Sonal Singh’s debut offering, Islands in the Stream, is a collection of verse with a name so lyrical, it immediately grabs the discerning reader’s attention. And needless to say, it is, indeed, a rewarding read! The collection boasts of 48 poems spread over two segments – Nature’s Rhapsody (20 poems) and Life’s Foibles (the remaining 28) – where each poem is a treat unto itself.
The Author’s Note at the beginning sets the tone for what is to follow. It oozes a deep-seated love for poetry which happens to be the author’s credo. It almost assumes the stature of a passion, a spiritual quest, which the reader is invited to embark on.
As we turn the page and start reading, we unconsciously drift into a realm where word weaving reigns supreme. The vocabulary is outstanding – in fact, I confess to having consulted my Oxford dictionary quite a few times! Many of the expressions used are rare, and a joy to read and relish. That, coupled with the very artisanal Monotype Corsiva font, give the text an enduring visual appeal.
The first section, Nature’s Rhapsody, headlines with a quote by Lord Byron – “I love not man the less, but Nature more.” The poet here echoes similar sentiments. Prominent elements of nature like dawn, morning, dusk, night, the gentle breeze, birds and fireflies, form the recurrent theme coursing through this section. Their treatment may be different but they all extol the beauty and virtue of nature. Personification plays a major role in these numbers – natural elements have been portrayed as beauteous women, mischievous children, a poet’s muse, a promiscuous lady, amorous lovers, and even a Greek goddess. Such human attributes help the reader connect better with the flow of thoughts.
Romance of the Fireflies stood out for its spectacular aural and visual imagery. An Ode to Time stirred my heart with its profundity, especially the last stanza. Eos’ Sojourn was a thought-provoking piece and a wake-up call for the insensitive, heedless human race! In fact, the last two poems in this segment mirrored the unordinary times in 2020 when the whole world was hibernating for months on end, thanks to the Corona virus. While the earth was healing, Sonal’s mindful quill was burgeoning with ideas and words!
Human emotions, thoughts and experiences grab the spotlight in the second segment of this collection – Life’s Foibles. The poem that lends its title to the collection – Islands in the Stream – is especially beautiful. It reinstates the fact that in spite of being insular on the surface, human beings are essentially united and connected with each other at their core.
Hope, memories, childhood scenes, a sense of pining for what is lost, and the irrevocable passage of time, seem to form the motif in this segment. While the reader draws inspiration from the positive, motivating words in Hope, he’s taken back to his carefree, fun-filled childhood days in I Miss. A few other poems like Memories of Childhood, Lost Nonage, Paper Planes, Threads of Memory, and When My Heart Keens, also deal with this theme of missing the blissful moments of the past.
Memory and Time is poignant in its portrayal of the human mind caught in a dilemma, while Your Letter surprises us with an interesting reveal at the end. I absolutely enjoyed reading Freedom, a unique number, where liberty has been likened to various birds like a wren, warbler, thrush, koel and their delightful attributes. Farewell, as the name suggests, fills us with a deep sense of loss and sorrow while Chords of Pain is a long, narrative poem with a twist at the end, that leaves us surprised!
Almost all the poems in the book are written in free verse with the exception of Freedom and Peace for Me, which have a rhymed structure. The verses are short in length but loaded with significance. Sonal employs a tone and tenor that add a charming musical vibe to the poems. Though many of them have some commonality in the theme, each has been treated and presented with its distinct, individual flavour.
Islands in the Stream is Sonal Singh’s labour of love that needs to be savoured slowly and with care. Do pick up the book, dear friends, and be prepared to get drenched in a deluge of feelings and sensibilities, that will make you look inward, and leave you with some enduring life lessons.
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