Leonard Dabydeen: Watching You, A Collection of Tetractys Poems

Book: Watching You, A Collection of Tetractys Poems, by Leonard Dabydeen .

Xlibris Publications, ISBN: 978-1-4691-4802-1 (2012)

Book Review by Sathyanarayana Mydavolu, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Cover Design: Ranjit Ravindran   

Trying to express in words, picturesque, is innate to all humans, be literates or illiterates. Poetry, novel, story, quotation or even a casual joke emanate from this human desire to use language as a more effective means of communication. The Hindus believe that all sounds and languages originated from the ancient first sacred letters of ‘OM’ also known as Pranava Aksharas. Hence, every letter is a mantra and when used in right combination with pure intentions; they have immense effect on the audience.
What a prose writer tries to express in a 500-page novel and in a 5-page story; a poet is able to express in meagre 5 lines. That is what makes poetry superior to all literary forms of expression. The choice of words and the choice of poetic structure make all the difference in communicating the poet’s heart and in touching the readers’ minds.
Those who already read Dabydeen know him as a poet with matured mind and tender heart.
Tetractys, the mystical geometrical form prayed by Pythagoras was Dabydeen’s chosen poetic form in his poetry collection of WATCHING YOU.  

“Bless us, divine number, thou who generated gods and men! O holy, holy Tetractys, thou that containest the root and source of the eternally flowing creation! For the divine number begins with the profound, pure unity until it comes to the holy four; then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, all-bounding, the first-born, the never-swerving, the never-tiring holy ten, the keyholder of all”.         Pythagoras

As a poetic form, tetractys is a simple 20-syllable verse, with no meter and rhyme scheme; similar to many poetic forms like tanka, senryu, haiku, etheree etc. There are no prescribed themes or emotional bars in composing a tetractys. But it seems that poets used this form more for romantic and humorous themes. But, can such a small form fetter a poet like Dabydeen to express what he wants to express? In his second poem he says:

I indulge
in deep thoughts
like flowering plants
shaping beauty with sculptured happiness.

In fact he tried to lace a core of deep inner philosophy with love and humaneness in his poems. He spreads his wings across the deep skies and observes the human strife and struggle for life and love.
He sees the mothers’ anxiety going home and in chiding their sons playing in rain. Compares a mother’s heart with purple magnolias…wow! His imagery so flowery, yet so natural; touches the undulated inner lines of readers’ hearts.
He tries to explore the secrets of mind and says dreams are the secrets of mind.
I remember great  Sri Aurobindo’s words (not exactly in his words as I don’t have his quotation handy):

“…faith is not baseless…it is the manifestation of a deep seated intuition…”

A person knows a particular thing to be true. But he cannot prove it. But his heart says ‘it’s true, it’s true’. What can he do? He says it is his faith! But all faiths are not truths and all truths are not faiths.
In this book we find so many lines that emanated from a human, whom the life had tested and who tested the life.

there is
uproots itself to test it for ripeness.

Great words! Aren’t they?
His Halloween series of three double tetractys are mysterious, nebulous and stunning.

His tombstone I balance on my shoulder
black hat askance
tattered cloths
dead man
Leonard’s poetry thus wanders on all plains, the inner, outer and ethereal, taking the reader from one emotion to another and from one stunning yank to another before he makes an effort to forget the last stanza.

He goes joyous at one time and shows pain the next moment. He queries, he questions, he suggests and commands and every time he touches the heart. For example see this poem:
there were
flowers in your
garden of dreams I admire all the time.

Then you took them away so silently
without telling
reasons why
they were

For Leonard, poetry comes naturally though he had chosen tetractys form for his poetry in this book. Throughout the book, we don’t find one harsh word of dissonance. The entire text runs with a wide range of sounds, what the linguists term as aspirates and sibilants, with a smooth flow, asserting each feeling and emotion as tenderly as possible.

And Leonard’s philosophy too doesn’t seem to be bound by any narrow religious confines.
His thoughts and ideas don’t reeve through the constricted yawning of any single philosophical school. Sometimes we feel he is quoting from the Bible and sometimes we think he picked up a cue from the Geeta. But ultimately we understand that it is all pure humaneness beyond the boundaries of any narrow religious tenet.

Besides liberally sharing his high imagery and guileless feeling, Mr.Leo took every care to properly punctuate the poems; without which the readers would sure miss the sumptuous and succulent idea behind every line so well portrayed.

No doubt, WATCHING YOU, A Collection of Tetractys Poems is a compelling read. Not mere poetry but a life we read; a tender heart we understand and the entire universe we watch.


The book can be obtained from the following distributors:

http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-0104668049/Watching-You.aspx      xlibris publishers

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Watching-You-by-Leonard-Dabydeen          barnes and noble

http://www.amazon.com/Watching-You-Collection-Tetractys-ebook/dp/B006Z2RDDY     amazon (USA)

http://www.betterworldbooks.com/watching-you-id-1469148021.aspx          betterworldbooks

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Watching-You-Collection-Tetractys-Poems/dp/1469148021    amazon (uk)

http://www.booktopia.com.au/watching-you/prod9781469148021.html         booktopia

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/35/search/?sc=Leonard%20Dabydeen&sf=Author     chapters, indigo

— Post #1208

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