Monday, November 27, 2006


The River Returns, R. K. Singh. Prakesh Book Depot, Bareilly, India., 2006. 102 pp. ISBN 81-7977-188-1. Price: Rs.80.00; $US8.00.

Reviewed by Patricia Prime

All poetry is – or should be – written in love of the world. All poetry is in some sense erotic. The act of love, as opposed to lust, and the act of the imagination, as opposed to technological invention, occupy the same area of human consciousness. They are acts of mutuality and exchange, from which all participants derive value and understanding, and so are indispensable. Yet they are human endeavours too, and always contain the germ of their own impossibility and failure, which is the theme of many of the tanka and haiku contained in Ram Krishna Singh’s latest collection The River Returns.

Ram Krishna Singh is a prolific writer, authoring over 150 academic articles, 160 book reviews, and 30 books. His poems have been anthologised in over 140 publications and translated into several languages. The River Returns is divided into two parts, tanka and haiku.

At some point in his writing career Singh has taken note of the performance of language, learned to appreciate the subtleties of emphasis, tone, placement of words; of images called forth by carefully selected words. The level of diction is simple and consistent, especially considering that even though its imagery is natural, the poems are primarily made up of straightforward observations. Plain language, and repetition reinforce the simple nature of haiku and tanka, whilst simultaneously undercutting the philosophical or rational nature of the poems’ construct. In this sense, the poems may look casual and simplistic whilst disguising the fact that they are heartfelt, both emotionally and intellectually, as we see in the following tanka:

"Stains of dried dewy
tears on the eyelids tell of
the load on her mind:
clothed in spring the willow twigs
reveal the changed relation"

"Living in dust smoke
and white darkness I know
I just flicker –
stand alone like a lighthouse
lost in the fog of seashore"

This is what tanka is all about: a momentary embrace of the mystery inherent in the process of self-actualisation; a disguised direct address begging forgiveness for those tendencies towards insularity and over-intellectualisation. A celebration of the difficulties of selfhood, or whatever it is in us that calls us to a greater awareness of ourselves and the world of which we are a part, as described in the following tanka:

"Standing at the edge
I long to float with waves and
wave with instant wind:
on the dream water’s breast
I read tomorrow’s wonder"

"An insomniac
weak with desires and prayers
hears the heartbeats
rising fast with dark hours
survives one more nightmare"

In these two poems the poet casts around for some kind of relief, some sign of hope. The first tanka takes place at the moment when the poet, standing on the shore, allows his mind to wander over various thoughts. One of them is the longing “to float with waves”, another is that he sees on “the water’s breast” what the future has in store. In the second poem, Singh lies awake reviewing the day’s events, surviving through the night to face yet another day. All these thoughts and more flash through the poet’s mind. Yet neither the chattering of the mind, nor the thousands of thughts that teem in his brain, can alter the fact that there on the foreshore, or awake at night, or in the midst of daily trauma, something of life’s beauty can still be captured.

The following poem seems to come out of nowhere:

"Drinking evening star
blue green patterns before eyes
no meditation
no god visits to forgive
the sinning soul in solitude"

The poet may speak of not knowing how, or why, he has been forsaken. He wrote the poem. It speaks from the unconscious, the hidden recesses of the mind: the proverbial experience, the forgotten, the repressed. The poem seeks to bring precise expression to something previously unstated. In this respect, then, the tanka tells us “This is what is inside you. This is what it is all about”.

For Singh, writing is an art of discovery. Some events, some people, are, for him, so charged with passionate complexity, that only the process of verbalising them allows him any measure of understanding. He writes about what he knows, getting it factually correct, then follows where the words and music lead. For example;

"His first winter –
recalls swirling snowflakes
at Chaluka
inside the fibrehut
warmth of blue waves surging"

There’s a quantitive and geographic fact: “Chaluka”, where the hard fact of “place” distinguishes the landscape and transforms it by art to a dreamlike state.

In the following tanka the action takes place on the war front:

"From the border rings
he’s stationed dangerously:
any moment war
may break out for their follies
he must kill and live ... to kill"

The images of war suggest that the soldier’s innocence is short-lived. It has the quality of a bad dream where the young man “must kill and live ... to kill”, a plot that turns on the presence of evil, cruelty, and death. Thus the tanka assume a larger role – one of discovery of self, the responsibility they bring having thus embraced humanity in all its good and all its dirt and corruption. Knowing and having lived with ill health and in darkness, the poet can savour both the light and bitter experiences that life brings. So loneliness appears microscopic as one of life’s problems:

"Awaiting the wave
that’ll wash away empty hours
and endless longing
in this dead silence at sea
I pull down chunks of sky"

Life can either get better or worse. Life’s flame can either be extinguished or kept ablaze for the greater responsibility that ensues.

