Water snakes writhe in a plastic pan of clear water.
Massively muscled fish lie eye-up, tail jutting over air, as torsos rest on a bed of shaved ice.
The stout fish lie next to a more flexible species that are nestled into each other, which — in turn — are next to eels that are tangled in each other.
A cat alternately stalks and sprints, testing the air with an upturned nose and the safety of approach with timid feet.
Eyes up, the cat considers a plot to leap-snatch a tiger prawn.
When, like manna from heaven, a small fish — so fresh that it’s capable of “plotting” its escape in muscle spasms more than with its ill-oxygenated fish brain — flips itself off the shallow tin tray onto the ground.
The cat, an instinct-guided missile, snatches the fish in its jaws and runs through a narrow gap in the wall to a favorable dining haunt.
This booklet collects together the 88 sonnets written by Sri Aurobindo. Aurobindo was a guru who set up his ashram in Pondicherry because he was on the lam from the Brits, and Pondicherry was under French control at the time. Sri Aurobindo is a karma yogi (yogi of action and good works) who – together with a partner who the community came to call “Mother” – set up Auroville with the intention of making it a utopia.
The eighty-eight sonnets are arranged in two parts. The first seventy-four were written in the 1930s and 40s, and part II consists of 14 sonnets that were written between 1898 and 1909. The sonnets of the first part are more mystical and also more stream of consciousness. The poems of Part I use vivid language, but aren’t always easy to follow – if one is seeking a coherent meaning from each. The sonnets of part II are less sophisticated (and more easily interpreted) and feature a degree of angst that is completely absent in the latter poems (latter chronologically, earlier in the volume.) The sonnets presented are in varying styles. While they are all fourteen lines of pentameter, the rhyme scheme varies.
At the end of the book there are notes on the collection as a whole, as well as short notes on individual poems. There is also a short section in the back that shows a few of the poems under edits so that one can gain a little insight into the poet’s sausage-making process.
I found these poems intriguing to read. As I suggested, they aren’t always easy to interpret but they have a thought-provoking spirituality to them as well as some beautiful use of language. One needn’t necessarily have an interest in Sri Aurobindo to enjoy the poems, although they are overwhelmingly of a mystical / spiritual nature.