Book Review: A Witch Like You

Reviewed by Tasnima Yasmin

An intricately crafted debut collection of subjective, literary and political poems, the title of A Witch Like You occurred to Sareen in a dream at 3 am. The word witch in the title has dual connotations of being a positive and negative entity, one that captivates and bewitches others though rather charmingly to carrying a deceptive appearance and vice versa. However, it must be noted that deception in this case is not the same as cunning betrayal. Rather, it is the ability to hide behind an impression that the poet maintains to hide her inner emotional turmoil. The poems come from a heart that has been through a lot but has not hardened. On the contrary, it has become more sympathetic and empathetic in its understanding of others. Again, to some extent the word witch in the title hints at the notion of equating women to witches that Sareen challenges by penning soul stirring poems which both interrogate and counter this notion. Dichotomous emotions run throughout the collection beginning with Split Selves. It showcases the inner workings of the poet’s mind by drawing on details from her life and the times in which she is a part of. This becomes revelatory as it helps readers to get acquainted with Sareen before diving into thoughtful debates. The poems in this collection follow a certain order. They grow from the teenage years to vibrant youth, from falling in love to losing love and its consequent depression. However, there is acceptance in the end of the situation and eventual recovery that is permanent. The poems are written in free verse without any particular rhyme scheme. There is no subjective or poetic jargon. The poems are written in simple terms that can be easily understood. This imbibes the love for poetry in readers and it helps to amplify the ideas that Sareen is passionate about. However, from time to time there are transliterated Hindi words which could have been listed separately in the end of the book for ease of reading by non-Hindi speakers. Again, Sareen is also very innovative in her expressions. For example, she uses the term “frame flitting” in the poem Snapshots to refer to the act of viewing photographs which are printed and framed but exude the memories captured within. This brings a charm of thoughtfulness in the collection by a poet who has contemplated simple everyday actions very deeply. Sareen executes her ideas in style. There is an ease with which she handles such random emotions that readers are bound to feel like they have felt a lot of the same feelings but never been able to mention them in such a beautiful manner. At 149 pages, the book is moderately lengthy and full of poems that enrich the reader with each line. Poignantly interrogative, the poems are paradoxical. They appear easy but each reading brings out new meanings that are startling. It is clearly not a book that can be skimmed through. It makes for a time consuming read and definitely worth multiple readings. There is a lot of trauma and the pathos of suffering lingers throughout. Yet, nowhere are the poems sentimental or coax readers into feeling overwhelmed. It is this subtlety that marks the beauty of the themes that speak for human moral values regardless of gender orientation. This makes the collection so engaging and relatable. The poems at once give rise to vivid imagination in the mode of everyday talk. This makes the poems viscerally simple but profound.

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