In section two – Haiku – whatever the details of the short poem say about life and art can only be apprehended and expressed aslant; indirectly and, therefore, incompletely – the reader must fill in any gaps and make his/her own judgment. “Haiku moments” are everyday experiences. They are not “enlightened” in the ultimate sense of the word. They are, nevertheless, awakenings of a sort; moments in which the deeper nature of things is revealed, when one is reminded of the beauty and mystery that lie just beneath the surface of the seemingly mundane.

Haiku generally deal with everyday things – birds, flowers, the moon, nature. Yet they reveal these things to be mysterious and extraordinary. Haiku also tend to be contemplative and reflective – that is, the insights they contain and the experiences they describe are the fruits not of judgment but of quiet observation, not of self-seeking effort but of humble acceptance.

Allow me to quote just two haiku:

"The lone hibiscus
waits for the sun to bloom:
morning’s first offering"

What a lovely haiku! In these three short lines we see the poet early in the morning, watching as the flower waits for the sun to arise, then we see that this is the first offering of the day made by a religious man.

"In the well
studying her image
a woman"

For me this conjures an image of a villager, who perhaps doesn’t own a mirror, at the well drawing the day’s water. She sees her reflection in the still water and looks at in wonder and admiration.

Because, like the original experience, the sum of the details are unspecific, as in “Without washing hands / he touches hibiscus for worship / her frowning glance”, the reader is asked to make up his or her own mind about the haiku. What it means for the reader may be entirely different from the original thought of the poet. The death that is part of nature that we see in “Not sad to die / blooming after a day’s rain –/ the mushroom”, might cause us to ask: Are death and life the same thing in the context of the poem? Does Singh mean to express that the brevity of the mushroom’s life is heightened by its refreshing wash of rain, even as we can be ecstatic in the midst of the thoughts of inevitable death and decay? In fact, the poem doesn’t, I think, exclude this possibility and remains therefore true to itself.

Can art, either in writing or speech, driven to the level of the fabulous by intensity of desire, transcend mortality? Can it redeem or compensate for the indignities of ill health, physical labour or pain? These are themes that drive Singh’s haiku. The eroticism of many of Singh’s haiku have been previously remarked upon, but in this collection he puts a hard spin on traditional themes. The mortality, redemption and immortality of the poet seem to be uppermost in his mind, as in “Fearing allergies / he misses full moon party / savours white light”.

In both the poems and in everyday reality, life is crumbling into dust. Indeed, in “The long night passes / sleeplessly I deep-breathe - / mosquitoes in bed”, the poem seems to say all our lives are neither more nor less than “long nights” spent sleepless. In “the lone poet / watching his interview - / two minutes fame” there is the reprieve of “two minutes fame”, against the final collapse and there’s the possibility of, if not immortality, at least honour through art.

Singh’s Prefactory Note to The River Returns includes the sentence: “In these selected tanka and haiku – at times providing sequences – I have tried to evoke the essence of the moment in its sensory details as selflessly as possible.” Our world needs more of that awareness. We could all do with more tanka and haiku moments in our lives. We can discover these moments if we learn to live simply, sit quietly and observe with open eyes and hearts.

Perhaps dreams are all, as this collection seems to suggest: “A dead voice / calling up at dawn: / drowsy eyes”. Perhaps the work done, no matter how mundane, or how grand, is the song and the dance, and the lines and scars we bear from it dignify. And perhaps poetry honours this wild dream of living.

Patricia Prime, 8 Te Atatu South, Auckland, New Zealand


Book Review: R.K.SINGH

Y.S. RAJAN. Jumping Genes. Chennai: New Century Book House (P) Ltd., 2006. Pages ix+114. Price Rs. 60/-. ISBN 81-234-1013-1

Y.S. Rajan takes poetry writing as seriously as scientific writing, technical innovation, academic or research planning, and management. He follows “hard realities”, “illusions”, and “difficulties” with the same passion as he experiences poetic moments to recreate his “sensual exuberance” in the world around him. As he characterizes his flame of creativity: “The genes are jumping with joy, sometimes in pain, sometimes in a great euphoria….There are also moments of stillness.” (‘From the Author’). The jumping genes are his innate creative impulses, his natural instinct in action, his poems that intuitively process through his mind.

Rajan’s bilingualism makes a positive impact on his poetry in that one notices a diverse intermixing of sound and sense, or reason and rhythm. His Tamil sensibility enriches and strengthens his verses in English and makes him stand taller than most others who are, I am afraid, simply devoid of their native sensibility, or lack natural rhythm so necessary to make one distinctive.

