry with unsparing precision and sharp metaphors. As Sukrita writes in the tempting introduction that she calls “The Question of Homing,” “my childhood memories of Kenya as my homeland come alive occasionally in a poem, and their impact in the making of my personality is indelibly present.” She sharply transmutes the idea of personal memories into a poem (“Preoccupation”) while concomitating the angst and loneliness of a common woman: “The passage / To my mind / Is / Dark and long / Lost I often remain / At the world’s end / Stitching the holes in my memory / Living in the past tense / And cooking the / next meal.”

Integral to her poetic credo is a longing to discover the recesses of inner self through her transcendental imaginations and symbols. Her poetry thus reads like a prophetic assertion with nature functioning as a backdrop. Sukrita’s transcendentalism also emerges when she explores the idea of love and the oneness of two selves in love as in “Laila’s Call”:

Your poems are the gurgling waves of 
the ocean 
Leaping to reach the skies 
And withdrawing merely with the 
Tired and limp on the surface of the 
placid waters 
Love is a blessing 
Says Laila, not a curse 
Your wish for immortality 
Keeps us apart

Sukrita’s poems are like a flowing water creating soothing ripples that compel a reader to contemplate and imagine. However, Sukrita’s verses are laden with words of multilayered meanings; even the most abstruse ideas and realties are captured in a rather eloquent manner that affords readers a pleasurable ease. 

Suktria’s poetry breathes a sincere discernment and a deep meditation on the complicated realities of human experiences, where human existence seems so agile yet enduring. She explores the intricacies of dialectical relationships among women and men, sociocultural realities, and cosmological truths through her sublime, surrealist imagery. Moreover, human emotions also take center stage in many of her poems, where she offers a window on swirling vortices of emotions followed by calm stillness.

Salt and Pepper is an intriguing exploration of a poet’s excursion into her innerscape, revealing the illuminating truths of life. Sukrita seems quite conscious of her vocabulary, and thus her language is so effortless that the whole collection reads with a tender flow. It is a joyful feast for connoisseurs of poetry. 

Mohammad Farhan
Jamia Millia Islamia

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