Poetry is an art and the poet is a possessor of uncommon vision. With the success of the first book- Jalsaghar, that not only catered to the minds of the contemporary readers of Ghazals but also impressed the conventional audience, Steffen Hortsmann has now come up with yet another successful anthology of Ghazals- Ujjain. There are certain concepts and views of our society that cannot be expressed by mere words. However, Ghazals is one source where words idealize the reality and represent the things accordingly, thereby igniting the mind and enlightening it.
Like I mentioned in my review of ‘Jalsaghar’, ‘Ujjain’, too, is comprised of couplets that majorly possess a rhyme and a refrain. The beautiful amalgamation of Eastern and Western realities and the poet’s prowess to extract the clandestine miracles from the prosaic life are worth appreciation.
In the ruins of Troy prayers are whispered
From smoke that forms faces in shadows.
Roses the color of twilight are placed
At the tombs of the Graces in shadows.
Kings pressed their lips to a holy chalice
A djinn secrectly places in shadows.
[From In Shadows]
What a contract! With frequent allusions (Djinn, Troy) and vivid imagery, these couplets stir the right chord. Just like the above set of couplets, majority of the poems use the most common literary device- Qaafiya (couplets that share a rhyme that precedes a refrain) and Radif (a Persian rule that states the second line of all couplets must end with the same word).
One of the most appealing poems is ‘Ithaka’ which renders a visual treat for the mind. The home of Odysseus, Ithaka, is mythical. Yet, the realism of this Greek myth is established by the following couplets:
Fields are strewn with roses where Spartans
& Myrmidons once fought in Ithaka.
Raindrops shimmered like pearls within the aura
Of the goddess Sophocles sought in Ithaka.
Steffen Hortsmann’s couplets, each one of them, give life to the unheard Greek Tales. There is so much to know, so much to discover and so much to understand- in the whimsical and mystical world conceived by the poet. Steffen writes on his favourite themes and explores the visuals of places that either exist only in our dreams or in our imagination. He comes out with flying colours in expressing the unseen and the unspoken.
Yet another one of the couplets that represent visionary mindfulness of the poet is:
Glowing mist shrouds Eurydice’s tomb,
From where the Inca Dove sings tonight.
Eurydice and Orpheus have their names engraved on the walls that enclose the ancient legends of fateful love. Eurydice was known for her justice but she succumbed to death when a snake bit her. There is a lot to know and to read but Steffen’s words have a charm of their own. The two lines have been so beautifully composed that not only do they have a strong scent of justice and purity but also portray how the soul has retired to the quiet coves.
With exemplary vocabulary and extensive use of the figures of speech, the poet’s endeavour is worth every ounce of acknowledgement. ‘Ujjain’ is deep and intense. It uncovers the façade behind which the truths of the mythical mysteries reside. With such strong emotions and even stronger ‘worded’ artwork, Ujjain successfully passes muster. I am grateful that I got a chance to read and review this amazing work of literature.
Last but not the least; Ujjain comes with a subtle yet apt cover. The back cover has insights from the readers that not only provide the summary of the couplets but also give a glimpse of the vast readership of Ghazals in English.
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