When you are intimidated by poetry, meanings in the work become confabulations. Even in a favorite piece, the sense of respect that you develop for the piece, the poet, or perhaps both, is at once overshadowed by fear of unknowing. Readers who are new to poetry will find some comfort in Reetika Vazirani’s frequent use of the caesura. These pauses within verse are part of an overall poetic agenda, but for the casual reader, they are notes of relief; in sheet music, they would be rests. In the case of Vazirani, the agenda might be to introduce a contrasting thought. For the rest of us, the caesura is a chance to take stock, and then move on.
Like the other pieces in Radha Says, ‘Birthday’ begins with an idea, espoused in the title, and gradually evolves. In between “wholeness in me” and “doors opening”, a journey has taken place both literal — a hall, a stock room, and modes of transportation — and symbolic — the past connecting into the present, as “in the house on Tubman Street”, with a looming uncertain future. ‘Birthday’ is also a construct of observation: Washingtonians (the poet was a local) will identify with ‘doors opening’, which in itself marks the end of a journey as well as passage into a new beginning. The poet is our guide, and those of us who are casual readers would do well to savor the breaks in verse, take stock, and then resume behind her lead. Reetika Vazirani passed away in 2003, but she continues reciting in the moment of silence.
By Joe Ramelo, DB Social Media Assistant. Check out the Radha Says book launch event this Friday the 22nd. See the Upcoming Events sidebar for more details.
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