“Wrappings in Bespoke” Sanjeev Sethi (Hedgehog Poetry Press) – book review

Sanjeev Sethi Wrapping in Bespoke book cover

Sanjeev Sethi’s “Wrappings in Bespoke” is a series of short, cerebral poems that stretch towards what is it to be human, drawing on lessons learnt from his personal life and opening those observations up to a general reader. This is summed up within “Biog”, where

“Images and idioms speak our
accent. We coach ourselves to
ignore the commentators. In an
ecosystem of unequal genii, we
are happy to exist. To be is to
bloom. The rest is contextual.”

Readers are invited to find what speaks to us, ignore the doubtors, acknowledge the inequalities, and strive to be content with our lot. What makes us content is not defined so the reader can interpret it as they please. These are words of guidance, not rules. It doesn’t stop a reader striving for material happiness and status, but reminds readers to keep themselves grounded and balanced.

Naturally one of life’s hardest and harsher lessons is loss. In “Loss and Other Lessons”, the young speaker has been left at home with an older sister while their mother is in hospital and their father has gone to the funeral of their paternal grandfather who was known as Daddy,

“This was big time loss.
As though someone had
punched my solar plexus.
The heart felt hard.
I wasn’t even a teenager.

I remember her, my sister,
just about a teen, sitting
next to me. She seemed
much older, wiser, calmer.
I remember, looking at
her chocolate brown eyes,
looking at them for direction.
Her silence was palpable.
Finally she spoke:
“Don’t feel bad. Daddy is with God.”

Suddenly…
I was allayed of ache.
That sunset…
I learned my first big lesson:
Trust.”

Despite the grief, the speaker learns that he still has a connection with others and can trust others for support and assistance. Later “Wishes for a Child I Never Had”, urges a the child “not to be vulnerable to whims of another” and to “choose a domain that sways/ in cadence to the music of your inscape” along with usual advice to take heed of the arts and cultivate compassion before final wish, “May luck and its lustre broaden your borders.” Meanwhile the speaker looks to his upbringing in “Navigation” (complete poem),

“I never received emotional citizenship
in dominion of nanny days. Without
kedge of State sponsorship, I swam
in whirlpools. During my oceanic
phase, you and I: you as flotsam
I as me, stroked and stoked rough
weather. On menu of our meeting,
happiness was hazy. I elected for
other amusements in an island of
my making. Kelp, sea lion, and seal
are natant as caret is incised over me.
Muse, its mysteries are caretakers.”

There was no plan, no linear path to success, life was a meandering through whatever looked interesting or where a muse led. “Leave-Taking” (complete poem) touches a similar theme and gives the collection its title,

“You and I are no scholars of horology,
but time wraps in bespoke. Detritus
blocks our way, deterring us from
zooming into a xyst. We don’t need
the descant of a dragoman. We know
it’s clock out on a timepiece that refuses
to ticktock. When fresh, we lacked the grace
to smell the flowers. Rearranging an old
bouquet is no way to rev it up.”

Life is something readers have to figure out for themselves. Following the old, dead paths of others won’t do.

“Wrappings in Bespoke” probes what the human condition is and how to find a meaningful life when you’ve not been blessed with early advantages or material good fortune. It seeks to engage as well as explore, like a teacher or guru who sees their job is to prompt a student into independent study rather than learning by rote.

“Wrappings in Bespoke” is available from Hedgehog Press.


Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.


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