A love of life in What if the Sky Falls?

A love of life in What if the Sky Falls?
L B Chhetri

Bhisma Upreti, a well known poet and essayist of Nepal who has several books in his credit, has come out this time with ‘What if the Sky Falls?’. The more affectionate about this creation is that it is published by GREY SPARROW, an America publishing house. It’s a collection of 28 poems, initially composed in Nepali and translated by different translators from Nepal only.

Out of 28 poems 14 are titled from Natural objects such as Rivers, Hills, Seas, and Flower etc illustrating poet’s attachement with nature. He sees deep meaning in these Natural objects and through these meanings the poet tries to establish relationship between man and nature. For example his first poem ‘River – I’, may leave an impression on readers that to the poet the relationship between nature and man is somewhat problematic,

In the flood last year
my parents were lost to it

but, in the very second poem ‘River – II’, the poet reconciles and paints in admiration the beauty of the river, a meaning, to some extent, beyond ordinary people’s observation.

On the rivers,
thoughts and feelings surge, then subside like ripples
their softness settles in my heart
as their dynamism moves towards my feet.

A good reader will notice poet’s sense of love of nature in ‘their softness settles in my heart’. Similarly, in ‘River Tinau and old tree’ he discards the idea of contaminating rivers with ‘tears and blood’ because ‘it washes away all beauty.’ He abhors crime.

Bhisma Upreti enjoys liberating his poems from set of meters and rhyme schemes but his words maintain rhythm with artistic expression. The poems in the collection are short and in some exceptionally short lines are used with frequent breaks (Sea I, Sea II, for example). This provides the serious readers plenty of room for pause and reflection.

Vitality of Bhisma’s poems is undeniable. ‘Black’ for example begins with a single line – ‘I am actually just a color’ and readers stand with the poet and visualize several colors standing in a row -red, green, blue and yellow. These are colors, only colors, but complete and each ‘carrying independent identity’ in them. Color ‘black’ is also there with enough pride of being a color; ‘yes, black which holds all color.’ Poet is dealing with an enormous theme of apartheids, racial segregation and discrimination. Through this poem and others we feel how strongly the poet is associated with the causes and sufferings of the common masses. To me ‘Black’ is the best poem in ‘What if the Sky falls ?”

The key themes woven into the poems in this anthology involve a love of life, question of humanity, identity, hope, social discriminations etc but mostly his poems speak on the theme of disparity and inhumanity. Two more poems in the book are most remarkable – the title poem ‘What if the sky falls?’ and ‘Sea – I’. The poet is worried about the gradual loss of humanity. He fears, one day humanity may disappear from the earth.

Poetry to Bhisma Upreti is life. He wants to express himself through his poetry. He wants to converse with his environment, with nature, with society and even with the god and for that he chooses poetry as a medium. He is sincere to his poetry. In diction he is choosy in the sense he avoids exaggeration. He seems to be reserve on several issues but his poetic voice is consistently in command for the material throughout. The message in each poem leaves an impression on the readers. ‘A Teashop Boy’ seems to be a simple poem of destitute but the poet’s concern is worth noticing-

with no school
what future does he have
and the light to explore it.

The poems in ‘If the Sky Falls’ exhibit a mature style and advanced understanding of the poetic techniques and wordplay. ‘Statue’, though a short poem, tells a great lesson. Man is not to stand like a statue. He is for action. Similar theme is there in ‘River –III’. Rivers are to flow. Human are to act.

Where is the first poem? As per the content page River I is second poem. Is it printing mistake, an oversight? Or, may be the beautiful cover page, portraying picture of Himalayan Range is the first poem (call it a picture poem) of Nature that depicts beauty of Nepal.

(L B Chhetri is a Nepalese scholar, poet and story writer. His books of poems and short stories have been published. He is the editor of Nepali Literary Journal ‘Charaiwati’ and also a chairperson of Kavidada Sahitya Samaj (Kavidada Literary Society))