A review of Ecological Mediations, by Dr. Karan R Aggarwala, Xlibris, 2010.
The sciences meet the arts in the poetic renderings of Dr. Karan Aggarwala’s 2010 collection, Ecological Mediations(Xlibris). An optometrist by training, Dr. Aggarwala’s poetic view of the world reflects years of science met with a holistic ecological view of the mechanisms of our world. His inspiration draws clearly from personal experiences and stories of his family. He writes his heart on the page, without frivolous language or construction. This clear-cut style serves as the connecting force for the wide-reaching themes of the collection.
I am a man the day I feel
responsible for my thoughts, feelings, and actions;
my past, present and future.
(excerpt from “Twenty-one”, pg. 169)
One of the interesting highlights from this collection is the way that Aggarwala views humanity and the human experience as not only a connection between family, friends, and other physical beings, but also as an ephemeral experience that questions the role of spirituality and religion in the position of humans in the natural environment. Aggarwala’s style does not lean toward pushing religious agenda but gives pause and consideration to the way that spirituality can connect people with their purpose, their family, and their environment. Each poem in the collection holds its weight as a stand-alone story that paints a picture of moments in a person’s life. They don’t have to be connected, or even feel related, but Aggarwala’s words paint the picture of a whole, holistic life through unrelated experiences that continue to build a full picture of what it means to be human in an ecological environment that calls for cooperation and coexistence that is constantly taken for granted. This collection does not take that connection lightly and works to build moments into the collection that remind the audience of a forgotten connection to their peaceful and tenuous world.
Given was I instead,
a universe of inter-related cells and tissues,
that work in harmony only so long
as I want them to.
(excerpt from “My territory”, pg. 28)
Aggarwala’s medical background shines through as a new view on a very essential connection between the human experience and the natural world. The structure of the poems in this collection highlight the harmony of the human body in a world that can be affected by beauty, disease, climate, and physical breakdown. Poems such as “Confused with” and “My territory” connect the ideas of the ethereal found in religion with the relation of cells and physical beings. The medical technicality of Aggarwala’s clear knowledge does not weigh the piece down and instead builds an interesting view into physical action and movement that could easily be missed by everyday readers. Highlighting these biological moments adds another layer to the hope and the connectivity that holds the collection together as a body of work.
Ecological Mediations is a conglomeration of many themes and feelings that ring true for our current world that thrives on corrupting our ecological beauty and resources. Aggarwala is able to commiserate with and appreciate the natural world, both for the way that it truly is and for the way that humans sometimes trick themselves into believing it is.
The style of these works, as a whole, plays with the line between attract and destruction as humans interact with their surroundings in a way that creates ecological and emotional drain. Each poem creates an individualized space to question what it means to be human, to interact with the natural world, and to search for meaning through interpersonal relationships and connections to a feeling of world religion.
Good things there are
many more to do;
for some of these callings
we are relying on you.
(excerpt from “Message for Jyoti”, pg. 132)
With the state of the world as it is, I find comfort in reading the original spaces that Aggarwala has created as a selection of independently impactful poems. The collection does not feel like it is meant to be read from start to finish as a narrative parade of poems. Instead, Aggarwala’s attention to sculpting individual spaces serves as a reflection of the way humans feel multiplicity, always searching for a new way to see, imagine, and connect.
Malerie Lovejoy is a postgraduate student at the University of Oxford. She currently serves as the Assistant Editor for The Stories of the Nature of Cities, and her work focuses on bringing the practical application of linguistics into mainstream publishing.
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