Wednesday, October 22, 2008


“Hope” is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops-at all-“ (Dickinson 254)

Undoubtedly, Hope is the thing which perches in the soul of poets and usually seen in their outpourings empowering both the poets and the readers. In fact, ‘Hope’ has been the last weapon of a poet who loses all courage and zeal in his combat with toils, trails, troubles and tribulations of everyday life. It is the spring of poets’ inspiration that ever infuses vigour and zeal into their veins. Poets of all ages who motivate the entire mankind are always surcharged with the energy of hope and their poetic outpourings remain clad in the garb of new vigour, zeal and enthusiasm even in the darkest hour of dejection, disappointment and despondency. To Emily Dickinson, ‘Hope’ is something ‘that perches in soul/ and sings the tune without words’ but to Stephen Gill it is a constant companion in the seasons of pains and pleasures and it symbolically ‘sings lullabies/ in the morning’ and welcomes him ‘with a flower of dreams.’ ‘The Maid of Hope’ remains with the poet day in and day out, so he writes:
When I collect
The beads of my thoughts
She scatters them
And when I am upset
She shows skies
Through the window
Of the future. (Shrine 147)
It is nothing but the silver lining of hope in the abysmal darkness of uncertainty which drives the poet back on the shore of liveliness and infuses new zeal into him as well as ‘emerges /as sun in the void of solitude to dispel ‘the birds of depression.’ Stephen Gill’s poetry, though a protest against the global terrorists, fanatics and the enemies of peace; reaches sometimes the Nadir of melancholy and gloom, yet it never deviates from its path of delivering a universal message of peace and brotherhood because the poet remains hopeful unto the last. He is well- aware of the thing called hope from the very inception of his life when he ‘was growing up in Delhi’ in the atmosphere of riots and clashes. Remembering those days, he says:
I have experienced their stings. I know what fear is in the jungle of helplessness. I know what hope is when there is no hope. (Flame 26)
Or, at another place when he seems searching hope and finding it in poetry, he says:
To find hope I traced, riches, education, faiths and many other things. I tried to see the face of hope in political ideologies, including Marxism, Nazism and Dictatorship….To take the root of fear out, I took a long and painful journey of efforts. … Writing particularly poetry is one way to do that. Poetry is my refuge and my helper to help others to be aware of the enemies of peace.” (Flame 27)
Here, if we read between the lines, we will find that the poet traced hope in riches, education and faith but later on found it in the refuge of poetry or say, poetry became the treasure-trove of hope for Stephen Gill at last. And if we look at his poetry objectively, we will find hope has been cocoon that has woven the entire canvas of his poetry. Dr. George Hines admits the presence of hope in many of his poems, so he says:
Many poems express frustrations, sorrow, regret and despondency because of the present state of man and the world, but other poems express hope in better future.” (SGHW 90)
His comment is also worth quoting when he says:
Although the poet shows keen awareness of man’s personal and global problems in his poems of hope, he feels that they will be resolved, that life is always improving and will be better in the future, and that a fresh dawn with an unclouded sky is approaching. (SGHW 91)
The fascinating and mature talent of Stephen Gill which is marked with optimism, hope, vigour, zeal, enthusiasm, faith, reliance and assurance require comprehensive appraisal so that the future poets and critics may know what poetry is and what poetry should be. The vision of Gill is imbued with the hope for peace, hope for love, hope for harmony and hope for a new and better world where naked dance of maniac messiahs does not torment the humanity, ‘where waves snuggles sand/ and soul is free, where the horns of life/ are not entangled in the bushes/ of the zealots…/ where the cactus of shame/ does not mushroom/ and the evils birds of the bloodshed/ do not defile the nest..’ ‘the dove flies without fear/ and the lilies of justice blossom for all’, where the streams of youth/ do not cease flowing/ and despair does not nail tents/over the greenery of the dreams’, ‘where love is not suffocated/ and twigs are not damaged/ by the trotting swarm of savages…’ and ‘where creeds are not crushed/ and human Gods do feed/ the vultures of war…’ (Flame 146)
