Sanjeev Sethi’s Bleb: Deceivingly Focussed Yet Ruefully Discreet — A Review by Dr. Sapna Dogra
January 9, 2022
Dr. Sapna Dogra reviews Sanjeev Sethi’s concise book of poems “Bleb” (Hybriddreich, 2021). In her short review, the academic excavates important aspects of the poet’s recent work, while discussing the significance of this “Wee Book of Wee Poems” through a critical engagement that is both concise and precise.

In this 37-page poetry book, Mumbai based poet Sanjeev Sethi expounds ideas without reaching resolve. Bleb is a wee book of thirty-one wee poems, which means that each poem is limited to ten lines. The poems are deceivingly discreet and there is no sense of urgency in his writing. They are also deceptively titled “wee poems”; one can spend an entire day with each poem.

In regards to this latest addition to his poetic oeuvre, Sanjeev comments upon the significance of its “wee” title:

As it is a compilation of ‘wee poems,’ I wanted the title to be a teeny-weeny word. A cursory look at the titles drew my attention to Bleb.

 

As you know, ‘bleb’ means bubble or blister, so it is interpreted in my mind as temporal. Everything in life is fleeting, so treat the blisters as such.1

Like S.T. Coleridge, he spins poetry out of things that poetry is not made of, rejected poetry drafts, to name one. In Coleridge’s “Dejection, An Ode”, loss of inspiration becomes an inspiration for poetry. Similarly, in the first poem of Bleb, which also happens to be the finest in the book, the rejected first draft is the theme of the finalized version of this opening poem.

As casual as strolling on a graveled pathway
in a close-by parkland, words cycle towards
me on my inner track where ideas lap dance
with a tumescent dash. The first draft is born.
This baby needs battery of nurses and
Other paraphernalia. I’m the doc on duty.
Summon the accoucheur for stillborns.
(Medic 7)

He imagines himself as a doctor of poetry, and “words cycle towards” him, while “ideas lapdance”. The first draft is born, requiring a lot of work and care and subsequently, the draft is rejected. Such rejection leads to greater meditations on what poetry is, as the poet further adds:

…A poem isn’t a fable or folktale. Its
task is to temper with images and ideas that create
one’s fantasy or factuality: like those oeillades.
(Offing 8)

Sethi’s poetry has mathematical correctness about it much like the one that Alexander Pope’s poetry had. Their poems are technically flawless and crafted to perfection. There’s no overflow of spontaneous emotions recollected in tranquillity. There’s a lot of reason and rationality, and restraint to be found in such verses that require or result in lesser use of imagination. Poetry allows one to bare their soul. In that sense, I wish he was franker, less hesitant, and less conscious in the elaboration of his poems.

In “Headway” (p. 22) Sethi employs juxtaposition and alliteration to emphasise differences:

There is distinction between palilogy and
paternoster, artificial flowers and real ones.
Ah! The niceties of nuances. Play the piano,
paint, or indite. Otherize negativity in self.
pick-up parities with the otherguess. These
are baby steps to bliss.

In “To the Day” (p. 20) “windrows” become a symbol for memory:

Windrows of unseen wounds
leap from snuggery of my skin,
competing with scratchiti
of silent but striking intakes.
Sometimes abbreviated
intimacies live like this. 

Sethi comes up with ideas on various subjects, and then develops them through elusive vocabulary, symbols and metaphors. Consequently, the meaning is indeed elusive at times, but readers can understand the poems after rereading and reading between the lines. His use of quaint archaic words like “Pettifog” (p.17); slang like “Rad” (p. 28); unannotated words like “Jouska” (p. 18) and uncommon allusions like “Oliver and Lachlan” (p. 31) make this anthology a curious read—one requiring greater inquiry.

Sanjeev Sethi is published in over thirty countries and is the joint-winner of Full Fat Collection Competition-Deux organised by The Hedgehog Poetry Press UK. In Bleb we find the poet-persona looking at himself objectively like Diego Velázquez did in his iconic painting Las Meninas. While the prospect of a 37-page book is enticingly dismal, Sanjeev Sethi is confident which makes Bleb justifiable in its length.

 

References

1Guest Interview with poet, Sanjeev Sethi, https://www.writingforums.com/threads/guest-interview-with-poet-sanjeev-sethi.195124/. 05 August 2021.

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About the Contributor

<a href="https://www.inversejournal.com/author/sapnadogra/" target="_self">Dr. Sapna Dogra</a>

Dr. Sapna Dogra

A writer, translator and academician, Dr Sapna Dogra, the Deputy Chief Editor of literary e-journal Muse India (ISSN: 0975-1815) completed her BA and MA in English Literature from the University of Delhi. She obtained her MPhil and PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is presently working as an Assistant Professor (English) in the Department of Higher Education, Government of Himachal Pradesh. She has published research papers, book reviews, translations and essays in Translation Today, Muse India, Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi’s Bi-monthly journal), Littcrit, New Horizons, Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, Spectrum: An International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, Folklore and Folkloristics, New Academia, Journal of Acharya Narendra Dev Research Institute Dialogue: A Journal Devoted to Literary Appreciation, Spring Magazine on English Literature, South Asian Ensemble, Bhatter College Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, Contemporary Literary Review India, Quest, Triveni, Indian Ruminations, Postscriptum, Udaipur Times, The Chitrolekha Journal on Art and Design, etc. She has contributed chapters in numerous books including Perspectives in Indian Dalit Literature: Critical Responses (2020), Tribal Perspective in India: Critical Responses (2020) and Human Growth and Development (2021). She has also presented papers in national and international seminars and conferences. Her research interests include Folklore Studies, Translation Studies, Indian English Writing, Hindi Literature, Popular Literature, Gender Studies, Graphic Fiction, ELT and Narratology.