Meena Alexander’s poems in ‘Atmospheric Embroidery’ yet again present Meena to us as a poet about whom one cannot be ignorant. The intellect can be a handicap for many academics when it comes to cutting through the dryness to touch the sensitivity in their ambiance as a poet, and rescuing it from the doldrums of any mechanics of life. These poems have no such inhibition; instead they are also loyal and honest to their ‘Atmospheric Embroidery’. The poet in her childhood made yearly journeys between Sudan and Britain. Therefore, there is a selection in the book, ‘Indian Ocean Blues’. These journeys, enveloped in an endless pallav of mother’s blue sari, remain always in the background as a serene or challenging fabric of solitude cherished as an observer with a transcendental vision. This allows her fiercely to be an Indian and an American coaxially, juxtaposed. That’s why ‘Inwood Sita’ was another poem of my choice: Sita disappearing in a manhole mid-
'Kabir the weaver sings:
O men and dogs
in times of grief
our rolling earth
Meena thus manages these two beings in a kind of ‘Univocity’. This is the poet who borrows the same oneness from Boetti’s embroidery; ‘Thousand Rivers’ or the collage of the flags. It is all for the sake of reassembling her and the reader’s broken ambiences which exist as pieces or shards. She hopes, drawing on Celan, her kaleidoscopic message in a bottle in the sea, which has been with her all along, reaches to us as a poem. Obviously, as in her poem, ’Fragment, In Praise of the Book’ the poet’s obligation is very clear: ‘Book of alphabets burnt so the truth can be told.’ God, the alphabet, the beginning, must be removed, to understand the truth.
The poem chosen here represents a poignant historical poking into our psyche pertaining to the journey we have made, and it has no end; with a continuous migratory question raised by our paraphernalia even after our demise: ‘Why have you brought us here?’ This is the life echoing the same question. Perhaps confronting the soul. Reconciliation comes at the end with this line: ‘Already in the trees finches are warbling, calling my name.’ A familiarity precipitating, and thereby sealing the journey’s end.
I have thoroughly enjoyed Alexander’s work, and I hope you all will too. So it is appropriate that we honour Meena Alexander with Word Masala's Award.