Saradha Koirala Tear Water Tea (Steele Roberts, 2013)
Saradha Koirala’s second collection, Tear Water Tea, arrived in my post-box in style this week. It was wrapped in blue tissue, with a tracing-paper tag embossed with with a bee. Imagine if all poetry books were delivered to us like this. The book, itself, is beautiful to both hold and behold. Delicate black & white drawings of flowers scroll about the powder blue — and then you shift from skull to lego block to bee to teapot (or whatever route your eye might take). David Randall Peters, the artist, also did the faint, vein-like, pool-like drawings scattered inside.
Saradha’s new book flutters between the physical world (a land-locked bird, an escaping dog, a sheetless bed) and a more ephemeral world (blown kisses, things in the air, melting photographs, smoke, ink tears, vapour). What emerges in this poetic movement between what is observed physically, intuitively and at times unfathomably are the strong and lyrical threads of love, home, and place that glue the collection together. It is as though the poet is inviting us into her family album, a poetry diary of sorts, and each poetic entry is lovingly crafted.
While much of the collection adopts a quiet, almost conversational tone (back to Andrew Johnston’s notion that much of New Zealand poetry is talky), the collection as a whole offers the variations of a musical piece. Certain phrases ring deliciously in your ear (‘colourless in corners and stiff’ ‘I pull my temper’). Analogies surprise (‘and yet months pass like clouds’). In some poems, the words accumulate in lush patches of alliteration and assonance (‘Arat’). Then there is the way everything comes together in the one shimmering line (‘no need to read the residue/ of forests strewn like tea-leaves on the lawn’).
The opening (and title) poem is a delight (‘Tear Water Tea’). It lays down three slender strands within its slender form, and you cannot help but swim through the gaps. Poetry so often comes alive out of juxtaposition. Here, storytelling is placed next to grief which is placed next to daily routine. There is accruing mystery about the boy and his imagined wolf, a story that gets repeated in order perhaps to dislodge grief. There is the rip that is also sorrow, that a cup of tea might wash away (there, there). There is the kettle put on — oh, the salty tears that masquerade for water — as you speak and as you listen. There is this strand collapsing into that strand, and so on and so forth. Poetry can take many forms and employ language in a thousand ways, but there is something immeasurably satisfying about small poems that are economical, graceful, mysterious (Bill Manhire is a whizz at this!). Thanks to the publisher and the poet I have reproduced the poem below.
Saradha’s second collection is a larger version of the small poem that introduces it: pleasurable, contoured, refined. A little gift, indeed.
Tear Water Tea
Over and over they told me the story:
a boy, an imagined wolf.
As if sorrow can be likened to mischief.
I hold the teapot in both hands
another satisfying, salty brew.
©Saradha Koirala Tear Water Tea (Steele Roberts, 2013)
Saradha resides in Wellington and has taught English in secondary schools since 2005. She is of Pakeha and Nepali descent, and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University. Her new book was recently launched at the fabulous Quilters Bookshop in Wellington. Her debut collection was entitled Wit of the Staircase. See below for further links.
Saradha Koirala website
Winged Ink Tuesday Poem
An interview with Tim Jones
New Zealand Poetry Society on Wit of the Staircase