Skip to main content

Review - "The Four Colors" by Ankur

Neil Fulwood

The Four Colors” by Ankur, pub. Hawakal Publishers, 87pp, $9.99 (approx. £7.50)

 

Ankur is an Indian poet, based in Norway, who writes in English. The fragmentation and prismatic refocusing of culture, language, heritage and identity creates a poetry in which sensory immersion and tactile response to the often brief page-life of the verse matters more than syntactic or imagistic traditionalism. Indeed, the immediacy of Ankur’s work, and his marshalling of it in this debut collection into colour-themed sections, each keying in to specific emotional states, threatens to invite comparison to Rupi Kaur and the current school of Instagram poets. But whereas Kaur pitches her output as bouts of social-media friendly aphorism, Ankur engages on a deeper level with poetry as a vessel for the senses. 

 

At times, this results in a reading experience akin to wandering in a rose garden on the most pollen-heavy day of the year: the colours are vivid, the perfume intoxicating, the sheer beauty of the setting undeniable; but also a sense of being overwhelmed. Granted, there are enough poets out there who deliberately aim for such an effect and this is where frank criticism is important, in allowing us to weed out the worthwhile from the second rate. With Ankur’s verse, I feel that it is the tripartite influence of language, culture and identity that yields such unique and sometimes gauche results. 

 

Iconic novelist Alan Sillitoe wrote his debut novel, and outright masterpiece, Saturday Night and Sunday Morningwhile recuperating from TB in Soller, Majorca: it was almost as if he were able to evoke the streets of Nottingham with incredible sensory precision precisely because he was so far removed from them. Ankur, resident in Oslo and using English as his poetic voice, reaches back to his homeland and conjures an India that is mythic, mystic, colourful but dangerous; a place both timeless and out of time. 

 

     The corners where we stand

     were those Magellan could not find, nor Stanley,

     the places where the disease never struck,

     where white thought could not find its way ...

     (‘Go Stand in One’)

 

     Behind the sagebrush, old towns of murder sleep in ...

     (‘Sun Behind Me’)

 

     ... as if born with the rocks,

     with the river’s sharp, snakelike thunder ...

     (‘Where Birds Are’)

 

     ... India and Ceylon, where the tigers meditate

     and the elephants rumble ...

     (‘The Song of the Angels’)

 

Now, I’ll leave it up to zoologists and linguists to debate the poetics of meditating tigers and rumbling elephants, but for me even the moments where Ankur shoots for the moon and doesn’t quite make it, the resulting poems yield strange and haunting phrases that contribute to an overall sense of interconnectedness within the pages of The Four Colors. This is the Ankur aesthetic to a tee: he refuses to be hamstrung by the contemporary obsession with workshopping and endless revision, and as such performs a high-wire act between moments of almost naive sentiment and examples of poetic compression (as in ‘An Autumn Storm’ or ‘Moonshine’) that are highly effective. Grammar police might find reason to carp at some examples of syntax, and there are occasional idiosyncratic choices re: lineation, but The Four Colors rewards, particularly if taken slowly, savoured, and enjoyed for its quirks and its unexpected explosions of language.

 


Copyright © Neil Fulwood, 2020

Popular posts from this blog

Review - High and Lonesome: Three Books: Crozier, Prynne, James

Andrew Duncan High and Lonesome : Three Books: John James, Striking the Pavilion of Zero, J.H. Prynne, High Pink on Chrome ; Andrew Crozier, High Zero (Shearsman, 2021; edited Ian Brinton)  The reason why these three books from 1975-6 and 1978 are being republished together is straightforward. Crozier had named a work High Zero , and when I interviewed him in 2003 he conceded that it referred to High Pink and Striking the Pavilion of Zero , and that he had used lines from those two works as keys to develop the High Zero poems from. Publication together allows one to read across and recover a part of the composition process. High Zero was published in 1978, later than the two poems it is a response to. The founding moment is The English Intelligencer , in which all three of these poets took part. This was an attempt to recapitulate the development of Charles Olson, up to about 1950; he was seen as both the continuator of Pound and as having thought profoundly about geography. T

Essay - Whatever Happened to the Poetry Manifesto?

MARTIN STANNARD WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE POETRY MANIFESTO? Recently I tried writing an essay that had the working title 'Why the Meaning of a Poem is the Last Thing You Should Think About'. I felt like I had something to say. It began like this: I can't help but remember what my old angling tutor used to say: “Be careful when you open a can of worms." Of course, he didn’t say any such thing, and I never had an angling tutor, but writers, and perhaps especially poets, can say anything and get away with it, because . . . Actually, I'm not sure why. I'm not even sure if it's true. If it is, it shouldn’t be. And I'm not sure about that, either. I think it's probably best if we accept a certain degree of uncertainty and subjectivity and other words that suggest everything is open to argument and get on with this. Just because something is open to argument doesn't mean it's wrong. Later (about 3000 words later) I decided I was on to a loser.

Review - "Bright Angel Proof" by Nick Power

Charlie Baylis Bright Angel Proof, Nick Power (£10, erbacce press) In the spring of 2016 a writer from the small Northwestern town of Hoylake, Nick Power, took a trip flying around America on budget airlines, soaking in all its big ticket tourist attractions and gaudy glories. The trip, and Power’s poems about the trip, come together to form Bright Angel Proof , a collection which evokes beat generation myths of a mystical America, but behind the lines Power knows that the beat generation era is done and perhaps was never really there to begin with. Power is too late to join the ranks of Ginsburg, Kerouac et al but at least he suggests that he might have something to say, which is more than most contemporary poets. Power attracts attention as a kind of modern Burt Lancaster, an adventurer of compelling (North) West Coast vibes and easy going company who, like Lana Del Rey, has ‘feathers in his hair...c hurning out novels like Beat poetry on Amphetamines.’ Power’s companion on the