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  • Dr.Pragya Suman

Review: What’s Left by Tate Lewis Carroll

By: Dr Pragya Suman

I think that personal experience is very important, but certainly it shouldn’t be a kind of shut-box and mirror looking, narcissistic experience. I believe it should be relevant, and relevant to the larger things, the bigger things such as Hiroshima and Dachau and so on.

— Sylvia Plath in conversation with Peter Orr, 1962

What’s left is the debut poetry collection written by Tate Lewis Carroll. Tate is a chicken farmer who loves living at a small farm in central Illinois, USA, with his family. This poetry collection is a perfect example of confessional poetry; here, “I” pervades a dense emotive circle, the undertow is sitting a shattered son, trying to pick the old threads, and the father is no more. The First-person perspective is used in the majority of these poems. The confessional term was first used by a reviewer looking at Robert Lowell’s book Life Studies, and since then, it has emerged as a powerful branch of postmodernism. If we take a dip into Eliot’s depersonalizing theory, then here we see the poet’s private experience and trauma is reconstructing for a public readership. The act of crafting emotion into poetry itself is a disjointing effect which disconnects the author from the text. In the last poem of the book Alphabet Cone poet who is mournful and melancholy throughout, seeks the bliss of dislocation and declares—

It has shaped me,

Although the meaning

Hides itself still.

I now live

Simply in the Joy

Of these tremors—

Between the pretext of grief and post text of bliss, we see the metamorphosis of eddies in poetry, and it all happens without transgressing both limits. Even though these poems are autobiographical and some poems are diary-like, the poets retained a significant amount of varied techniques, from sestina, haiku, topographical poetry, column poetry, and both tiny and free verses. Multiple poems are written in constraint form, but one question arises, can intense emotions be caged in fixed patterns and structure? Wading through this book, one finds. “Yes, it is possible,” Poet has done it successfully in What’s Left.

It shows it is wiser and more practical to accept poetry as an interactive response instead of pure emotive eddies. For example, see what happens after a thunderbolt/lightning. It is considered safe to crouch down in a ball-like position with head tucked and hands over ears, to be in a down position with minimal contact with the ground. Copper rods are capable of transmission of lightning effect due to enhanced conductive capacity. Poetic tools, patterns, layouts, and arrangements do the same, and they transmit poetic energy and enhance their effect. Adult grief, child’s innocence and emotive energy have weaved a pure bonding of father and son in words. Tate’s father was inflicted with cancer, and the therapeutic process, the days in critical condition in the hospital and the background of the melancholic nostalgia all are written poignantly; it touches the soul. Even he had used the ordinary things of the past to intensify the eddies emerging in the heart.

In the poem To My Father’s Roses, he says—

Do stray cats,

the ones he used to chase away,

now strip your roots while digging for rabbit nests.

In the poem River, Tate mourns—

Dying is not like a river smoothing away a stone’s history

The side effects of chemotherapy are crafted in concrete poetry. I don’t see the profuse use of metaphors here, poems are written in direct and colloquial language, and in the simple and lucid flo, the poet discovers the truth —

The dead are dead and remain dead,

And after all these years of obsession—

The dreadful fear of losing a single shade

On the palette of his memories—

He is finally dull.

A moment of revelation comes to the poet among conjectures of mysteries of the universe—

Yes, the only way to speak

Of permanence

Is with impermanence—

Appetite, Myth, Even mountains

Erode, lilies catch disease,

Lake drain like water in cupped hands

Tete loves to live among woods, and his poetic eyes know how to permeate the dense forest. If you want to know how? Then go through this book.

A book worthwhile to read!

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