Thursday, September 29, 2016

American poet Ruth Danon's Scintillating Amazon Review of Yuyutsu Sharma's new book, A Blizzard in my Bones: New York Poems

5.0 out of 5 stars A Wanderer in the CitySeptember 29, 2016
This review is from: A Blizzard in My Bones New York Poems (Hardcover)

Whenever Yuyutsu Ram Dass Sharma greets anyone, he says “Namaste” and gives the accompanying bow with hands folded in front of his heart. “Namaste” means “I bow to the god in you” and one might say that to write poetry is, for this writer, an endless act of bowing to the indwelling holiness of everything in the universe.

At his master class at NYU, Yuyu said, to be a poet you must set your house on fire and walk away. I think that this speaks to the urgency of the poetic vocation in his own life. When he was a child, his father, who had had a religious conversion, wanted to give him away to a group of austere monks. The monks knew better and told his father to send him to school.

Because of the wisdom of the monks he was able to become a great poet and a great trekker and wanderer throughout the world. His poems speak to a wonder and curiosity born out of his love of this world and the experiences it offers. You will hear in his work an eclectic set of references – Lorca, the Himalayas, Amsterdam, the fish sold in a market in New York. The world presents to him an amazing array of rich experience and that, filtered through wonder and humility, and immense generosity, yields a poetry of wonder an surprise. You will hear lists and repetitions – echoes of Whitman and Ginsberg yes but also echoes of mountain streams and strange gods, brought together in a voice full and fully his own and full of humor generosity, and wisdom.

In his book, A Blizzard in My Bones, Sharma brings this background and sensibility to the city he claims as a second home. Reviewers have remarked on the mixing of east and west and surely that’s here – even in the language as Hindi or Nepali words are made to rhyme with English ones. The book presents a man, haunted by the loss of his mother, who travels to New York, post 9-11 and post- Sandy, hoping to find the literary landscape of this city – Whitman, Lorca, Leonard Cohen are some of his heroes. And he does – he finds Brooklyn and the White Horse Tavern and the Chelsea Hotel. But he also finds a city defined by commercial brand names and homeless people, a city of people suffering from loneliness and isolation. He carries with him the memory of the sacred relationship with nature that he experienced in the Himalayas and he carries this as he wanders the city that he loves and finds dismaying and in many ways alienating. The universal erotic offers some relief, but that sphere, too, is tinged with the isolation that seems so poignant to someone whose culture operates in a more communal way. Sharma’s gift is to see all this and yet to find the sublime in “the holy and the broken.” (pace, Leonard Cohen.) The poems in A Blizzard in My Bones offer a glimpse of New York City that reveals its fissures and its glories. Those of us who live in the city can be grateful for such illumination.

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