Friday, September 15, 2006


New Indian English Poetry: An Alternative Voice: R. K. Singh, Edited by I. K. Sharma. Published by: Book Enclave, Jain Bhawan, Opp. N.E.I., Shanti Nagar, Jaipur 302 006, India, 2004. pp. 370. ISBN: 81-8152-085-8. Price: Rs. 850.

Reviewed by Patricia Prime

As a book, New Indian English Poetry is well engineered, well-edited and well-presented. Its sections are so distinct that one is almost startled when they pick up on each other’s threads. Briefly, the book contains critical essays exploring Professor R. K. Singh’s oeuvre: scholars explore from many angles the mystique of Singh’s poetry, the poet himself clarifies many aspects of his art through interviews with an almost “chatty” voice (I liked this; it made for a dramatic change of tone); and foreign critics and readers argue their cases for his work. At the same time, the book talks about the creative use of English in Indian poetry.

Professor I. K. Sharma in his Introduction to the book has this to say about Singh’s output:

He is a strong poet with considerable output to his credit. His ten volumes of verse should, without prejudice, earn him a place among the noteworthies of our developing literature. (‘Fifteen years constitute a literary career’, said Sainte-Beave.) It is unfortunate that poets who have written much less and of no high value are sitting pretty on a high swing with the aid of overarching hands of a literary cabal while they who have ‘plighted their troth’ to muses (like Narmad) lie on the wayside. (6)

New Indian English Poetry figures an attempt at upsetting the boundaries, positions and closures of traditional Indian poetry, and also suggests that these terms may have shifted. Coming as it does at a time when courses on Indian writers in the academy have been enlarged to focus on gender, sexuality and difference. Sharma’s collection responds to an informed sense of what “conversations” have been and where they are going, and particularly to the resource-based question of what is needed by other collections. As Sharma writes:

So I come back to where I started from: chaos. Who are the makers of chaos? Obviously, minor poets, for, they outnumber the dominant group. Unlike the smart set forming a guild of their own inside and outside the country, they are quite restrained and modest. Neither affluent nor well-connected they have had no opportunity for visiting London, Oxford, Wisconsin or Chicago. Nor were they moulded in the Iowa workshop of poetry writing. Yet of their own volition they began to compose poems. In this excursion, they instructed themselves by reading, more reading, and still more reading – dismantling their poetic structure till their daemon had approved it. Self-trained they are our modern Eklavyas who have practised art in their own backyard. (5)

Professor I. K. Sharma seems to be exploring in his Introduction the value of applying western criticism towards Indian English poetry. Now that English is increasingly becoming culturally, nationally and regionally neutral, and is the chosen language of many Indian poets. As he states, it has become the “most fecund segment of Indian English literature.” Sharma castigates academia for its “compound neglect with their snobberies, their workshop of Eliot, Stevens and Frost a perspective that until recently excluded even the livelier American literature and that of the Third World.” Why, therefore, he indicates, it there no academic exploration of a poet’s output before he/she is relegated to the scrap heap?

New Indian English Poetry positions itself as the document that seeks to study one of these poets. It surveys and implicitly honours Singh’s output in a diverse yet cohesive field of production, and in so doing historicizes that field and makes a version of it available within the integrity of the volume.

The essays and interviews can be perused like the strands in knitting. They may seem complex at first, but it is worth taking time with them and tracing the weaves of the threads. There are moments that are wonderful: for example, G. D. Barche’s essay “’Phoenix’ and ‘Icarus’ Reworked in the Erotic Poetry of R. K. Singh,” where the critic states,

Thus R. K. Singh’s treatment of sex is unique. Generally poets have looked upon sex either as ‘phoenix’, i.e. life rejuvenating, or as ‘Icarus’, i.e. life depleting. But the poet here has presented it as a catalytic process, operating simultaneously as rejuvenator and desiccator. He has used myths, images and symbols in the most refreshing manner in order to project sex in its contrasting operations (39)

When Shelley described poets as “the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” it is not too fanciful to imagine he had someone like Professor R. K. Singh in mind. Singh has been praised not only for the “lyrical beauty” of his work, but also for its “eroticism.” For three decades of his life his writing has provided rare shafts of illumination into the complexities of Indian life and culture, and his intelligence and humanity have seen his work published throughout the world.