His collection The Flame is nothing but a realization- conscious or unconscious that ‘hope is still alive under the sun’ and the last canto of the book gives plenty of examples of hope after the symbolic story of Zeus, a Greek God who handed over a box ‘containing pain, bloodshed, fear, economic strangulation to Pandora with a forbiddance to opening it. But it was unfortunately opened by her and the contents of the box called ‘pain, bloodshed, fear, economic strangulation, anguish and suffering began to roam in the world,’ but again one can observe the following comment of Gill when he relates this symbolic story and seems hopeful:
All that was left was hope. Eventually it was also let out of that box. Expression of hope is in the last canto of The Flame. (Flame 24)
The Flame is the magnum opus of peace. Although, it is the longest poem in English on modern terrorism, it is also the most potent and sacred poetic offering to Goddess of peace. The book mirrors the naked dance of maniac messiahs as to how these openers of this Pandora’s box roam in the world in every shape to cause as much destruction as possible’. He adds:
They go to universities, do usual business, greet their neighbors, smile, shake hands, eat and do everything as normal human beings. The next moment, they are seen killing citizens with the rage of their guns and explosives, killing even themselves. (Flame 24)
On the other hand, the book also propagates the message of peace and non-violence in an equal potent manner when Gill says:
The eternal flame knows no occupation, faith nor complexion and cannot be imprisoned within human bonds. It has engulfed millions, whose names can be traced in every age and land. This flame is known to engulf mortals even today, melting unknown metals into one. (Flame 28)
Hope is really sprinkler of peace in the dark cloudy nights and a potent vocalization of the eternal human value of peace. Again, ‘it is the binding force, for families, plants/every atom/ and every part of every individual.’ The Flame is the light of hope in the darkness of dejection. It provides solace in private agonies and binds people together with the cord of unity. Here, hope has been creeping in a calm manner throughout the poem and energizes constantly the poet even when he feels entirely shattered and disappointed while sketching the picture of modern terrorism. Despite all the dismal and ugly pictures of the present day world hag-ridden by terrorism and violence, The Flame has countless references where one can find Gill full of optimism, hopes and vision of better tomorrow. Here the comment of Helen Bar-Lev, a prominent poet and artist from Israel is significant to quote:
The Flame is a poem of tenderness, incomprehension, longing, anger, hope, and sadness. It is a poem which gives all the reasons for peace, and also the reasons we do not have it. Were there more Stephen Gills in this world. (Bar-Lev 5)
The poet seems brimming with optimism when he forbids to ‘ Let the arrows of despair’ hurt him and challenges ‘if/The clouds, the hills/And the waterfalls’/mock his attempts,’ he will react in a different manner:
I shall catch
Glimpses of your elegance
In the glow of the candles
With the temple that I build
For you. (Flame 132)
Or his liveliness and hopefulness can be discerned in the following lines:
Sea waves
Sing my song
And the rainbow colours
My amorous tale.
If I ever feel unfulfilled
I shall shed a few drops
To water the seedings of my passion. (Flame 133)
Dove, a symbol of peace and non-violence also seems mixed with hopefulness and radiance which is clearly visible in many of his trilliums (in Haiku Spirit) of his collection Flashes. Dove actually propagates the message of hope:
Dove flies towards skies
Green branch in beak
Message of our hopes. (Flashes 33)
It (Dove) ‘flies/ human sleep/ in the fold of dreams’ and ‘muses on a branch’ with ‘eyes half shut’ and reaches beyond the boundaries:
Dove draws no boundaries
No fuss
Gypsy of hopes. (Flashes 34)
In another collection Songs Before Shrine, Gill feels dove’s melody echoing in his soul and instilling hope and vigour in him. He hears the dove’s melody surging in his soul and watches its face and feels its beat in his flesh and blood and writes beautifully:
I envision it flying
Across my horizon;
I smell its presence
In the air. (SBS 13)
In another poem, ‘The Dove of Peace’, it is nothing but hope that is making Stephen Gill say:
For a long time
I have been hearing
The dove of peace will be freed
Shortly. (SBS 9)
And creates a mild but pricking irony:
To awaken that dove
Progress has been made
Today’s comfort
More sacrificed
Our homes now better adorned
With the thorns of hatred
A few more nuclear bombs
Remain to be developed
And contested. (SBS 9)
Or in another poem ‘Man of Today’, he sketches the shattered hopes of peace and holds the man responsible for all the traumas. He seems grim to see ‘songs of peace on one hand and distribution of weapons/ siding with the murderers on the other.’ So he asks:
On one side
Respect for the cats
Fondness for the dogs.
On the other side
Defeat for humanity.
