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I read widely and in most genres but romance and westerns. Here you'll find my reviews since 2007, with a few reviews of previously read books as well.


In 2012, I completed an "authors of the world" challenge, reading a book for every country (and a few other entities) by someone who'd lived there for at least two years. I expect to tag these books by challenge and country in the near future. I'm still refining my list by adding books that better meet my challenge criteria.

Particles, Jottings, Sparks: The Collected Brief Poems - Rabindranath Tagore, William Radice

The prefatory material provides a useful introduction and places the work in the context of the author's life and other works, reporting as well on contemporary literary responses.Particles (Kanika): Very short poems, often taking the form of a dialogue or near dialogue between paired opposites, generally ending with a reply that provides a twist of perspective and rebuke or statement of contentment with the second entity's experience. My favorite:


81. Beyond All Questioning

'What, O sea, is the language you speak?'

'A ceaseless question,' the sea replies.

'What does your silence, O Mountain, comprise?

''A constant non-answer,' says the peak.


The problem with rhyming translation, even of a rhymed original, is that where the rhymed original's word choice at its best seems inevitable and the rhyme simply a serendipitous confirmation, the translation sounds, as many of these do, jangly and forced (despite Radice's use of some slant rhymes). These are structured song forms, but they are more clangy than lyrical in this translation.


Why "sea" is lower case and "Mountain" upper, I couldn't say.


Jottings (Lekhan): This collection is typically more haiku-like in feel, though more explicit in the poems' messages (sometimes to the point of banging one over the head with their moral, though this is mostly true only of the abstract poems). The nature imagery is more pronounced, or perhaps more obvious here. This may be due to the use of repetitive imagery across multiple poems. Stars, moon, sun, clouds, mountains, ponds, ocean, flowers, trees, and a musical instrument called the veena) recur, as does the theme of love (though these love couplets seem to me to be the weakest poems in this set). The emphasis on light and darkness compels one to read this as a group of albas and nocturnes.



Dreams are nests that birds In sleep's obscure recesses

Build from our talkative days'

Discarded bits and pieces.



My pilgrimage does not aim at the end of the road.

My thoughts are set on the shrines on either side.


Sparks (Sphulinga): Less enjoyable, perhaps because many of the poems are abstract, religiously inclined, or appear to be invocations, salutations, or valedictions. As a group, they seem more occasional and specific than universal in their address. Those that remain focused on image and sensation are generally repetitive of the previous two collections, or unsubtle. There are many setting suns, faded cloud, ending roads, wilting flowers.



The sea wants to understand

The message, written in spray,

That the waves repeatedly write

And immediately wipe away.



That travelling cloud

About to disappear

Writes only its shade

As its name on the air.


The appendices include Tagore's explanation of the provenance of many of these short poems, interesting notes about the production of a handwritten collection using aluminum plates, thoughts on short poems, and the history of the creation of Lekhan; thoughts about Japan and the "extreme economy of self-expression"; a recollection by the woman who rules the lines on the aluminum plates; thoughts on modern English poets; and a different version of a poem.


All in all, well worth reading, but I'd still like to see an unrhymed version, especially of my favorite, Lekhan.