Rajan’s poetic mind reverberates with a rich tradition of Tamil poets and saints who equip him with “inner wisdom,” penetrating sight into the present day affairs of the world—knowledge, sciences, society, religion/dharma, bureaucracy, economics and politics—to voice a culture of creativity, beauty, harmony, love, and peace, inspired also as she has been by the ideas and ideals of our scientist President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, with whom he has authored several books. He enthralls as he declares: “India my Mother/Bharat my Amma/…I see you in our songs.” (p. 81). The nationalist in Rajan makes him sing the eternal glory of the Mother, whose milk nourishes his dreams of Heaven and bliss of Soul.

He also celebrates unity of mankind, “oneness of being/and oneness of attributes” in the chant of Om, Allah, and Ek Onkar Satnam, but regrets the decline in seekers. He sounds concerned, for example, about Saraswati “sitting/with snakes all over her body crawling” and wishes people, particularly the academia and students, to recognize that “Knowledge, skills and creative thoughts,/ All merge so swell in the new markets !”(p.4)
Prosperity cannot be ensured without recognizing the ‘mantra’ of “Spirit, Science, Skills and Song” (p.63).

It seems the poet does not have many happy memories of his stay in Punjab, where he had served as Vice Chancellor of Punjab Technical University and Scientific Adviser to the Chief Minister. In fact his poems such as ‘A Punjab Prayer’, ‘A World Prayer’, ‘Gift of Hatred’, ‘To a Leader’, ‘Opened Wound’, ‘A Train Journey and India’, ‘Heroes’ Tears’, ‘Hypocritic Principles’, ‘Leaking India’, ‘Opposites’, ‘Values for the youth’, ‘Individual Differentiation’, ‘Fourth Estate’ etc reveal Rajan’s social consciousness, rooted in his deeper experiences. The poems evince an insightful understanding, critical perspective, and unity in diversity not only in India but also in the world.

Despite hurdles, weaknesses, and cruelties on the one hand, and “greatness and corruption as part of lives,” on the other, journeying towards the eternal is what matters (‘The Paths’). He is justified if at times he appears incensed: “The open wounds/Are washed with the tears/Will it be an antiseptic?” (p.50).

Y.S. Rajan expresses his disappointment, anger and dissatisfaction through irony, often very subtle and very carefully nuanced, as in ‘Individual Differentiation’, ‘Opened Wounds’, ‘A TQM Dinner’, or ‘About a Friend’. He reflects his ironic vision in ‘Leaking India’:

“Mother India! You are full of water
in rivers, oceans and melting snows
still Mother! Why do your children leak
some silly drops in your mighty presence?
Do you like these drops
as Siva likes on His head?” (p. 30)


“The hansa kept on flying
with the rulers down below watching
the hansa spotted a few Ravanas new
and turned itself to Jatayu” (p.31)

Many of the 83 poems in the volume, particularly ‘To a Leader’, ‘Truth Untruth’, ‘My Office Building’, ‘Death’, ‘Karna’, ‘Hair and Beard’, etc conceal the poet’s angst or intense irony to express what he regrets: “When I need to live the present, they leave me cold” (p. 41).

As a committed scientist with social awareness, Rajan views poetry, arts, music, dance, painting, sculpture, and even technology and engineering as the means “to drive away all things divisive’ (p 14) and as part of man’s “eternal quest” for beauty and harmony (cf. ‘Dehling Patkai’, ‘The Prayer for India’, ‘Pandit Jasraj’, ‘Feminine Breasts’, ‘Creation’, ‘Values for the Youth’ etc). As for material prosperity, it is connectivities -- physical, economic, electronic and knowledge – that one needs to blend (p 24); it is the urge to “do something to transform your land/with prosperity for all” (p 27) even as he ironically notices all around:

“Hypocritic words are the victory mantra,
and the upper elites’ sustaining mantra;
army of collies fascinated by the opium new;
search did I in desert, for the Milky Ocean!” (p. 28)

Yet, when he professionally reflects on the state of affairs in India, he has a global futuristic view, a total vision—scientific, social and economic. He appreciates his creative activity in ‘Different Eyes’ thus:

“As I see with the eyes of a poet,
many things look so different,
the words flow the rhythm of the mood
and the vision I have in my inner mind;
….Watching and immersing
itself in the things it’s watching ‘n’ enjoying
it loses itself in the process and creates
new visions and diverse truths!” (pp 54-55)

‘Lady Science’ and ‘Soul’s Message’ are two of his skilled compositions one may like to read again and again. There are also very personal echoes in the poem ‘A Siddha’ and I enjoy the poet’s ironic observation when we had met the President of India on 18 May 2005 and felt the “light of joy” together:

“One Siddha
operated the computer
showed his poems

No love making
with kisses;
nor swinging breasts;” (p 94)

I also find one of his four-liners, ‘New Puja’, memorable for its blend of lyric and ironic:

“I offer pujas with silicon chips
and also find ways to pack potato chips
to offer to the devotees
who crawl around my God!” (p 68)

‘To Students’ is a poem which briefly tells us the essence of knowledge economy and creative economy of the emerging world order.