No one knows
What is today’s man? (SBS 27)
Therefore, in such adverse atmosphere of agony, injustice, disharmony and peacelessness, the bud of hope is shrunk:
The wings of their dove
Cracked and clipped
Footprint of harmony erased
And hope-bud shrunk. (SBS 23)
Similarly in another poem ‘Evening of Harmony’, the poet finds the ‘sun of harmony sinking/ in the cave of despair/ as does the heart/ of a homeless orphan’, and adds:
Inside the home
The fireplace of hopes burns
Outside lurks a vacuum
Caused by retreating waves
Of lost sleep. (SBS 16)
But despite all such deep disappointments and despondency, the poet never leaves hope, nor his dove stops breathing in such adverse climate rather he urges hopefully:
Let the gleams of your glory
Ravage the plague of intolerance
For a new creature to emerge.
Cleanse the air
For the dove to breathe life
Into our homes
As well as in the universe. (SBS 7)
The poet’s dove ‘strives / to play with her wings/ while the brutal blades of nightmares/ clip them, yet the poet is not woe-begone, rather he writes:
The dove’s sight
Is the melody of blessing
For the comfort of homes
The dove’s presence
Is the rhythm of the creator
That cures the abnormal growth
of dissonance. (Shrine 56)
And adds :
As the oracle of hope
The soul- soothing dove
From her creative solitude. (Ibid)
In another poem ‘My Dove’ he finds the dove of longing sanctified in the sanctum of serenity’ and is above all nations. He sees dove as perfect vehicle of peace and hope on the earth so he says out loud:
She (dove)
Hues of undepictable truth
That consecrates
The emptiness of her surroundings
The leaf that she carries
Is from the evergreen tree
Of never ending hope. (Shrine 149)

Keeping these fears, dejection and terrible atmosphere in mind, he prays for better days to come. He appeals:
Strengthen my voice to weed out
The fear
The sickness
And the satanic wrath of the past
And to help
Truth to appear. (SBS 5)
The poet in Gill visions for better world and coming years so he asks the Almighty to ‘pacify the frenzy the violence’ as well as equip poet’s pen with ‘amazement fused with vitality’. He wishes ‘to harvest/ a ripe manna of harmony/ of the youthful enlightenment’ and ‘blossom a richness of pleasing nutrients/ of calm energy’. His songs also come together with the hopeful movement of dove. So he says:
Fragrance of spring
Sustain a structure of strength
With the braces of my lyrics
That will secure breathes together
In a mystical dance
To the tune of the song of the dove. (SBS 2)
Mother is another icon of hope and sacrifice to Stephen Gill. Her loving care and memories always remain with the poet. He finds his mother in ‘all three novels Why, Immigrant and The Loyalist City’ and even dedicates his collection Songs Before Shrine to her. His poem ‘To Mother’ can be seen here when he finds his mother as the perfect image of hope and says:
Image of sacrifice
Message of hope
You are highly prized
The gift of the life
I owe to you. (SBS 1)
Though Gill is well aware of the hardships and adversities of life and he knows the intensity of pain, loneliness and defeats. Therefore, he writes:
Whole life I shaped my path
Gusts of loneliness never stopped
Light missing. (Flashes 52)
Yet he keeps on living the life without grumbling or murmuring:
No haste
No worry
No malice
And no darkness of prejudice
Lurks here.
Eyes set on my horizon
On calm waves I sail here. (SBS 38)
And hopes for the spring’s arrival, so he writes:
Youth will run and roam
Flowers grow and bloom
Trees will be graced
Birds sing
And greenery abound. (SBS 83)
It is a time when ‘songs arise/ hopes throb/ and madness spreads.’ (Ibid, 83)
The abundance of optimism, hope, peace, love and harmony make the poet hopeful for a glorious dawn in this age of trouble and adversaries. Dr. George Hines says aright:
The poet envisages a future in which all living things will cooperate in harmony and will ‘smile together in life’s field. (SGHW 92)
Gill is well aware of the duties and responsibilities of a true poet. Poets are the sentinel of the conscience who draw a vivid and transparent picture of the society and point out the foils and foibles of human character. They lash at the weakness and demerits of the human being as well as empower them to write against maniac messiahs. Gill knows when a poet is needed:
When dearth and sward
And hope despaired
Sound their notes
Poet is acclaimed
And sought. (SBS 39)
He knows that the ‘poets are adventurous’ who ‘dive with swimmers/ dance with singers/ and enter/ the souls of tyrant/ as they paint/ voyaging/ in the seas of thoughts flowing/ the waters of emotions/ with the delicate oars/ of pens’. According to Gill, the poets are the givers of joy and happiness. They should not die in the dark and despair. His plea is aright:
Writers must use their coin
That is the Lord’s wish.
