Thursday, June 16, 2016

Architecture of the Flesh – Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar has the unique talent of combining the everyday aspects of life with eroticism and mysteriousness. This collection – mistakenly filed under Architecture by an ignorant librarian! – is about his obsession with the body and the things about it which shocks us on a daily basis. Sometimes, our bodies are fine, coasting along, till it, of a sudden, refuses to oblige. Then terror strikes. His poems may shock at first with their erotic content, but on a second reading there is a hidden sub-text of political comment, an apparent social injustice and a whiff of the exotic. How he manages all this is puzzling and enigmatic. His talents are in full show in his poetry collection, “Architecture of Flesh,” published by Paperwall.

Hailing from Kerala he has an excellent command over many languages including: Malayalam, English, and Tamil. In Aphrodisiac he writes:

“My balls!” he cries as shredded testicles
Find their way into dark alley eateries
Where powdered sperm with battered baby flesh
Are sold as phallic pills
To bolster flagging will.

There are places on earth where powdered sperms are sold as aphrodisiacs. Now this may deviate a bit from erotic, but the symbolism is one of mixing the esoteric sexual power of the Aphrodisiac with body parts. Bold and experimental the poet takes on known canons of poetry with his unique opinion about what constitutes poetry.

In a sensitive poem about death Intensive Care Unit – I he writes:

Four islands is a death row in a shroud
Glimmering and tearful glints that fade into the spirit.
Four square squints of machinery life
Chrome sores lit up with steely corroding tides.

Porthole lights went off in one island today
As it sank into a sea wet with wasted sadness
Its generators switched off and respirators cut off
And oxygen vents closed for public view.

Certainly it’s a poem about death and how one thinks of it when one is confined to a bed in an Intensive Care Unit. It is also about the architecture of the flesh, how our arteries and veins refuse to co-operate some times, how our bowels complain and then shut up.

All in all, a good collection from a major poetic talent from down south. Worth buying for a look for its provocative imagery and boldness of treatment with occasional erotic glimpses. (To buy online:, Rs 225).

No comments: