Gurmeet Singh Ranghar
The world is questioned with climate change and, thus, environmentalists, botanists and even the economist have turned their eye with a microscopic view to trees and their threatened foliage.
How does the tribe of poetry lovers join in to present this concern? Lily Swarn’s anthology of poems, A Passionate Affair with Trees, is the answer. It would need a gifted poet, full of passion for life, and a keen eye to awaken this sensitivity in us.
I read the foreword by Satbir Chadha. It immediately set the binocular to see the wonders of trees in all their manifestations – nativity, relations, encyclopedia. The terms chosen to measure the run of this book egged me on.
Lily Swarn’s author’s note brought me back to childhood memories as she has so vividly painted for us. That was the trigger that set me to read the collection.
What comes across starkly through each page you flip, ponder about or cling on to is her command over the language. Her choice of words, solemn and firm at times or shifting tone to romance vividly with colors, seductive at times to look beyond and see the soul of trees. She runs a spectrum of sentences. That is her flourish and strength.
As I read The Chinar Leaf, the life cycles eloquently arose in their shades:
Each autumn leaf glowed with a burning heart
Setting aflame each pore of her gasping being
Yes! I too gasped in the passion she has bestowed in the roots these trees have spread in my eagerness.
Pomegranates would set us all pulsating as the gush runs upwards from the roots defying senses.
Rainforest for me, as an environmentalist, came across as the Amazonian canopy – ‘sobbing psyche’, ‘squelching puddles’. These words pierced me like a Stone Age arrow, questioning if I was still rooted to the gift of nature or shorn with my needs and greed.
Summer Wine cultivated the grapes out of the fine shapely bottles, ‘full bodied as an Ajanta Ellora carving’, to question how easily we take them for granted.
No One Stays Forever will haunt us forever, that our lives too come with a date and like the worries of that end, we feel the story of theirs. Rooted and yet full of life.
My Wanton Raft set me sailing through various permutations and combinations of what the poet dwells on.
Did you see the reflections of my flaming thoughts
Igniting orange with embers of incessant waiting?
An arresting feature of this anthology is that the English vocabulary has been so charmingly interwoven with the usage of Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi words.
A fresh flavour is injected into the poetry in a natural and effortless manner. The reach of the poems widens.
The city of Chandigarh known for its beauty, its architecture and landscaping is also famous for its tree lined roads. Pictorial verses of the seasonal flowering trees found in its landscape enliven the anthology with colours and scents. Lily herself explains that growing up in Chandigarh had a huge part to play in it. “How can one be impervious to the splendour of the yellow laburnums, the pink kachnars, the Persian lilacs, the violet jacarandas, the scarlet gulmohars and so many more lining the avenues and boulevards of my beautiful city,” she says.
There is poetry about the gigantic peepals and their religious connotations. The iconic peepal in Sukhna lake, the convoluted trunks of banyan trees and the thorny kikars (acacia) have also made an impression on the poet. They seem to be instrumental in moulding her fanciful thoughts and dreams.
This anthology has verses composed with veneration for the chameleon like hues of maple trees during the sensuous fall (autumn) as well as the snow camouflaged winters of North America on one hand and the bare branched Flame of the Forest that lights up Indian jungles with its flaming tongues of blossoms on the other.
Beneath the personification of trees, there is often a lurking sense of loss and grief.
This book deserves to be placed in more and more libraries so that a large section of readers acquire this knowledge in a simple manner through exquisite verse.
Remarkable is the respect Lily shows for the trees. She calls them her guru and talks of them with reverence and veneration.
It is heartening to note that Lily’s poems are being read in many countries and are being translated into dozens of languages worldwide
Gurmeet Singh Ranghar is a poet and environmentalist.