By Lawrence Rinaldo in Washington
WASHINGTON: Her words leapt off the page and danced through the air. The passionate and imaginative poet united the past, present and future in her poetry. Where universal and personal, where imagination and passion rule, this poet unites the past with the present and the present with the future in her poetry.
Surekha Vijh brought out three-dimensional poetry. Like a magician, she breathed life into her words and enthralled the audience with her powerful imagery and evocative feeling. The diverse audience was mesmerized, drawn in and asked for more as she recited her poetry in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC
The Washington, DC based poet, Vijh, was recently featured at book stores and libraries in the greater Washington area and New York. Her recent book, A Leap into Water, is inspired and deep yet easily appreciated by a general audience.
The collection was launched at One More Page, a cozy book store at the meeting of Falls Church and Arlington, Virginia. The author enthralled the audiences with her poetry, question and answer sessions, and fun poetry workshops, followed by a reception. In a town where poetry is slowly fading its charm, Vijh was warmly received and featured at the Thomas Jefferson Library in Falls Church, Barnes and Noble book store in Reston and George Mason regional library in Annandale, Virginia.
Helen Critchfield, librarian at Thomas Jefferson Library, called the poet, “A very talented writer; her poetry readings very de-stressing.”
“A tantalizing way of reciting, almost like a dream state,” said Harriet Vidyasagar, an advocate at a non-profit organization.
“I was stuck before. I am so inspired. This is really going to help my songwriting,” mused guitarist Mark Stanard.
A Leap into Water is Vijh’s first poetry collection published in the United States. Her other titles are Without Echo (UK), Until the Next Harvest (India) and Uttrardh Kavita (India).
“My mom and I loved it, we’re so glad we came. We really enjoyed ourselves.” Sarah Kosar, a young student effused.
“I enjoyed the book program. I have never been to any kind of book signing or reading before,” added Kacy Lypka, a writer’s group leader.
Vijh, an established journalist, who first composed a poem at age seven, began the readings by a brief introduction of her work and then took the audience on a two hour poetic inspirational journey.
Her poems speak a language easily understandable, like the title poem A Leap into Water, talks about the poet’s creative process and Prelude to Sunrise, an inspirational poem greeting sunrise and appreciating each day as a new day. A Dance of Creation evokes the passion of nature. In Dupont Circle, the poet captures the essence and many angles of the busy city, Washington, DC.
The poet gives an uplifting salute to Gandhi’s well known wisdom and message of peace with Mahatma. The Bell, is a time symbol, Face of Earth, an anti-war poem, and Riding Together, a spiritual pilgrimage, each add a new dimension to the talking poems. Vijh captures powerfully the image of child-birth in Poesy, in this case her poetry and to the universal mother in Under the Dust, of love in All That Matters, a tribute to Scotland in An Alley with a View and invoked memories with her poem, Memories.
Inspired by her father’s Urdu couplets as a child, Vijh recited in her melodious voice, enhancing the feeling and capturing the listeners’ imagination. When asked to read more, the author bemused, saying that she had to save some out of the fifty-six poems for them to savor on their own. “It’s an honor to read in front of a diverse audience, who loves poetry.”
Maureen Culhane, a former teacher, leafed through her just signed copy and proclaimed that she “planned to devour cover to cover A Leap into Water.” She added, “The poet floated cloudlike entrancing the audience, beckoning us to join a duet of emotions, stretching our minds multi-dimensionally.”
Mr. Selim, a senior television executive, felt listening to Vijh’s poetry was “enjoyable,”
In her Q&A sessions, Vijh explained the difference between poetry and journalism, recalling the famous expression that journalism was literature written in a hurry and that poetry was written at leisure from the heart. She also led a fun poetry workshop, involving and nudging the audience, giving them a versatile lyrical flavor.
Everyone seemed to have loved the workshop including beginners, who discovered hidden poetic talent in themselves. In a befitting appreciation to the author, the audience lined up to get their copies of A Leap into Water signed and personalized by her. The bookstores seemed happy to sell out of all of the copies on hand and by the large crowds.
Surkeha Vijh’s poem:
Over and over
you mirror my curiosity,
push my pen, and
spin phrases for a silent
immersion in verse.
Melodies I search for, and
Moments to reflect.
But, my dear! the rules
and the spectrum
one has to live with
amidst a world of contours!
To compose a song
in the wilderness
among jarring voices,
what is music?
what is noise? Distant faces
smile at me
from the void.
I am unable to climb to
the shrine my Muse
on my bruised feet.
Born years after his death,
what I heard about him sounded enigmatic.
I’d often asked: was it a light in the form of a man?
What I try to say about him, will it be in vain,
because it has been asked time and time again?
When I start I see a flame, a spark,
Was he the man whom millions believed in?
Was he the man whom millions loved?
An incarnation of peace with the strength of thunder.
They say he gave meaning to many lives.
He filled many hearts with the fragrance of happiness.
I’ve also heard that he lifted people from the dust,
from misery and led them toward a new horizon.
I’m amazed by his immense vision,
which unloaded heavy souls,
sinking hearts with the assurance of free air.
But I wonder if there be another Bapu,
a guide and a teacher as he is called,
to uplift those in despair
whom I’d also encounter
to resolve the puzzle, a myth,
a legend — Gandhi!
Bapu – father
Mahatma – higher soul