To conclude, I find Y.S. Rajan’s verses in Jumping Genes structurally and texturally more challenging than in his earlier two collections, Blossoms of the Heart and Agony and Harmony, both published in 2002. Here he presents a matured form, with irony as his forte. And, in the true vein of the 21st century, his verses are replete with critical in-look, world vision, native sensibility, and national commitment.

Dr.R.K.Singh, Professor & Head, Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad 826004 Jharkhand

Saturday, November 25, 2006


THE RIVER RETURNS: A Collection of TANKA and HAIKU by R.K.SINGH. Published by Prakash Book Depot, Bara Bazar, Bareilly 243003, Uttar Pradesh, India., 2006, Price: Rs. 80/-, U S $ 8.00 , Pages 102, ISBN 81 7977 188 1

Splendid with the moon
night in silver peace dreams
through folds of light (p.95)

In a material age where modernity has become the very order of the day, how strange it is to discover that those Japanese poetry forms, Tanka and Haiku, are to all intents and purposes still ever gaining in popularity, for these universal poetry forms are now well over a thousand years old in design. The Haiku, of course, may be seen as a true development of the slightly longer Tanka. And although the purist would strongly maintain that each of these poetry forms should observe the designated original number of syllables per line, revised thinking on this issue has brought about a greater freedom and clarity of approach, resulting in the introduction and general acceptance of a newer minimalist form of each of these types of poem, composed of even fewer syllables. For the most part, the seasonal element (Japanese – ‘kigo’) has been faithfully retained, and there is, indeed, clear evidence of this in the present collection under review.

The poet, R.K. Singh, who was born, brought up and educated in Varanasi, in s a university professor, one of whose main fields of interest is Indian English Writing, especially poetry, and he is rapidly becoming well-known as a poet at international level. The glossy back cover of his collection, THE RIVER RETURNS, lists in greater detail the many literary achievements of this highly respected writer, whose lovely verse, incidentally appeals to me. He has been a well-established review writer and critic.

The collection is sensibly sub-divided into two sections to avoid the intermixing of the two poetry forms, thus availing a fine selection of R.K.Singh’s tanka verse, in its collective entirety. In traditional vein, he has made a constant recourse to seasonal imagery; furthermore, a variety of themes are thereby appropriately linked, so creating a more composite, over-all impression. And what passion, what outpourings of (at times) seemingly unrequited love, as Singh reveals the whole gamut of his emotional attachment to the lovely lady in his life:

Love is the efflux
from her body spreading
parabolic hue—
enlightens the self I merge
in her glowing presence (p. 10)

Some of these poems are erotic in approach, but ever in the best of literary taste, for this poet modifies his impassioned allusions with exemplified inclusions of the sun, the moon, man’s natural environment, and also with a repeated drawing upon the Earth’s elements, to bring greater profundity of thought to his incisive verse. The changing moods of a close loving union are subtly converted to sea imagery in one particular tanka, with suggestion of culmination in anger, or possibly a quarrel, in lines 4 and 5, despite the earlier rapture of the meeting:

dancing on the waves—
receding sea
then a lashing roaring wall
of water, returning sea (p. 11)

R.K.Singh’s verse writing is imbued with power, pace and imagery. Not only that, but it is characterised by sincerity and truth. His fine selection of Haiku is no less impressive, as Singh creates picture after picture with the very minimum tally of words. Take, for example, the hauntingly evocative Haiku, where not only a scene, but a whole change of situation is masterly conveyed:

After the party
empty chairs in the lawn—
new moon and I (p. 52)

Within this fine selection of Haiku, many of which are actually Senryu poems in essence, the poet deals with a number of issues: love, politics, astronomy, religion, the natural world, and even sport. Notice how well Singh conveys an aura of incompletion at the close of play on just one of the days in an India versus Pakistan Test Match:

Crossing the shadows
in the Indo-Pak match
the last ball (p. 97)

THE RIVER RETURNS is not just another recently published anthology of verses; it is an eye-opening experience! R.K.Singh is a wordsmith par excellence, who has succeeded in creating a veritable tapestry of artistic impressions with the very modicum of words used. His river is the River of Life, and this is certainly one finely edited collection to which I too shall be making due return.

Reviewed by:
BERNARD JACKSON, Hon. Secretary, Cinque Ports Poets, England.
12, Selborne Gareens, Jesmond, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England NE 2 1EY, UK

Friday, November 24, 2006


My tanka published in Cordite Poetry Review, 22 June 2001.

