Balayogini Jeyakrishnan’s Poems of the Soil

K.S.SivakumaranA 25 page slim volume of 24 poems published by Mathusooothanan Jeyakrishnan  and A L Aazath printed at A J Printers Station Road, Dehiwela is prized at Rs, 250/- The author is a  senior lecturer attached to the Department of English Language teaching of the University of Colombo. As the title says she writes about the poems of soil. What soil   is that? Obviously, as the Foreword writer says- “Balayogini’s poems will be read with great interest as the outside world is gaining access to North Sri Lanka after the recent cessation of war. The environmental ruins and human toll will probably give people an idea of the experiences in this land.”

Lanka born American professor Suresh Canagarajah in his Foreword also adds: “However, Balayogini’s poems give voice to her own and other peoples’ feelings and thoughts of that time”

In an appreciative analysis Canagarajah aptly points out the strength of the   poet in her observations and feelings and most importantly her experiment with the craft of poetry writing. The poet has an M Phil. In  Linguistics.

It’s worth quoting Prof  Suresh Canagarajah  again: “She provides a sensitive window into the hearts and minds of people who went through violence, poverty,  bereavement, and uncertainty in their lives… orphaned children, confused child soldiers, moribund scholars, apathetic students,  despondent refugees, and perfunctory political bureaucrats.“

Canagarajah also observes that “She represents experiences of love, sex, family, and friendship that transcend politics and gain poignancy being set in the painful political environment.”

What about the poet’s craft? “She is sensitive to rhythm, imagery, spacing, rhyme, and word choice as she talks about her experience” says Suresh Canagarajah. Having assimilated what Suresh has said above, let me give my comments   with illustrations from Balayogini’s poems. She beautifully alludes rhythm of music to the touch of her beloved in this poem

A string from the Guitar’s mid
A string from the violin’s bed
A sting from this un-blossomed heart
Ring when His
Fingers touch.

Another poem I liked was this titled ‘The Clouds’

Hour was given
For us to
Our Motherland.
I saw
Many bullock carts
Slowly rumbling on
On the crowded rugged
Through the
Thick   gloomy   palmyrah
The clouds of
Deep sighs of the
Tattered Souls
Blinded the blank heaven
When they   thought   of
Stepping on to some
Strange soil.

The above poem could be referring to the unreasonable driving away of the Muslims from the Yaalpaanam peninsula  by the Tigers OR

The compulsive shifting of Thamil   people from place to place in fear of shelling by the Airforce.

I liked her usage of ‘Blinded the blank heaven’ and also ‘The clouds of Deep sighs of the Tattered Souls” showing the poet’s freshness in her descriptive expression.

Another poem titled “The   Soil” is self-explanatory of even some places in the peninsula   even though the poem was written in 2002. I wish to quote the poem in full for us in the South of Lanka to understand the savages done to the arid reddish land of the soil of the Yaalpaanam people.

Here is the relevant poem:

Burrowed and ploughed
Burrowed and ploughed
Burrowed and ploughed
For landmines,
For Magisterial   inquiries,
For Commissions
For the NGOs
The Northern Soil now is
Loose with brittle bones
And skulls of
The unidentified innocent
Souls who have become
Mere compost
A deposit of calcium
Carbonate adding onto
The rich limestone soil
Of the war-torn land
Under which
A current of brine runs
History is remembered.

For want of space I refrain quoting in full the rest of the poems which are history narrated of the horror of war in the North and East. But as the poet herself says at the end of one of her poems – “War has no time for Tears”

However, here are some snippets from some of the remaining poems that would prompt you to read  Balayogini  Jeyakrishnan’s  book of well written poems.

“Fenceless, gateless,   boundaryless,  roofless,  doorless  my home stood bare as if in a graveyard”

“You die in your own Soil-yet you die unwept too; because war has no time for tears”

“Being dead is one thing- being walking dead is another thing”