It seems that while Shelley’s line may be applicable to Singh – he is indeed acknowledged “as a legislator” in some quarters – there is no getting away from the fact that the one thing Singh has never lacked is acknowledgement. His life can be seen as a pageant of recognition as the articles, reviews, interviews and literary comments gathered between two covers by Sharma, can attest.

Singh is part of a set of Indian poets who have had their work widely published and acknowledged and many of their articles about his work appear in this volume: poets, academics and editors such as D. C. Chambial, I. K. Sharma, R. A. Singh, K. D. Singh, K. Srinivas, I. H. Rizvi, and many more. Alongside these Indian poets are writers from other countries: L. Glazier, M. P. Hogan, R. W. Schuler, A. Davis and Uncle River, among others.

The publication of New Indian English Poetry is the fruit of decades of criticism of Singh’s work. The book may well become the definitive school and college text for a generation. It may even raise a slew of questions about the nature of his work itself: issues of cultural identity and ownership, nationalism, politics, eroticism and language have all been stirred up. This Indian poet has re-fashioned the rock solid cornerstone of Indian literature and in so doing has amended the literature not only of the present, but also of the past.

The most pragmatic service of Sharma’s collection is that it assembles a good deal of material, which is hard or occasionally impossible to come by elsewhere. At the same time it allows us to see the depth and breadth of Singh’s field thus represented and weigh its claims, historically and theoretically, to be considered as a grounding, though not by that means removed from dialogue with other ways of configuring his personal literary history. Many universities, libraries and individuals will buy Sharma’s collection whose purchases could not extend to the range of Singh’s output. The reader of New Indian English Poetry will find it an invaluable resource for discovering and for reconsidering: a collection like this leads readers to individual volumes.

Compilations such as this are reactive and proactive. They create their own occasion. Every item selected constitutes an implicit reading of both part and whole, the oeuvre of the writer in question and the aims of the collection. The virtue and value of access and apposition for many differently located readers provided by an excellent and timely book such as this can not be overestimated. We owe to New Indian English Poetry the chance – which is also the collection’s directive – to read across a wealth of material gathered under an inclusive but specific rubric and to “see” what effects and alignments may be produced.

Singh has lived most of his adult life and his literary career under conditions of the most critical scrutiny and expectation. As Sharma states,

An impression may go round that Singh is forever busy in the mortal game of erotics and is largely unconcerned about the ills of the age he lives in. It’s far from the truth. Quite the contrary, he as citizen-artist is acutely aware of the painful realities of the Indian society. Time and again he records his distress in poems without overstretching his poetic ligaments. Ascetic in expression he protests against the multiple virus he notices in different sectors of our life – religious, social, economic, and political. (10)

His status as one of the leading poets of his generation in India has been taken as read as much by his critics as by his supporters.

Many Indian English journals such as Creative Forum, Poetcrit, Poet, Indian Book Chronicle, and more, are among the many publications that make plausible a new conception of the globalisation of poetry. One might argue that earlier in the twentieth century the impulse toward the internationalisation of poetry had been linked to a homogenisation of artistic activity: the hope of a unified field. In the present poetry is disseminated through electronic transmission of texts, correspondence, and journals – a process which assumes the primacy of English. Today’s movement toward globalisation depends upon a respect for, even a savouring of, those elements of language and textual practice that are local in nature, which are somewhat opaque, and which resist homogenisation.

Such a process, of simultaneous globalisation and insistence upon the unassimably local nature of poetry, is one that we find in Singh’s poetry. His poetry may be seen as the kind of intercultural poetics that breaks across the boundaries and definitions of self and nation that were the latent source of its creative powers.