--R.K. Singh

The River Returns: A collection of Tanka and Haiku by R.K. Singh
102 pages, 5.25” x 8.3”, Soft-bound. No ISBN. Rs.80 / $8 + postage from the publisher – Prakash Book Depot, Gangwar Complex, Karmchari Nagar Road, Surkha Chaawni, Bareilly (U.P.) 243 003, India or email:

Book Review by Dr. (Ms.) Angelee Deodhar

Ram Krishna Singh, is one of the most prolific writers amongst the Indian community writing in English. His familiarity with the short poem has been reflected in his earlier books, Above the Earth’s Green (1997) and Every Stone Drop Pebble a haiku collection, jointly with Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime, (1999).

In this collection Singh brings together a total of 445 poems in two sections: the first has 140 Tanka (four to a page) and the second has 305 Haiku (five haiku per page).

Whether Singh writes about nature or human nature he shows a keen perception, for example:

Pausing between bites
on the guava tree
the parrots

His first winter
insider a fiber-hut
swirl of snowflakes

In Singh’s haiku the reader gets a glimpse of life in India, for example:

In the moving train
sleeping on his feet
the newspaperman

Vultures waiting
for the leftovers
of the sacrifice

Some of the haiku reflect the sensuousness of the poet’s personality quite successfully:

Wet bodies
of bathing women:
full moon night

Her body
the night’s perfection
in dim light

In a pensive mood, Singh writes:

Unmoved by the wind
he sits on a rock wearing
peace of the lake

A cloud-eagle
curves to the edge
in the west

Amongst the Tanka, two memorable ones are:

Inside me
the whispers of the forest
will be quiet:
no tree will know
what the weather was like

Awaiting the wave
that’ll wash away empty hours
and endless longing
in this dead silence at sea
I pull down chunks of sky

It would have been better if the book had been arranged with just two haiku per page with more space around each haiku/tanka. Some haiku seem to have a repetitive theme which could easily have been left out. A few Hindi words for example Apsaras should have been explained with a footnote.

However, Prof. Singh is to be congratulated for his latest collection which well serves his own view, “It is also possible to elevate the quotidian experiences to the level of poetry, using the medium of haiku and tanka, provided one seeks to be visual or sensuous…”. His is a voice which deserves to be heard both at home and abroad.

Dr. Angelee Deodhar, Chandigarh, India

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


THE MANAS EPOS: ACROSS THE MILLENNIUM by SINDHU J., Chennai: Emerald Publishers, 2005. pp. 86, HB. Price not given. ISBN 81-7966-147-4.

The resolution of the General Assembly of the UNO concerning celebration of anniversaries in 1994-1995 recognizes the Kyrgyz Manas epos as a “vitally important connecting link that supports and unites the peoples of the Middle Asia region all along their centuries old history.” It also recognizes that this epos is “not only the source of Kyrgyz language and literature but also the basis of cultural, moral, historical, social and religious traditions of the Kyrgyz people” just as it favours “the dissemination of humane ideals and values of the humanity.”

Sindhu J.’s book celebrates the millennium of the heroic epos, Manas, which is rightly called “a poetic history and encyclopedia of Kyrgyz people” (p.25). It seeks to contribute to international collaboration and mutual understanding (cf. p.79) besides elucidating more than a thousand years of Kyrgyz history, culture, humanism, spiritual values, and care for others (cf. pp.80-81).

She justifies writing The Mamas Epos: Across The Millennium on the ground that not much is known about the epic tradition of our Central Asia neighbours despite India’s trade and cultural relations with them since antiquity. It is, therefore, culturally enhancing and academically rewarding to explore the Central Asia’s riches “both independently and with reference to our own literatures”. (pp.4-5).

Sindhu’s book highlights various features, notions, ideas, customs and traditions of different epochs and centuries from ninth to eighteenth, including the wars against the Chinese and Uighur tribe, the advent of Islam and conversion of heathen communities to Islamic faith, the wars in Turkestan, the politics of Central Asia in the 17th century, the rise and control of Communism, and the life in Soviet era. It draws on the epos for a lot of historical data about different regions around Kyrgystan, its rivers and lakes, towns, ethnic life, local customs, rural economy, mineral resources, horses and camels etc. just as it points to the values which are most common for all people: social justice, honesty, humanism; love for homeland, national traditions, and customs; respect for human rights, national unity and tolerance; peaceful coexistence with neighbouring states; and people’s aspirations and hopes for the better future. She celebrates Manas not only for the various aspects of Kyrgyz life in the past and now but also for the national pride of the Kyrgyz people after seventy years of Soviet rule (p.4).