Should poets
Let the flower of hope be wasted
By the sickles of racial winds
Is the question now. (SBS 29)
In another poem ‘Birth of Poems’, he shows much hopes with the poets:
Poets free
The birds of their blood
Weave purrs and growls
With a single loam
They are cats
Walking in darkness of solitude. (SBS 32)
Stephen Gill has high hopes with poetry. He considers his own poems as ‘the brooks/ that flow leisurely/ through the green valleys/ of blessedness’. He considers that his poetry can ‘root out terrorists/ that sail on the currents of cruelty’. His poetry is a constant struggle for peace and for human rights which finds the ‘rhythm of life/ within the castle of grace’ and ‘cannot be abducted’. According to him, his poetry is the mine of hopes.
My songs
Beauty in living
Hope for warmth
And thirst of prosperity
The rainbow of my joy
Link distance islands of disharmony. (SBS 43)
Stephen Gill wishes to be the first claimant of dreams and shows his deep craving for hope and optimism which can be glanced in the following lines:
If there were dreams for sale
I would be the first to buy
No matter how high the price. (SBS 69)
And he further says:
I’ll pay any price
For the dreams
That lighten the burden
Brighten the day with sunrise
And make life
A time to remember. (Ibid)
In many of his poems, Stephen Gill states that our present sorrows and difficulties are temporary. Man should try to develop his environment with love, peace, truth and higher human values and renovate his soul with the beaming light of illumination and fresh hope. Here the emphasis of spirituality establishes the fact that man should follow the spiritual and natural laws. In connection of Gill’s poetry, it is again justified to quote George Hines’s words when we find him saying:
Just as the sun melts the morning mist, the poet hopes for a spiritual sun which will melt the ignorance, fear, hatred and greed which are ‘deeply amassed around our necks. (SGHW 92)
Stephen Gill’s poetry is a unique medley of hopes and despairs. In his crystal clear images of contemporary life full of destructive complexities in which man is hoarding material affluences and thereby entering into cut-throat competitions leading to mental disturbance, psychological imbalance and spiritual ‘insolence, he lits new lamps of hopes whose light will definitely torch the paths of future generations as well spread the message of optimism and re-constructive idealism among the people which is the real need of the hour. Though his poems are full of dismal and terrible pictures of terrorism and its consequences, yet they encourage man to ride through the rough tempestuous sea of life and cross all the boundaries of callous calamities and dreadful disasters.
Stephen Gill knows well that written words create miracles but for that sacrifice is needed. In an interview with N. K. Agarwal he says:
Writing is also therapeutic to me, in order to give light, candle burns itself. That is what a poet does. I write to disseminate my message in an art form. This is a process of burning oneself or going through the pains of a pregnant mother. (Kafla, 49)
Gill is much hopeful with his poems, so he says:
I hope my writings about peace will cause change in the thinking of my readers. (Kafla 49)
Such writings full of optimism and certitude will confer inner peace to the individual as well as provide him an alternative succor for his troubled mind and agonized soul by inspiring him to bind each and every human being in the sacred bonds of love, fraternity, peace and global brotherhood so that Human progeny may live a prosperous, peaceful and ideal life.

Work Cited:

Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Johnson, Thomas H. (Ed.) Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955.
Gill, Stephen. Shrine. Allahabad:, 2008.
----. Songs Before Shrine. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2007. (Abbreviated as SBS in the text.)
----. Flashes. New Delhi: Imprint, 2007.
----. The Flame. Canada: Vesta Publications, 2008.
Hines,Dr. George, Stephen Gill and His Works, New Delhi: Authors Press,2008 (Abbreviated as SGHW in the text)

Kafla Inter-Continental, No 36, IICA, Dev Bhardwaj, (ed.) Chandigarh. Jan-April 2008, ‘Stephen Gill on his Writings and Diaspora’ an interview by N. K. Agarwal.

