Rochelle Potkar’s new collection of Haibuns (Japanese variation of Prose poetry) ‘Paper Asylum’ is a brave book, as it brings forth a form of traditional Japanese poetry and presents it to the world through textures of regional flavours and life in its mundane form – which ironically makes it all the more extraordinary when seen wearing the fabric of Rochelle’s words. I call it ‘brave’ because it dares to bring something back with a distinct flavour while keeping the faith in sensitivities of the reading world.
While the poet fleshes out the intangible with her prose-poems, a haiku or a senryu surfaces from lyrically composed stories to give a different dimension to every slice of life tucked in between these pages. Every Haibun in this collection leaves the reader feeling unsettled. This is the feeling I look forward to when I pick up a poetry book and ‘Paper Asylum’ delivers it with every poem.
The poet carves out Haibuns from the tedium of life with great finesse. While reading Rochelle Potkar’s book, I couldn’t help feeling curious about her writing process as I glide through sentence after sentence that is merely telling a story with a cunning simplicity which creates an illusion that not much is happening, while from beneath the surface of my skin, goosebumps kept appearing.
Subtlety is a key feature of a seasoned artist. Plenty of richly textured experiences have been built between the pages of this Paper Asylum that may leave you a little bit crazed. One of those unique things a reader has to encounter for oneself is to make sense of where the review is coming from. I will leave this review with its feet immersed in a wave of words from the book itself:
“I don’t recall my grandfather. He died a year before I was born. I don’t visualise what it would have been to know him. Drunk? A poet? Or was he someone else? Did poetry and liquor fill up his glass? Differently?
Stories sometimes are better. They fill us up like water. Distance, the best carrier; time, the best editor.
rumours of how
we were born”