Since Manas is essentially episodic and oral, with emphasis on immediacy of effect before a visible audience, its singers, called Manasci, (traditionally, jomokchu), have preserved in about two million verses (p11) the conventions of recitations just as they have kept alive over a thousand years old Kyrgyz mythological tales and traditions, woven round the feats and courage of Manas and his battle-friends in their struggle for national independence. The bards have also preserved the life and deeds of Semetey, son of Manas. Now, as the epic of human survival with props for “proper mental growth, balance and psychic health” (pp.3-4), its approximately sixty versions preserved in the manuscript form in the National Academy of Sciences in Kyrgystan, help to establish the Kyrgyz national identity. Sindhu’s study, however, derives from over 250,000 verses of Manas as translated into English by Walter May (1995).

In ch.2, she reviews the Turkish epic tradition with a view to contextualizing the oral/written text of Manas and examining it geographically, historically and culturally to underscore the Kyrgyz search for identity.

The Kyrgyz epic is born out of the heroic efforts of Kyrgyz tribal lords who, in AD 840, successfully fought the Uigurs and destroyed their capital of Bei-tin. Praises of this victory form the core songs out of which the monumental epic finally emerges. It is a trilogy, a biographical cycle of three generations of heroes, i.e. Manas, his son Semetey, and grandson Seitek, in over 25,000 lines. The main episodes (i) in Manas (11170 lines) relate to: birth of Manas and his childhood, his first heroic deeds; his marriage to Kanikei; his military campaign against Beijing; and death of Manas, and destruction of his achievements. In Semetey, the second part (15017 lines), the main episodes deal with: Kanikei taking Semetey and fleeing to Bukhara; Semetey’s childhood and his heroic deeds, his return to Talas; his marriage to Aichurok; his fight against Kongurbai; and his death (or mysterious disappearance). The episodes in the third part (9488 lines) relate to: destruction of Semetey’s family, and capture of Aichuerok and Kulchoro; Seitek growing up; fighting against the internal enemies; Seitek’s marriage: and his defeat of the external enemies and death.

The epic, a mixture of prose and poetry, appeals as an epic of Return, like the Odyssey or Aeneid, just as its oral performance (p.37) reveals a society which values poetry and music, and feasting and singing (p.35 and p.39), be it someone’s birth, marriage, or death (p.50).

In ch.3, the Manas epos reflects a traditional patriarchy which values kinship and family. To be important and acceptable in a family, a woman must be skilled and resourceful. She must be a faithful wife, bear male children, be affectionate mother, look after the domestic chores and be a fighter in absence of her husband. Otherwise, her position would be lower than a slave’s (pp.40-42). She would be beaten, disfigured, turned out into the street, or driven back to her relatives. The epos also reveals the importance of loyal horses and cattle, rather than money, in the rural economy of the nomadic tribes.

In ch.4, Sindhu describes the influence of Manas on various aspects of present day Kyrgyzstan. “Yurta-style of life” is still prevalent in art, architecture, and daily life (p.71). Older traditions still prevail in both rural and urban communities. “Krut” and “Kumyss” are still served at home and in hotels. “Hunting” as in the epic time is still in vogue with the same old tools. The best known Kyrgyz writers evince the same old lyrical quality (as in Manas) in their modern prose (p.75). Sindhu refers to several works of fiction published in 1960s and 1970s to point our the deeper influences of Manas.

She also finds several points of comparison between the Manas and the Indian classical epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana (p.83). She notes that the poems about Ilios and Odysseus have ceased to inspire heroic values among the Western people and lost their original dimensions as oral tales (pp.81-82) but the Kyrgyz and the Indian epics are still moulding the lives of their people (p.83).

The Manas Epos: Across the Millennium testifies to T.S. Eliot’s statement about the pastness of the present and the timeliness of the past. The Manas epic is the first piece of Kyrgyz oral literature to be recorded and translated into other languages and is rightly viewed as an epitome of oral creativity. It continues to be sung with acting which is an ample proof of the Kyrgyz attachment to its past just as the millennium celebrations of Manas have received world-wide interest in Central Asia. Sindu J. deserves praise for familiarizing the Indian audience with the Kyrgyz epic.


Thursday, November 09, 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Dr M. Mojibur Rahman

EXPERIENCE. (Jaipur: Book Enclave, 2005). pp. xii+289, Rs. 725/-. ISBN

English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is a learner-centered approach to
teaching English as a foreign/second language. It fulfils the needs of
adult learners who need to learn a foreign/second language for use in
their specific fields, such as science, technology, medicine, leisure,
and academic learning.