End to End, by I. K. Sharma, Jaipur: Sand-Pra Publications, 1/30, SFS Mansarovar, 2008, Price-100/- Reviewed By Dr. Shaleen Kumar Singh

Dr. I. K. Sharma is a veteran scholar, translator, reviewer, Associate Editor (IBC) and poet from Rajasthan. He belongs to the age of O. P. Bhatnagar (on whom he has edited a book of critical essays entitled O P Bhatnagar – A Critic with a Big Heart 2006) Nar Deo Sharma, Prakash Joshi, R. S. Pathak, A.N. Dwivedi, K. Shrinivas, Atma Ram, P. K. Joy, P. C. K.Prem, T. V. Reddy and many more. It was an age when these poets were writing and thinking of strengthening the foundation of Indian English Poetry and Criticism so that it may be recognized as separate offshoots of knowledge of Indian Literature. Therefore the contribution of the above mentioned poets, critics need comprehensive appraisal. Dr. I. K. Sharma, with his poetry collections entitled- The Shifting Sand Dunes (1976), The Native Embers (1986), Dharamshala and Other Poems (1993), Camel, Cockroach and Captains (1998), and My Lady Broom and Other Poems (2004) and now End to End has acquired a prominent place among those luminary poets published from big publications Houses like O.U.P, Macmillan, Harper Collins and Longman. Here it is to be noted that his poetry has no less sensibility or poetic mettle than those of luminaries rather it excels them at some places.
The present collection under the review is dedicated to ‘those who/ muse about…/ and/ amuse themselves…’ The collection carries 27 poems in which a few poems are already published in some leading journals of India. The poems of the collection are of varied tastes and hues in which the experienced acumen of poetry is visible crystal clear. A careful study of the book reveals that the book is marked with the characteristics of simplicity, precision, music and spontaneity mixed with meditativness. The poems of the collection are both subjective and objective. Reckoning the days of childhood when ‘Nothing is sweeter than the mother’s lap’ and where ‘all sore notes of care end;/ to which no emperor can pluck this place of joy’/ ‘that a sage seeks in forest, many in ascetic yards,’ he sketches the school days somewhere keeping his own childhood in mind in the poem ‘School Interval,’ “Their sky breaks/ as the bell tolls,/ their minds turn and turn/ to raids of the ball;/ they, heads bent tumble into their pen/ like lambs with a brand on their skin…” (2)
He reaches to the evening of life i.e. Old age and answers beautifully in the letter to the editor in which someone wrote to the poet, “I am 84 waiting for the Whistle of Destiny.” But the poet responds strongly and says, “ Age whispers no doubt on the brink,/ nags to, but eighty four is no fatal number/ for him who floats ever in books’ pool,’ and musters up energy by saying-“ there is enough bounce in your bones,/ and right swing in your pen.’ (11)
Some poems like ‘Swami Dayanand Saraswati,’ ‘Wild Love,’ ‘The Singer Who Lost His Voice,’ ‘A Tribute,’ ‘A Tribute to Chidambaram,’ ‘May 13th,’ ‘How Untrue….,’ and ‘The Terminator’ are written on important persons, events and dates of history. But the poems like ‘Termites,’ ‘Just Like That,’ ‘When No One Stops to Kiss My Face’ and ‘Loss’ are fine examples of simplicity, pithiness, symbolic and evocative imagery. But ‘The Lost Face’ on her wife mirrors his deep love to his wife in which he says in the end;
From her ashes rises music
That in me shall not die
No face, no face ever
Shall fill my empty sky. (38)
And the poem ‘May 13th’ shows poet’s deep love to Jaipur and its people as well as his indomitable zeal against the terrorists. On 13th May a synchronized bomb attack by terrorists caused a huge massacre ‘in the city of cool gems’ when people tried to tie ‘bands of love’ and ‘dye every hurt with a soothing voice’ yet the terrorists tried to plant ‘venomous darts’ ‘to rip pink petals’ of ‘faith.’ The poet in Sharma is not terrorized, so he writes:
Wet with blood our armour is
Yet our heart is Chetak
Willing to maul mid summer madness
Of a hundred fusty gangsters.” (31)
Alike a perfect social conscious and ideal poet he knows his duty to bind the people in the thread of love and fraternity so that people may live a life of fearless citizen aware of his duties and responsibilities in the dark hour of fear and dejection.
The poems of the collection are both meditative and amusing. The choice of themes and then the tackling of it in a skilled manner establish the fact that Sharma’s poetry is superb and excellent and his poems bear the stamp of his wide knowledge as well as concern for individual and social harmony. This collection is replete with many experiences of love, hate and kaleidoscopic images of life and it gives an interesting reading resulted in joy and hope that Dr. Sharma will not end here but will write more and more.