Monday, March 2, 2009

The Noontide: Poems, Ghazals and Hymns, Kanwar Dinesh Singh, New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2008, ISBN-9788176258821, price 240/- reviewed by Shaleen Singh

Kanwar Dinesh Singh is one of the pioneer poets of contemporary Indian poetry in English who seems to be the true follower of Frost’s dictum that ‘a poem should begin in delight and end in wisdom.’ He is now a well-known poet of Kangra valley whose previous collections won critical acclaim from the poets and critics like Patricia Prime, Gulzar, Amrita Pitam, Pritish Nandy, Jayant Mahapatra and Bernard M. Jackson. He has ten published poetry collections to his credit and a number of critical essays and papers published in the leading news papers and journals of India and abroad.
The present collection under review titled The Noontide is divided into three parts poems, ghazals and hymns in which one can discern a wide range of ideas clothed in the attractive form of poetry. The poems of the collection are a refreshing whiff of fresh air in the melancholic and complex climate of present time. The poet has tried to sketch varying aspects of life with broad precision and imagination. The poet has covered all the major themes like themes of philosophy, love, nature and social consciousness in his poems that are predominantly subjective in tone but objective in effects. The poet scribbles his pen dipping it in the ink of philosophy when he sings:
I am a leaf
Of the grand family tree
I wither and fall and fade away
But the tree lives on… (7)
And exhibits his concern to the hungers of man:
Man is not man
As he is seen
From outside
His hungers are just
Not his own. (8)
The consummate skill of the poet is seen his short poems. Specially, when he says like this:
On the other side of
My portrait:
I have no eyes,
No ears,
No nose,
No mouth,
No face,
No glow. (21)
But his longer poems create a world of its own. The poems ‘Wither to Man?’, ‘On the Death of Sun’, ‘A dream of death’, ‘Naught to Naught’, ‘Who to Blame’, ‘Spread Vast Eye’, ‘Asides’, ‘The Chain of Being’, ‘Anxiety ‘and ‘To A Watch’ are highly philosophical and suffused with social consciousness while the poems ‘How can I Forget You My Love’, ‘proximate to You’, ‘When You’re Before me…’, ‘The Colour of Colours’, ‘Up in Arms’ and ‘Together A Poem’ are tinged with romanticism.
The second section carries twenty five Ghazals, a popular genre of Urdu poetry. Traditionally Ghazal is known as the appreciation of the beloved with their peculiar rhyme and metre (which in Urdu is known as paimana and Bahar) but the poet has adopted the path of Jadeed poetry and has developed both the content and form of Ghazal in English in particular for which the poet should be analyzed comprehensively by critics and academics. The poet’s ghazals are both romantic and reflective. A few pieces of his romantic ghazals are as follows:
How can I tell you love so much, o dear!
On my tongue I’ve a seal of hesitancy and fear;
How can I bare my heart to you, o dear!
Of ignoring I have apprehension so sheer; (77)
The poet has imbibed the grammar of Urdu Ghazals so he follows the discipline of Makta and Matla while composing the Ghazal even in English. Mark, how beautifully the poet weaves the Urdu proverb in English Ghazal:
Who’s bathed with milk, O Dinesh?
Everyone in this Hamam is bare enough! (70)
The poet deserves his praise in composing Shair (Couplets) of Urdu in English which is probably the finest example of poet’s remarkable creativity and innovative approach.
The third section carries five hymns dedicated ‘to the creator of this world’ before whom the poet’s ‘soul bows in obeisance’. All the five hymns are the loveable litany to the Lord. In the hymn three, the poet sings like Tulsidas (Kulyug Keval Nam Adhare, Sumir Sumir nar Utarahi Para):
Chant the name of God, man!
You will be liberated from
This- world’s illusive trepan. (97)
Thus, a close perusal of the collection makes one feel as if the one has journeyed from human to the divine. Though there are a number of beautiful poems in the collection but the poem I liked is ‘Poets’ which reminds me the Indian poetician Anandvardhana who ‘proclaims in a famous verse that the poet is the sole creator in the universe of poesy since he fashions the world of the poem according as he pleases’: Apare kavyasansare kavirev prajapatieh/ Yathasme rochate vishvam tathettratipadhate. Look at the poem how the poet expresses it:
Out of sheer chaos they invent
A world too exuberant yet delicate
It is the messy composition of life
That they so fondly celebrate. (56)