ESP, which emerged as an approach to English language teaching in the
1960s, has become well known in the ELT circle, especially because
English has acquired the status of an international lingua franca, and
linguists have moved towards a situation-based notion of language. The
initial studies on 'special' languages were basically on register,
which developed in a Firthian environment. Following in Halliday's
footsteps (Halliday, 1978), British linguists who identified 'special
registers' considered it sufficient for teaching purposes to
distinguish them from 'common' language. However, as discovered
later, register differences do not apply to the lexical level only, but
also concern morphosyntactic choices and textual and pragmatic
organization (Swales, 1990; Gotti, 1991; Bhatia, 1993). The social
situation of each of the subdivisions of ESP exerts a strong influence
on the linguistic strategies that are to be adopted. Therefore
contextual and functional needs direct linguistic choices such as
lexical density, the complexity and the length of clause structure, the
degree of formality, the management of information, etc.

Teaching English for Specific Purposes: An Evolving Experience is a
handy reference material for ELT practitioner. R. K. Singh has edited
some of his own articles published in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. This
volume is significant as a historical document, as it reflects the
gradual development in the field of ELT, especially ESP, from 1970s to
1990s in India and other parts of the globe. It provides conceptual
clarities and practical possibilities of ESP approach to tertiary level
English language teaching in professional institutions.

The book starts with an overview of the status of English in India and
in the broad Indian Educational Curriculum, particularly in technical
institutions. Other articles in the book discuss ELT theory and
practice, development of ELT in India, Communicative Language Teaching,
ESP theory and practice, possibilities of technical English, problems
and prospects of ESP in India, needs analysis, teaching language skills
to science and technology students, and possibilities of using literary
texts in ESP classroom. The book, with its blend of theory and practice
from the view point of a practising teacher in the classroom, is full
of insight for teachers of English to be meaningful in their class.

The author arranges his articles in the volume in two sections:
Research Essays and Review Essays. The research essays, 18 in number,
help the readers understand the development of ELT, especially ESP/EST,
in India. The review essays, 22 in number, familiarize them with the
contents, logic, and criticism of several important textbooks and
reference books published in the West. These provide us with the Indian
teachers' perspective, voicing viewpoints that are generally not
available in books elsewhere.

The opening article in the first section tells us about the role and
status of English in India and in Indian Educational Curriculum. In the
beginning of the independent India, the policy makers adopted three
language formula--English, Hindi and Regional Language/Mother Tongue --
in Educational Curriculum, as English plays the role of national and
international lingua franca, library language, medium of instruction in
private schools and higher education, language of science and
technology, language of trade and commerce, etc.

The second article pleads for teaching English well by adopting a more
practical attitude, flexible teaching approach, adopting a need based
teaching programme and pursuing "such teaching activities from which
pupils know they are learning something useful." The author advises:
"...the question we should be asking ourselves is not just what to
teach but more important what to teach to whom and why." The article
'Teaching for Communicative Competence or Performance' emphasizes
the productive skills development and integration of skills, supporting
eclectic approach to teaching English.

The articles 'The Needs/Ends Framework of ESP', 'ESP:
Communication Constraints', and 'ESP: A Sociolinguistic
Consideration' discuss the different aspects of ESP. The author
states " effective management of ESP teaching requires a proper
understanding of students' language needs which means that one needs
to know what and how they require to communicate with each other, at
which level, and whether in speech or in writing...;' ' also
needs to consider the local circumstances that have a distinct bearing
on the success or failure of the language teaching....'

In article 'ESP in India: Developments in 1984-1985', the author
describes the development of ESP in India in one year, which is also
reflective of the developments in 1980s when different projects were
carried out in different parts of the country . The article enlightens
us about the search for suitable approaches and methods of teaching
English in Indian scenario. Some of the memorable projects include the
Communicative Teaching Project, Bangalore, The TTTI Project, Calcutta,
and The ISM Project, Dhanbad. The ISM project was basically a needs
analysis project, on the basis of which new syllabi were designed
for the students of B. Tech. and M. Sc. Tech.

Throughout the first section, the author tries to search and establish
the ESP approach to teaching English in the Second Language context,
especially to the students of science and technology. The section ends
with the exploration of possibilities to use ESP techniques for
teaching literature.

The second section of the book focuses on some review articles that
were published in different journals in India and abroad in 1980s and
1990s. This section gives a broad view of activities which were going
on in ELT world those days. The reader will find this section very
useful as it gives a sufficient account of classroom text and reference
and research materials published in that period. The review essays
also educate one about various aspects of language learning in EFL, ESL
and ESP contexts. The last five essays concentrate on cross cultural
communication, cultural context in business communication, teaching
translation and interpreting, and translation and power. Each of the
reviews is assessed thoroughly and tells us what is practically useful
in the classroom situation.

R.K.Singh's reflections and comments offer a valuable reference and
motivation to applied language teachers, ELT researchers, curriculum
planners, teacher-educators, academic administrators, and linguists.

On the whole the volume covers a good range of research and review
from the point of view of a practicing teacher. ELT practitioners will
find this book very useful for their appreciation of classroom teaching
realities and research.


