Why write poetry, when there are apparently more weighty and profitable things to do? Diplomat Kanwal Sibal, who has grappled with realpolitick and the chessboard of geopolitical games all his life, surely may have wondered about the origin of this insistent itch to versify. He has been writing poems for years, but it’s only now he has chosen to publish his debut collection of poems entitled, “Snowflakes of Time.”
In preface to his book, Sibal writes about his idea of writing poetry, his preference for rhyme over blank verse and how his life as a professional diplomat shaped his poetic sensibility. There are many theories of poetics and definitions of poetry. It could be Shelley’s “profuse strains of unpremeditated art,” or Wordsworth’s “spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in moments of tranquillity.” Or, it could be “well-wrought urns” of modernist poetry. Sibal cuts through all this rigmarole, and puts is simply: “Writing poetry is a very personal affair. It’s a product of one’s moods. An inspirational mood suddenly creates the urge to write. Why and how such a mood gets generated cannot be explained.”
The eponymous Snowflakes of Time, interweaves memories, evanescent moments and the redemptive power of solitary meditation, themes that run like leitmotifs through most of Sibal’s poems. “Moscow winter, with its bitter cold, grey skies and the falling of snow, mixing beauty with melancholy, made me look back in time in a pensive and reflective mood and inspired many poems. Memories get stored with age. The distance between the present and the past grows with age,” writes Sibal.
Besides reflective poems that circle around memories of times past and time present, the diplomat-poet has also penned some delightful satirical verses on seemingly prosaic diplomatic events like the 123 India-US nuclear deal and Pakistan’s first female foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar. In “Counting 123 or the Cookery Deal,” he writes:
One would have thought that it would be
Quite simple to do 123.
One only has to take account
That this is how one learns to count.
The text now published of the deal,
As one reads through it does reveal,
Our grasp of numbers is not tight
E’ven 123 we couldn’t get right!
In these urbane poems, his dextrous play of words expose equivocations of the powerful with panache. Most of his poems are straight from the heart, and avoid the twin traps of obscurity and ostentation, which resonate with readers directly, sans intricate exegesis. Therefore, read these poems for what they are, reflective, melancholic and satirical, by turns, transforming the mundane into the poetical.
(Snowflakes of Time – Memories & Musings by Kanwal Sibal)
Snowflakes of Time
Across the window of his mind
Memories like snowflakes softly fell,
With no pattern of any kind
Floating and drifting by pell-mell.
As he grasped them he saw them melt,
Leaving behind moist sentiment,
And in that muffled calm he felt
Pangs of nostalgic discontent.
To denuded branches of time
The flitting flakes were clinging fast,
He was an actor past his prime
A spectator of his own past!
From skies within him undefined
Fall moments gone in layers congealed,
Crystals like particles of mind
Through passing seasons lie concealed.
When a reflective mood is on,
How it happens he does not know,
Through open window of time gone
He sees the falling of the snow.
The Desert Within
A barren stretch of land,
Strewn with stones
Like geological rubble
Abandoned in time’s backyard.
Layered rocks of many hues,
Carrying the scars
Like corrosive memories
Of waters that once raced past
Of the oppressive heat
Breaks when a passing sentiment
Rises from the pervasive torpor,
Like a brief swirl of dust
Only to quickly dissipate.
There is no moisture
No cooling shade
To give relief,
No sounds of stir
The silence of desolation,
Only a mirage
Glistening in the distance
Which he cannot measure.
Bubbles that Burst
Hopes like bubbles
surface from his mind,
In contact with reality;
without a trace.
Glistening with iridescence
Inflated by desire
And stretched as far
by longing as they can,
From the pipe
of his life,
the soft solution
of his imagination,
he can blow bubbles
as they are wafted up
by the current
of his yearnings
till they burst