Book Review: Silent Sun by Ayushman Jamwal

Book: Silent Sun
Poet: Ayushman Singh Jamwal
Genre: Lyrical poetry
Publisher: BecomeShakespeare
Available at: Snapdeal
Price: ₹275, Paperback.
I’m one of those people guilty of not reading too much poetry, despite loving poetry the most out of all forms of literature. So when Ayushman Jamwal, whom I had interviewed many moons ago, asked me to take a look at his new book of poetry, I jumped at the opportunity. The Senior News Editor at CNN-News18 released his first book of poetry in April 2017. 

Silent Sun is a work that is clearly very personal. Grief, love, desire and despair are all there in the 20 poems that make up the book.

In ‘Tears of the Wandering Mystic’, one can see shades of what he thought of his grandfather, Kunwar Viyogi, the warrior-poet from Jammu. The last lines are particularly impactful: You may have seen love with a heretic’s gaze, I will have more faith in its grace.
‘I think of You’ is a poem of longing for a woman. The imagery is striking, even if the regular rhyme scheme takes away from the depth of the poem. I have always been uncomfortable with the pinning of women in poetry as muses for men. The discomfort comes from ye olde sonnets written during the Tudor era in England, most of which was extremely misogynistic and problematic, and I wish I could say things have changed in the last 500 (!) years- just listen to any recent pop song.
‘Conqueror in a Pretty Dress’ would seem to undercut this idea somewhat- it speaks of a woman scorning society’s judgement and revelling in her freedom. ‘Bipolar Heart’ is about a woman whose varying moods the poet is unable to understand or cope with. It’s worth noting that bipolar disorder is a real disorder affecting millions, and it’s unclear from the poem whether the woman actually suffers from it or not, or if the disorder has been used as a metaphor for the poet’s torn feelings about her. This can be dangerous, from the perspective of someone who actually suffers from a bunch of mental health issues: it can lead to misinformation about these very real disorders.

‘Am I Not God’s Child?’ is a far more political poem.

It takes on the voice of a Muslim woman. It focuses on a pressing issue- triple talaq. I liked how the argument against it has been framed on the same basis that people will probably use to argue for it, creating an effective defence against such religious logic. While I disagree with the notion that only one who has had lived experience of a situation can write accurately about that situation- empathy and literary imagination can go a long way, I think- I also feel that this is best left to journalistic endeavours or interviews through which the affected person’s voice comes up.
Ayushman Jamwal with moderator Debashish Mandal
Ayushman Jamwal with moderator Debashish Mandal at the launch of his first book
There are echoes of the state of its creator’s homeland, too. Ayushman hails from Jammu, a place that has been in the throes of conflict for decades now. I cannot claim to be know all the details of what has been happening in Jammu and Kashmir, but I do know that my opinion does not coincide with Ayushman’s. He is much closer to the conflict than I am, as he points out in the poem ‘We Remember, Our Nation Forgets’, about the situation of Kashmiri Pandits. In ‘May the Valley Hear Me Roar’, he makes clear his allegiance to the nation-state of India. The narrative revolves around the idea that the Indian military will protect even those that want to destroy India. I question every single word in that narrative.
However, his passion, albeit almost frightening in the intensity of his conviction, carries through in the language of the poem. Interestingly, the poem ‘The Warrior’s Wife’ could apply to both the soldiers he honours and the rebels he berates, as it asks, ‘What is honour before the love of a woman?’ The lament of losing a woman’s love is also there in ‘Rama’s Lament’, in which the God-king mourns the Sita he wronged. I leave you, the reader, to think about the idea of the woman as a nurturer, somehow responsible for the moral authority of the world a la John Ruskin.

The titular poem is interesting in its ambiguity.

The language of the entire book can be quite grandiose, and this is no exception. Perhaps the poem is about the poet, although it could just as easily be about the reader.
During our interview last year, Ayushman had mentioned that he thinks of song lyrics as poems. This is clear in the book, both from the rhythm and rhyme scheme of the poetry as well as from individual poems like ‘Neon Chaos’ (“to the neon Gods they made…”). Simon and Garfunkel resides in the heart of the book, as does Chester Bennington, the lost rock star we grew up with.
The poem I related to the most was ‘The Lost Artist’, which I understood to be a poem about writer’s block. To say that I’ve been there is an understatement. It’s horrible, and the serenity and acceptance in the poem fights with the tension of knowing that, as an artist, you are failing to do the one thing you love the most.

No poem can be tied to a single interpretation, and so no book of poetry and no poet can be understood completely by a single person.

This is true for Silent Sun, too. Snap up the book and let me know what you think on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

I wish I could stop apologizing for disappearing for months at a time but since I keep doing it, I suppose there really is no point. Please keep a lookout in the coming months, though- many interesting interviews are coming up!

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