India comes alive in the vibrant, colorful poems of M..K Ajay in his newest collection of poetry,
Sweetness of Salt. It’s a slim but very good volume containing 46 poems ranging on a variety of topics - the memories of the author’s childhood in India, memories of his grandfather, his perceptions of life in America, even Alexander the Great’s horse, Bucephalus.
Ajay’s poetry is sometimes serious, such as in “War Against Terror,” but throughout the collection, one can detect a sense of playfulness and joie de vie, such as in “An Indian In Manhattan,” where he thinks back on advice he received in India before coming to America:
“New York is a bit like Bombay, just moreThere are both short and long poems here, and most, if not all, are quite good. Personal favorites include “Shadow That Became Rains,” “Ixora,” “Dialogue,” “Metamorphosis,” and “Common Objects.” Even in a poem like “Shadow That Became Rains,” (I am not entirely sure what it’s about), I like the way Ajay compares things in nature to parts of a human, and the way he plays with language:
cosmopolitan, more expensive, more chic,
more happening, more rude. And yes, the
cab drivers are mostly Indians”.
Fingers melted into woodsPoetry, like all art forms, is fairly subjective - you either love it or hate it, though you can grow to learn to appreciate it. The poems I enjoy the most all contain vivid imagery and wonderful turns of phrase, and Ajay’s Sweetness of Salt is filled with both of these elements. Everyday objects can take on a life of their own, personified as is a bicycle that Ajay calls “Hercules”:
bones into ashes
nails blossomed into globe amaranth
his voice became
a meteor’s last hissing fall.
A bicycle left under a banyan treeThere are poems in Sweetness of Salt that will appeal to all lovers of poetry. I’ve barely touched the surface of the depth of meaning and subject matter contained here, but I hope I’ve managed to convey some idea of what an original and gifted poet M.K. Ajay is, and that you’ll want to take a further look at this excellently crafted, beautifully worded poetry for yourself.
is a distraction, a black skeleton thinking
of its cooling metal and this hamlet’s aloofness.
Hercules, it was called, this bicycle;
an ancient machine, it was said at school
as raindrops hissed at classrooms
bound by slate and teacher’s dictum.
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Douglas R. Cobb, 2007