“He is chiefly a poet of love and sex. His Muse is tantalising: half-concealing, half-revealing. He is a past master in the art of concealing art,” so says R. S. Tiwary in his essay “A Peep into the Poetry of R. K. Singh.” (15). Singh has found his voice and discovered the joy of writing about eroticism as it applies to his muse, to his personal life and to the life-giving energy that drives his poetry. It must have been a life-turning point as he came alive to himself through poetry and energy. It became a magical transition to move from the speechless and helpless to a position where one’s work is satisfied by the world and by editors. The confirmation by actual publication of his books must be gratifying. His poems, articles, essays and criticism, have also been widely published in journals and on the Internet.

Satish Kumar states in “Rainbow Hues: The Poetry of R. K. Singh” that,

Poetry in Indian English expresses Indian ethos and sensibility and is in no way cut off from the main trends and sensibility which find powerful utterance in Indian literature. (41).

“Time stands still” is one of the poems chosen by P. C. K. Prem in his article “R. K. Singh: A Poet of Nature, Beauty and Woman”:

Time stands still
in November chill
I fill emptiness
with words paint season
on your face

This is one of Singh’s poems about women, which as Prem states, “It is through the intimate love of a woman that the poet wants to establish his identity.” (73). It is a remarkably bold statement that has been utterly justified by time and achievement. In the poem Singh describes, naturally and expertly how, in the coldness of winter, time waits for the poet to find comfort and warmth in the loved one’s face.

Above the Earth’s Green attracted good reviews. D. C. Chambial in his article “Poetry, Politics and Woman: A Study of R. K. Singh’s Above the Earth’s Green,” says that,

. . . in his poetry, R. K. Singh looks at poetry, politics and woman from his own vantage point and lays them bare for the common reader to comprehend. With a sense of deep commitment towards poetry, he exhibits a marvellous sociopolitical consciousness of his time and milieu. (88)

Singh has been criticised for depicting the union between man and woman in “low key” (R. S. Tiwary, “Secret of the First Menstrual Flow: R. K. Singh’s Commitment to Fleshly Reality”). Tiwary states,

It appears as though he deliberately subdues the palpable emergence of the sexual passion on the surface. In his intercourse, especially with his own wife, he remains grossly matter of fact, rather businesslike. But when it comes to extramarital relationships, the element of emotion does make register its presence, howsoever weakly. (93)

Singh has managed to rise above such criticism to be true to a kind of experience that isn’t corrupted by the way in which he views his relationships.

G. D. Barche examines one poem from the book My Silence for its stylistic assessment in his essay “A Stylistic Assessment of R. K. Singh’s ‘The Works and Days’ Weariness’”. He examines the subject of the poem and its organization, and notes, “ . . . the poet has taken a lot of pains to project the devastating effect of ‘the works and days’ on the poor miner’s life pattern. Equal efforts have gone into the presentation of the suffering at night.” ( 167)

R. A. Singh explains in his essay “The Poetry of R. K. Singh” that the

. . . poetry seems to be rooted in visions and divisions that traverse human existence, feeling the pulse in the rhythmic flow of time. His social visions intersect with the private; his flux of emotions creates a complex sound and silence, waving through love, loneliness, failure, frustration, and memories in search of home in a hostile world. His imaginings are not only delightful to the senses but also challenging to the mind. (170)

There is no section of the population whose position Singh has not explored. Often his poetry has been perceived as rooted in erotica, but he has also fashioned from the everyday lives of his society new images and a new reputation for himself that has fanned out around the world.

