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It is not often that one has the opportunity to review the work of a dear friend, but perhaps it is inevitable that when writing for a community magazine, there is a spark of recognition upon reading the name of the author in a review copy.
The arts community of Silicon Valley especially might find that “it’s a small valley,” and some of those burning the brightest are technologists with a passion for the arts (STEM with an A, if you like.) A few weeks ago, Reena’s first play Art of the Possible on zoom was at EnActe Arts, and left me feeling uplifted and helped me forget that COVID cases were rising. I was entranced by the play, on a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, and with a memorable allusion to an anglophile mother-in-law who spurns the humble samosa for a memsahib’s preference — cucumber sandwiches.
Arrivals and Departures, is full of deeply felt poems that caused me to see Reena anew. Her fierce intelligence, her sparkling wit, and sympathy for the unfortunate are now a book subtitled “Journeys in Poems.”
So, what moved her? What inspired this poetry?
Sometimes, it was the intense beauty of a moment that would soon be gone. The naturalistic photographs complementing these poems capture life at its most evanescent.
The sweetness of baby Mira, later a child who would leave home in the graduate.
The caring gesture of a life-partner — “how does an ordinary girl get so lucky?” in Interrupt me.
A ring lost in 2012, bittersweet and whimsical in lost & found.
Reservations on ceding agency to another in Sometimes or knowledge that in a marriage, “her chains have only changed hands.”
The “smoky blue hills” of Silicon Valley, in Truant (obscured by a fire haze at the time of writing this review, but I know they are there.)
My favorite was rude one, about the act of writing poetry itself — how her poem arrives in a peremptory fashion and insists on being heard — “this self-centered, maniacal one, my poem.” And another poem where, rushing to be on time for work, she pauses as her daughter picks out a perfect earring for her (morning rush).
Reena believes that “Life is a short yet lonely road unless we dare and bare our souls, even while fearful of what may come.” This sentiment is expressed in her poem Uncaged — “you could be more!”
“Life is that rare magic
Even when it remains callous, unsure
Beg off or behold it with fear
Or step out with a will to be more…”
Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D. is both gharelu and “homely” while waiting for the pandemic to be over. She is ostensibly working on a book called “50 Voices From South Asia.”