Exemplary of Poetic Excellence: Taming the Tides by Dilip Mohapatra

Pankajam reviews a book of poem by Dilip Mohapatra, Taming the Tides, exclusively for Different Truths.

Book:                          Taming the Tides: New and Selected Poems               

Poet:                           Dilip Mohapatra

Publisher:                 Authorspress New Delhi

Price:                          Rs. 395/$ 20

No. of Pages:             236

‘Taming the Tides’ is the fifth poetry collection of Dilip Mohapatra, from Authorspress, New Delhi.  His poetic oeuvre sails smooth through the effervescent tides of graceful sensibilities tamed by the author’s exceptional language skills and the ability to subtly steward readers to arrive at multiple interpretations.  The poems in this collection are excellent exemplars of Mohapatra’s poetic skills; one surpasses the other in making a chord with sensible readers.

There are one hundred poems in this collection including new and selected poems.  Poems highlighted in this review are a medley based on a thematic selection as varied as possible and there are many poems worthy of mention, but not included purely on constraints of keeping brevity in mind.

‘Death is no Stranger’ is a philosophical poem that makes one delve deep into our life and its inevitable ultimatum, a transition  from one phase to another;

‘Death is simply an opening

At the end of the tunnel                                         

That would lead you  

From your closed closet

To the wide open streets.’   (p.32)

Garbage Bin is an excellent poem that points fingers at our social apathy, the concluding stanza of which will prick at one’s conscience for long even after reading the book:

‘It was perhaps not alright

When someone in the dead of night

And when a sanctimonious sky was

Pouring down in sheets

Flung a white bundle unto the heap

Of rubbish deposited during the day.

As it falls on a pile of used condoms

And a bed of soggy menstrual pads

Two little pink hands emerge

Scratching the corrugated walls

And a fluid smeared body

Wriggles within the wrap.

And as the sharp cries pierce

The thick and damp silence

The water wells up inch by inch

Over the discards.’                             (p.48)

The poem titled ‘Reflections’ gives us different perceptions and shows us different faces of hunger,  thirst, love and life itself, which implicitly makes us contemplative of the transitory nature of our life.   (pp. 49, 50)

‘Beyond Bounds’ is another poem profound, a gentle reminder, kindling our inner consciousness about the power,  meaning, and importance of   love, compassion, passion etc., and with the concluding lines as below, the author brings an element of holiness into it:

‘Discover the seed buried at the bottom

Let it germinate into a plant                

That climbs your spine to the top

From gross to the sublime                       

And see the finite merge into infinity.’                       (p.60)

‘Pay Back Time’ is a fine piece of writing  with a social concern and prompts the readers to give back to the society, a commitment conveniently  forgotten by many of us:

‘Have you paid back

Your blood debt

That you owe                                                        

To the elements

That you massacred



Over the tears

And to an


And denuded world

That weeps blood

Day in

And day out?’                               (p.69)

Mohapatra’s  sense of humour is at his best in poems like ‘Saying Cheese’ (p.72)  and ‘Drawing the Line’ (p. 91), the former one on the lighter moments, while posing for photographs on various occasions and various phases of life, which all of us can readily relate to.  The latter narrates the protagonist’s experiences in an air journey, which will make one laugh for a while:

‘And then starts your elbow war

With your neighbor             

Who has already planted his flag

On the common armrest

And aggressively guards his post

But you decide not to easily give in

And try to grab few millimeters of territory

Somehow which is constantly denied to you

And the gentleman that you are

You lock your arms on your chest

And rest it on the little bulge above the belt

That you have acquired over the years.’                 (p.92)

‘Surrogate Mother’ is a women-centric subject, a sensitive poem about the feelings of a surrogate mother who has to give up the child grown in her womb immediately after its birth, on which the author has this to say:

The untilled land

Has sprouted a sapling

For a distant garden –         (p.99)

‘Never Mind’ is a sensible poem coming from a higher level of  a mature worldly wisdom reminding  us that nothing is permanent in this world and the poet reiterates that:

‘No one is here to stay forever    

And anyway how does it really matter.’          (p.104)

The perfectionist in Mohapatra peeps through the poem titled ‘Excellence’ and makes one follow suit. The poem has a footnote, “Based on the popular parable that conveys that excellence is driven from inside and not outside.”   (p.110)

‘Dementia’ is a powerful poem on fading memories.  It talks about the maimed, mutilated and mummified memories and travels through the life events of the speaker of the poem, that will force us to capture similar moments of ours, but at the same time it makes us sympathetic to the conditions of persons caught with dementia:

‘I don’t recollect

When your tears

And mine        

Converged into a confluence

And our combustible breaths

Combined to catch fire

And leap into flames.’                       (p.130)

In the poem Raped Woman Mohapatra puts forth his arguments against the society’s common allegations where the victim is further victimised and asserts a strong message to such insensitive souls:

‘She is power personified

She is the embodiment

Of courage and resoluteness

Who rises from the ruins like a Phoenix

And reminds us of our shame             

Our indifference.               

 And of our utter impotence.’                                               (p.140)

‘Heavy Coffin’ is full of compassionate feelings for a fellow comrade, who laid his life for the country as the protagonist carries his mortal remains, which will sure wet one’s eyes.  The intensity of the feelings is to be felt first-hand by the readers and I may not quote from the poem here for the simple reason that it should not dilute the prospective readers’ anxiety and with a hope to kindle their curiosity.       (p.142)

‘Another Sabitri’ is an ode to womanhood, a poem on a real life story of an Odiya woman Sabitri from Champua village, who pawned her two sons for her husband’s funeral.

‘Caught between the dilemma

Of assets and liability

She takes her final decision                  

To pawn her two sons to her neighbor

Who graciously agrees to pay her

Five thousand rupees

That could take care of the last rites

And feed for few days

The remaining three.’                                (p.184)

The poem Timeless Flow is about the pollution of Ganga, the author’s musings on the holy river, having been declared as a ‘living being’.  Men who make it choke when living wants to take a dip in its holy waters to wash off his sins and his final journey ends with his descendants performing his last rites letting his cadaver rot in the same sacred waters for his salvation.  What a contrariety! Mohapatra pours his heart out in the following lines about this:

‘But what about the river

That breathes and

Has a heart that beats?

Who’d liberate it from its

Repeated births

And horrific deaths?’                                    (p. 223)

Mohapatra, being a retired navy veteran, no wonder in many of his poems, images like the sea, tides, ship, shores, ripples, et.al navigate on and off. His resilient poetic elucidations instantly tug at our conscience and travel with us for quite long. Taming the Tides is a fascinating kaleidoscope of poems on varied themes presenting before our eyes glistening images.  I strongly recommend this book of poems to the poetry lovers and would suggest grabbing your copy for an exclusive experience of a poetic feast.


©K Pankajam

Photos from the internet.

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