This apparent lack of engagement is equally criticised by those who feel he should be far more censorious of social evils, political issues and prejudices. But as Stephen Gill points out in his essay “R. K. Singh: A Mystic Poet of Beauty”:

The poems in My Silence and Other Selected Poems are about hypocrisies, marital complaints, pollution, a search for meaning, inane social/religious norms, the dark aspects of industrial progress and ascertaining the truth. These poems reveal the significance of life time after time, experience by experience. The poet’s constant analytical deliberations plunge him often into the abyss of gloom. (178)

Singh may be described as a poet of the senses, a poet of sensory understanding and a poet whose life view is devoted to the phenomena of the natural world. He is seen too as the Indian poet who, standing out from and often disagreeing with his peers, has both practised and argued for clarity and imagistic richness in poetry. Singh’s poetry may be seen to have three characteristics not often seen in other Indian writers verse: its sensuousness, the often melancholy ethos of the poetry’s seriousness and the poet’s undoubted repugnance for mere “manner” and for emptily fashionable gesture.

In many respects we can see a greater humanisation in Singh’s work than in many other Indian poets. He shows a greater reliance on human presence and human problems. He was praised early on for the visual intensity and purity of his poems. His later work, however, is just as likely to have moments of deep poignancy and self-irony sch as you can find in a poem like “Wordless Plaints”:

dust of alienness
has thickened on my throat . . .
my heart lacerates
I cough worldless plaints

Where he reflects on his anxiety and uncomfortableness and tells how he feels condemned just for thinking about his life.

The difference between poets that makes us call one poet a major poet, and another a minor poet, even though we may think of he or she as a very good poet, is a question of the use of language. The major poet’s work should have bulk; must attempt one or other of the greater poetic forms, which tests gifts of invention and variation and the subject-matter should have universal importance.

When a prolific poet, such as Singh has produced several reasonable volumes in the past twenty years, we are faced with a number of questions. The first leads us to lament that even the best poetry volumes produced seem to have a very short shelf-life. Runs are small, reprints are rare, and larger publishers are notoriously quick to remainder any stock left after the first two years. It is only the small presses who are willing to give book longer shelf life, and the slow returns have seen the demise of many small publishers.

The second question relates to perceived audience. The mainstream seems to treat poetry like a news item: headlines today, forgotten tomorrow. The reality is that poets sell more copies of their books through direct contact at readings, conferences, festivals and the like than through bookshops. And each time a poet performs, the audience widens. Poems live at least as long as the poet, hopefully longer, and the market is expanding, not contracting. A good poem will always find a loving home.

This book should be read by all interested in Indian English poetry. The material is refreshing to many because of its partisanship in an era when many writers and academics tend to evade the important political and social issues, and it is the ability of this book to maintain contact with an ever-changing audience that makes it outstanding. The reprinting of these essays and interviews makes it a publishing venture worth the effort and deserving of success.

2,957 words

Patricia Prime
42 Flanshaw Road
Te Atatu South,
Auckland 8
New Zealand


Another review in French: Courtsey:

Sujet: Indienne New poésie anglaise - une voix alternative - Critique de livre   Mar Sep 28, 2010 11:26 am

Critique de livre:

New Indian poésie anglaise: une autre voix: édité par RKSingh IK Sharma. Publié par l'Enclave de livres, de Jaipur. 2004. p. 370, Prix Rs.850 / -, ISBN 81-8152-085-8.

New Indian poésie anglaise: une voix alternative est une publication importante à la lumière du fait que les grands de l'Inde espace littéraire anglais a été occupé par quelques florissante auteurs universitaires et bureaucratiques, y compris la diaspora ou des auteurs expatriés, et la plupart de partir de l'Inde les auteurs et les poètes, malgré leur qualité, sont restés pratiquement au ban. La presse écrite et visuelle importante et influente des médias universitaires et critiques ont été moins chaud à l'idée d'explorer ou d'examiner des «nouveaux» poètes qui se sentent marginalisés parce que personne ne parle personne de renom à leur sujet lors de forums nationaux ou internationaux.