To sum up, it is needless to say that the poems of Kanwar Dinesh Singh are unique and universal. The poet is not different to sublime poets and indifferent to sublimity. His imagery, symbols and other linguistic techniques successfully create delight at first perusal and wisdom in the second. His experimentation with language and genre has made him appealing and a poet of high caliber so the present volume is worth reading as well as worth buying.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Discovery, Tapati Baruah Kashyap, 12, D Juripur, Panjabari Road Guwahati, 2008, pages-49, Price-50/- Reviewed by Shaleen Kumar Singh

Tapati Baruah Kashyap’s A Discovery is a beautiful arrangement of poems in a single book-form that have previously appeared in different esteemed journals like The Sentinel, Replica, Poet and The Journal of Poetry Society of India. The book contains thirty six poems that took birth when the poet was journeying through the path of life with the only ‘companion’ of ‘Silence’. It is better to quote her own words when she says: Honestly speaking, all these poems are discovery of my sense perceived at different situations and experiences of life when silence was my only companion. (Words of Gratitude)
The poems composed in silence need silence again to enter into the being of the readers and agitate their conscience. Therefore, the poems that were composed in the back drop of series of violent incidents perpetrated by armed groups in Assam during which several innocent people had to sacrifice their lives for no fault of theirs need special notice of poets and critics so that a wider audience may equally experience the invisible claws of death over the lives of the innocent persons and their inexplicable agony. The poems of this collection are both subjective and objective equitably; subjective when she seems discovering her own self and objective when her own self is tormented by external inhuman and cruel forces and when she exhibits her genuine concern for the humanity at large. The realistic images drawn by her make the reader discover the root cause of the tragedy of human life which is in jeopardy on account of ethnic violence in Assam as well as discover the true identity of man in ‘nobody’s world’. But it is only the silence where she discovers ‘sense’. It is the silence which is a passage to her soul and an opportunity for realization and can make her heart’s door open and suggests her to keep it open. Most of the poems of the collection are suffused with realism so they contain skepticism, nihilism, dejection, hopelessness and deep pain in themselves and at times she becomes too inquisitive to ask death:
Why death
Why are you so harsh?
No sympathy for the humanity
Why death?
Where do you exist?
Is it your pride?
To destroy the earth
At your own wish . (32)
The poems like ‘Death Disrupts’, ‘Death Prevails’, Death is Disorder’, ‘Death Pollutes the Air’ and ‘Song of Death’ deal with the theme of death with a mode of research and skepticism. Her questions like ‘When there is no end/ How is life possible’ (41) or ‘Why death? / what were their sins?’ and the answer, ‘nothing –nothing-nothing’ (39) or her suppositions to death as ‘the healer of pain’ or ‘a shower of serenity on / the helpless soul of earth!’ create skepticism and reflection in the mind and heart of the readers.
Tapati appears to be successful in making her readers more reflective and thoughtful on the varied shades and emotion of life. But all the skepticism and pessimism (of poets) that arises out of the material world may shed if we remember Tagore who sings (in Bangla): ‘ Jibone yata puja holona sara,/Jani he jani tao hainin hara,/ Ye phul na futite jhareche dharanite,/Ye nadi marupahte haralo dhara,/Jani he jani, tao haini hara./ Jibone ajo yaha rayeche piche jani he jani, tao haini miche.
Which means ‘The prayers which I have left incomplete/In my life time,/Are not lost, I know/The unblossomed flower which falls/On the earth,/The river which lose its course/On entering a desert,/Are not lost, I know/Even to day the things/Which are left behinds/Are not in vain, I know.’

Therefore, if she remembers that the man dies but his soul lives on, her poetry will be more reflective, inquisitive and remarkable because her incessant urge to search, to know self is more powerful than other contemporary poets writing in English. The book is aesthetically designed and moderately priced. I avidly urge other scholars and academics to cast their critical glance to such a fresh and qualitative poetry.