In “The Waste Land”, TS Eliot had said that “April is the cruelest month”, on the contrary, young poet Aditya Tiwari proposes a different view of April. He contextualizes the title in the beginning of the book and says, “april is the month of light, rediscovery, love, passion and balance”. The collection of poetry, from the very outset, tries to instill belief, love and assurance in the readers. Much like a self-help book, it tries to give you words as forms of comfort, reassuring your belief in yourself.
“I just hope you are everything you believe in”
The collection of poetry doesn’t pretend to be a mainstream literary piece, but is rather an emotional and creative outlet of a person who pours out his experience in the forms of words and tries to encourage the readers in self-belief and self-love. Similar in vein, to the works of Rupi Kaur and other Instagram poets, they do not necessarily follow a particular structure, and aren’t laden with high-handed, complicated words to express simple emotions and feelings. And that’s where the beauty lies, in the way; Aditya has expressed his feelings and thoughts in the simplest of words and sentences, conveying what he wanted to do, without confusing the audience with complicated structures or language. It can be read by anyone and everyone without feeling the exhaustion of interpreting metaphors and symbols, oftentimes a case with poetry.
The collection is divided into sections, dedicated to facets of life, namely, love, loss, heartbreak, trauma, LGBTQIA+, women and self-worth. Most of the poems dealing with love, loss and heartbreak deal with queer loneliness, the transitory nature of human relationships, the challenges faced by young queer individuals in a society that looks down upon anything or anyone who is ‘different’. Reading through the poems, the readers might feel like reading a personal diary or journal, and that personal, private quality of the poems add to their relevance and relatable quality.
The poems range in topics from broken friendships to forgotten lovers, mending heart to raging thoughts. In one of the poems titled ‘love’s like a coffee violence’, he even compares the act of love with the metaphor of coffee and mentions mature issues like violence in relationships which we often shy away from while writing personal narratives. Some of the poems also deal with the obsessive nature of love, that many of us have gone through, especially in the poem ‘crave’, where he writes,
“you like cigarettes
were not good
for my health
i craved for
you’d harm me”
In some of the other poems, he has utilized metaphors of ghost and supernatural to instill the feeling of loss of people from one’s life. He explicitly examines the nature of these relationships and how empty they make you feel once it is over. The general transitory and impermanent nature of relationships is a constant theme in the collection and you would stumble upon poems which evoke these feelings inside you.
Aditya also explores the issue of masculinity and opines that toxic masculinity is something that ruins every other gender. In one of his poems, ‘dear men’, he addresses the men and tries to educate them on their mentality and their conduct in real life. He goes on to explain how we all come out of a woman’s womb, and end up traumatizing the same women because of the set notions of patriarchy in the society. In a scathing criticism of the patriarchal society, Aditya also includes stereotyping of gay men wearing ‘pink’ and demolishes the set notions on what it takes to be a man.
In another poem titled ‘let boys be feminine, boys can be divas too’, he writes,
“you told me
to tone it down
tone down my femininity
but how can i tone down
i was born with
loving the feminine parts of me.”
Gender becomes a key point of discussion in many of the poems like ‘androgyny’ where the poet talks about the confusion and anxiety that comes with the feeling of un-belonging, but like many of his other poems, he tries to end it with the reassurance that if nobody else, then at least he would be able to love himself as he truly is. It also comes with a sense of security that once you know who you truly are; the road to conquering the world is not too far.
i am the man
and some days
i am the woman
destroy you—tear you down.”
One of the most powerful sections of the collection is the one that deals with ‘women’. In most of these poems, Aditya uses powerful symbolism to reiterate the strength of women. However, he isn’t only dealing with the power of women, but also their powerlessness and how that energizes the patriarchal norms. In his poems on ‘women’, the women rage and rise against the autonomy and claim their spaces, the women are not just tokens, but are forces to reckon with. The women are creators and also destroyers. In poems like ‘god is a woman’, Aditya tries to reinforce the long tradition of the divine feminine and re-establish the strength that women hold. In another poem, ‘the entire universe inside of her’, he writes,
“open her thighs
and you’d see
the entire universe
Apart from the issues mentioned above, Aditya has dealt with a plethora of emotions which affect queer lives in India. In one of his poems, he addresses his bullies and tries to reclaim his space from the traumatic experience that a queer person goes through in their childhood. In a country where sex education and sexuality awareness is nil, children become the victims of bullying from the very childhood. It causes trauma and here, Aditya is trying to reclaim that trauma and make it into his strength. He writes,
“to the people from the past
who have bullied me
don’t look at me with your hungry eyes
i am not a piece of meat for you to eat
i am not scared you anymore”
Another facet that has been explored is mental health which has come to the forefront of discussion in the present day, as it should. Mental health is perhaps one of the single largest factors affecting young lives today, and the fact that writers are taking that into cognizance is a welcome change. He deals with depression in one of the poems and tries to explain how one might feel when they are going through a depressive phase. He doesn’t complicate it with flowery, poetic words, but states it as it is, in the rawest form which impacts the minds of the reader even more. In another poem titled ‘anxiety’, he writes,
“you tell them
that you are
but these are
little lilac lies”
He also explores the issue of colour which affects us Indians in our everyday life. The inherent racism in India is not a concealed fact; we being products of years of colonial rule have internalized racism and practice it in everyday reality without even realizing at times. He explores this very humdrum surrounding brown-ness. Aditya moved to New York for his education, and his experience of being bi-cultural in the foreign land led him to these realizations. Perhaps, these ruminations on brown-ness come from his personal experience of being a brown person in a white city. In a poem titled ‘the little boy with big dreams’, he writes,
“dear little brown gay boy
you are enough. you have always
More than just looking at relationships, society and everything else, the collection also inspects deeply the concept of self-love. It has poems ranging from talking to yourself lovingly to a sense of disappointment about how mistakes are always repeated. Young poets are looking more and more on the inside and this self-introspection leads to poems which are extremely personal and yet having a universal quality to it. We, as individuals, are getting more self-aware, and that’s perhaps why these poems feel so familiar, and relatable.
i have always
anybody else but
i will love me if nobody else will”
The poems in this collection do not follow any particular structure, format or punctuation, and are not capitalised at any point, unlike the literary masterpieces which strictly follow the rules of language and articulation. But what the collection does is to convey true, raw and honest feelings in the easiest way without promising any intellectual stimulation. More than being read and critically understood, the collection warrants the readers to feel the words on the pages. Aditya covers a range of issues and does so very honestly and without pretentions of high-handed literariness, the free-verse form adds to the simplicity and makes for a quick and entertaining read.
About the Poet: Aditya Tiwari is a poet, writer and queer activist based in India. April Is Lush is his first collection of poetry published in April, 2019