Conscient de la réalité que la «voix subalternes qui ont éclaté sur la scène de la poésie ne peut pas être chassa" (préface), poète-professeur-parole IK Sharma choisit de présenter un ouvrage complet sur l'un des noté nouveaux poètes, RK Singh, qui a déjà publié une dizaine de recueils de poèmes et a été active en tant que critique, critique et praticien ELT pour plus de 25 ans.

En fait, IK Sharma cherche à défier tous les critiques qui ne voient rien, mais «chaos» dans le monde de la poésie en recueillant 22 articles critiques, 14 essais critiques / commentaires et six interviews publiées en Inde et à l'étranger. Plus de 25 chercheurs, vénérable, d'âge moyen, et les jeunes, d'examiner sous divers angles la mystique de la poésie Singh et de prouver "l'efflorescence créatrice» que des dizaines de nouvelles, marginalisés, poètes incarnent.

Dans son introduction appris, IK Sharma a élargi ses horizons à long terme de la poésie anglaise indiennes en tant que genre, de critiquer les discours de la discrimination et l'exclusion, et préconise discours alternatif et créatif de la nouvelle génération de poètes. C'est l'appréciation exige "des esprits difficiles, de coopération, de collaboration et de critique» et non «net snob» qui a intérêt à l'indifférence, l'hostilité et l'obscurité (pp.203), prévient-il.

Sharma examine RK Singh comme un cas de test et découvre que le poète met dans la "nouveauté et de fraîcheur dans sa façon de communiquer ses idées et ses sentiments ... avec compétence et perspicacité» (p.Cool. Comme le porte-parole souligne: certains aspects essentiels de la poésie RK Singh - la manipulation du langage à un effet spécial, le manque de signes de ponctuation, la pratique de donner aucun titre, l'utilisation de métaphores érotiques, et la représentation de la réalité douloureuse de la société indienne - ont déjà attiré l'attention des lecteurs, mais il est «essentiellement un poète de l'imagination sombre» (p.10) et «artiste conscient de soi" qui sait "la valeur de la dissimulation dans l'art" (p11).

Sans doute, comme un poète, RK Singh est remarquable par sa vitalité, la variété et la qualité. Il n'est pas ésotérique, négatif ou occidentalisé, mais il en appelle à l'échelle nationale et internationale, avec sa vision et ses impulsions, de la profondeur des sentiments, le sens de soi, et la richesse de la langue. Il explore et ranime les formes et les styles traditionnels avec la compréhension de la créativité éclectique.

Ceux qui sont déjà familiers avec son travail, comme les articles de ce volume, aussi, témoigner, reconnaître la compétence RK Singh en tant que poète et lui accorder une haute position, même s'il n'est pas poète un «Metro» et / ou qu'il n'a pas encore été considéré comme un poète dans le centre. IK Sharma reconnaît en lui un poète de promesses et de potentiel de grand avenir et rassemble quelques articles sélectionnés, des essais critiques, commentaires et interviews publiés dans diverses revues depuis la fin des années 1980 non seulement de motiver les chercheurs et les travaux des chercheurs supplémentaires sur RK Singh comme une Indiens poète anglais, mais aussi "à battre le fantôme de« chaos »qui est devenu un alibi de tous les temps à l'inaction."

Tous les contributeurs - la pratique des universitaires et des professionnels de poètes - voir RK Singh du poète avec un sentiment de découverte, d'ouverture à l'innovation artistique, et l'appréciation de la poésie anglaise récente sur les Indiens. Ils reflètent sur son travail avec l'empathie, la reconnaissance et l'égalité. Avec la foi dans le discours du poète, ils négocient les différences et la dimension humaine de la poésie de communiquer; leurs critiques renforce la créativité indienne en anglais.

