Sharma (America Tattwamasi, 2016) explores American freedom in this collection of poetry.
In his previous book, the poet observed America through the lens of the Hindu Upanishads, with an emphasis on religion, politics, and universal spirituality. This second collection of more than 200 poems is “the continuation of the same vision, message, and mission,” he reveals early on. As a whole, it showcases an unswerving belief in American ideals; indeed, Sharma describes America, in his introduction, as representing “the supreme philosophy of freedom and liberty.” However, he also states that his lengthy, 52-page title poem is a lyrical attempt at “reinvigorating this great country” in the face of what he perceives as current “weakness and complacency.” Still, the poem portrays the nation as a wellspring of benevolent energy. Speaking directly to America itself, the narrator offers absurd exaggeration: “You are the one on whom is pinned the advancement of human / civilization, with all its sacredness intact.” He then turns a critical gaze toward people in politics, asking, “Why have our politicians relegated themselves to third world / demagogues? / Why are they twisting our sacred documents to suit their knavish / dispositions?” The result is a fervent cri de coeur that asks the amorphous American spirit to “arise and illumine the eyes of humanity,” as “It is time to bludgeon the dark that is trying to decapitate truth and / veracity.” Some readers may interpret these lines as revolutionary, aggressively nationalistic, or even colonialist in tenor, with their inference that everything that isn’t America is in darkness, waiting to be illuminated or crushed. In a later poem, the narrator declares, “The uncompromising advocate / Of racial harmony and tolerance, / O America, / I salute thee!” Sharma’s writing echoes the nigh-biblical, overspilling grandiosity of Walt Whitman’s literary style. However, there’s also a hint of zealotry here, and some readers, including those engaged in campaigning for racial equality in the United States, will likely balk at this collection’s assumptions of harmony and tolerance.
A well-intended celebration of Americanness that becomes mired in hyperbolic fervor.