History in a Pebble

When one thinks poems one dreads obscure sesquipedality. Sonam Choden Dorji has refreshingly avoided that in her ‘History in a Pebble,’  “Sometimes you need to stop searching, for appropriate words, for elaborate construction,” that naked thoughts suggest.

Written mostly in free verse, the collection of poems is a tranquil conversation between poet and poem, provoking the reader’s old thoughts into new light; “People are always looking for something to pick on; if I highlighted my imperfections would they start picking on my good points?”

An Indian English teacher once told me how expensive it was to keep Mahatma Gandhi poor, and it is a similar struggle the poet has scaled in keeping her prose quiet and it is this very simplicity that gives her poems such profoundness.

There is the spirit of Carpe Diem, there is defiance, there is that basic human need for hope and love and most of all there is honesty- plain and simple.

In reading the five years’ collection of poems, I felt them and I walked with the poet through her life. I saw her watch wind horses galloping off muslin prayer flags by the wind that blows, as it will, and settles, as it will, “free to find form again in the softest flight of a butterfly.”

I sat by her writing desk as she met her muse and listened to the silent music of her pen and I smiled smugly as people called her lazy, oblivious to the ideas and dreams prancing in her mind. Then there was the bewilderment she, and so I, felt in the apes and the prisoners who surrender to the whims of societal dictates beyond reason.

Poems speak to each reader as only poems can do and ‘History in a Pebble’ paints, for me, a world nearing perfect tranquility, one where each step is its own new world and each pebble on the road of self-searching has its own story. The poems suggest, serenely, that we pause to look just a moment at the world for we just might realize there is beauty and eternity in every single act in every single moment.

Her  Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, an avid writer and patron of the arts herself, writes in the foreword, “(The book) is a trilogy of gems in which one gets lost in the beauty of nature, of spirituality, of wisdom and deep feeling. These are hugely powerful poems about events of everyday life.”

This book in its deep meaning and simplicity has set a new benchmark in Bhutanese poetry.

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