RS Tiwary les trois textes analysent la poésie RK Singh - l'imagerie, la diction, le style et le contenu érotique - une poétique sanskrit et la vue l'intérêt du poète dans une perspective plus large de la communication littéraire. Mitali De Sarkar deux essais complément à l'approche Tiwary, bien qu'elle se concentre sur la conscience sociale du poète. Les deux essais par GD Barche regarder de plus près, en présentant une évaluation stylistique et commentaires sur l'utilisation de l'imagerie Singh sexe. Bien que les articles de Satish Kumar, RA Singh et Ravi Nandan Sinha cherchent à fournir une vue d'ensemble sur le contenu des collections du poète publié jusque-là, Krishna Srinivas de «Préface» à mon silence, la collecte de jeune fille RK Singh, a une valeur historique.

Différents d'eux, l'article de Michael Paul Hogan cherche ou se rapportent à la vie réelle du poète et de vivre dans Dhanbad tandis que l'article Chhote Lal Khatri est une tentative de projet RK Singh comme le poète le plus connu en anglais indien de Bihar / Jharkhand. article PCK Perm vise à mettre en évidence les thèmes récurrents de la nature, de beauté et de la femme dans le discours créatif RK Singh vis-à-vis de préoccupation du poète sur l'existence de l'homme et de l'identité aujourd'hui dans une société multilingue, multiculturel et multireligieux.

essai porte IK Sharma avec la musique du poète doit sonner comme un "soigneusement élaboré" épique. essai Tejinder Kaur met en lumière les «sept grands volets de sondage comme les sept notes de musique" dans la collection.

Bien que les dissertations judicieuses DS Maini, Stephen Gill, et IH Rizvi traiter des divers aspects de mon silence et autres Selected Poems, les essais par Patricia premier, DC Chambial, et Asha Viswas avis dessus vert de la Terre. Les essais de SL Peeran et Abdul Rashid Bijapure prendre en compte tous les volumes publiés à ce jour et se concentrer sur l'évolution du poète en termes de ses préférences thématiques et la poursuite de la réalité supérieure.

RK Singh est le meilleur dans ses poèmes lyriques et haïku et tanka sont les plus courtes de poèmes lyriques. Les articles et les commentaires sur son haïku et tanka par Patrticia premier, Urmila Kaul, DC Chambial, IH Rizvi, Ann Davis, Ruth Schuler Wildes, Ben Torbieu-Newland et Lyle Glazier point à l'évolution de la croissance littéraires RK Singh. Ses haïkus et poèmes tanka sont importants dans qu'ici il se développe à l'uniformité universelle des sentiments humains et d'expériences dans une forme internationale. Les commentaires du haïku RK Singh et poèmes tanka point sur les atouts de la critique et les faiblesses de la médiation interculturelle et interculturel.

Patricia Premier répond aussi efficacement à John Joseph est beaucoup plus laborieuse commentaires sur la poésie RK Singh dans World Literature Today en plus de présenter, aux côtés de Tejinder Kaur, un tableau comparatif de RK Singh et de la poésie américaine Bahri.

La deuxième partie du volume est composé de six entrevues RK Singh a donné à Patricia premier, Jaswinder Singh, Dinesh Singh Kanwar, Sonja Van Kerkhoff, Atma Ram, et un groupe d'étudiants. Il en ressort propre expérience du poète, détails biographiques, son avis, l'esprit et l'attitude. Il est arrondi à la réflexion oncle River, en désignant les «tensions inhérentes à la synthèse de traditions culturelles» dans la poésie RK Singh.

Ainsi, la variété des articles critiques, des essais critiques et commentaires, mais pas aussi parfait que l'on voudrait qu'ils soient, prouve que RK Singh est un poète à compter avec, méritant une attention plus critiques et universitaires à la maison et à l'étranger. Il est IK Sharma grand de cœur qu'il a choisi de faire un livre sur un homme-poète. Le livre devrait encourager de nouvelles recherches et des études plus approfondies sur la poésie anglaise récente indienne en général et de la poésie RK Singh en particulier. M / s Livre Enclave mérite nos félicitations pour la publication New Indian poésie anglaise: une autre voix: RK Singh, qui renforce la cause de la poésie indienne en anglais au 21e siècle.


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