Bhatia, V. K. (1993). Analyzing genre: Language use in professional
settings. London: Longman.

Gotti, M. (1991). I linguaggi specialistici. Firenze: La Nuova Italia.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1978). Language as social semiotic. London: Edward

Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre analysis: English for academic and research
settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dr M. Mojibur Rahman
Lecturer in English
Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences
Indian school of Mines
Dhanbad 826004

First published in Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 32, No. 1-2, Jan-Dec 2006, pp. 209-212

Monday, November 06, 2006


One cannot live on a myth in the present; the tradition is being constantly transformed; old is giving way to new in ways more than one. The new changes, or the crossover of trends and fashions, may be generating a feeling of existential urgency; the sublime seems to be melding with the trivial and the creative with the conventional. A sort of re-orientation is going-on so rapidly that the classical concepts of culture appear outdated.

It is also a fact that the greatest number of new ideas in contemporary art, literature and culture have been coming out from the West. Western artists and cultural leaders have been extending the concept of what constitutes contemporary art. It is important to take note of a convergence of new attitudes, especially as there has been a marked shift from the idealist to the materialist view.

The fabric of popular culture, now a celebratory, is interwoven with changes in the world of media, along side too much Soap Operas, MTV music, Mcdonald fast food, sexist jokes, designer-label jeans and aerobic sports-wear—all with a view to maintaining ‘standards’. The so-called ‘cultural industries’ have been denigrated as tools of the hegemonic classes to impose a passive subservience on the majority of people, be it Europe, America, Asia or Africa. They manipulate the multilayered site of contemporary consumerist culture as well as the emerging hybridization of cultural identity.

A scrutiny of the ‘popular’, its texts and practices, should help us in negotiating the profound shifts in culture studies as also in relating post-modernist orthodoxy to the post-Cold War developments (in the erstwhile Soviet bloc, and/or East European countries), post-apartheid developments (in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent), post-colonial developments (in Asian and African countries), and more recently, post-Sept 11, 2001 developments (in South/South-east/West Asia, middle East, USA, and Europe).

The politics of popular culture, howsoever post-modernist or post-colonial, is essentially the politics of the ways in which we see ourselves, just as the cultural, the social, and the economic are hardly easily distinguishable from each other. The relationship between popular culture and its two arms, commerce and profit, is highly problematic. Instead of passively consuming a product, users now actively absorb it and reworth it to construct their own meaning of self, of social identity, and group cohesion.

After the Sept 11 terrorist attack on American soil, there has been a greater American hegemonic political and economic presence in every country: TV programmes, newspapers and magazines have been replete with American style and vision. Gradually, the American domination here, there and everywhere, has resulted in a struggle by the subordinate and subaltern forces, even terrorist forces, to demolish it.

A slow ideological indoctrination (to sustain consumerist culture) of the masses, especially the expanding middle class by powerful interests, is going on. The middle class culture is frequently less affiliated to specific class, religion, race, country or politics, and unofficially also remains indifferent to ‘national’ questions, practicing a sort of ‘transnational’ solidarity, as far as consumerism is concerned. The American popular culture has given rise, not so much to economic exploitation as the capacity to be able to represent something, or someone, in a peculiar way: as symbolic power; as popular culture within the ambit of power. The media society – whatever its form, shape, size, or colour – articulates this power, perhaps selectively, in a contradictory fashion throwing open for others to decide with whom to associate or empathize. It exposes the mechanisms of identity-creation, participates in identity politics, creates awareness of exclusion or inclusion, and constructs counter-narratives with new critical spaces and social practice. It acts as “central political agent” of the powerful.

The politics of popular culture reveals the conditions under which relationships of power have been shaped in various parts of the world and apparently developed in an emancipating way as everyday culture, or high culture, where new things are emerging and creativity is thriving. In music, for example, since the mid-1990s, musicians have been more lucrative. Choreographers have developed a new sense of body movement and dance aesthesis. Computer evolution has already led to a ‘net culture’ which links various art forms. Literature is already rooted in this world today and trends in fashion industry are set by FTV models.

At times it may appear difficult to reconcile the various impressions, including the desire to break free of all constraints in art or destruction of its intrinsic significance. The inherent contradictions and heterogeneity of the ‘melting pot’ that popular culture seems to have turned into may not help us open the path to the human consciousness or even initiate an intellectual debate. But whom to blame when “art blends so seamlessly into the utilitarian”? To quote Hanno Rauterberg, “Art, after all, is not dead, it is in a state of self-induced paralysis.”

We are marching into an indistinct future. We experience the effects of globalization in such fields as communication, the media, and the financial markets just as we are experiencing fragmentation of politics vis-à-vis widespread religious, casteist and ethnic conflict, secular nationalism, and regional fundamentalism. At the same time, we are witnessing impoverishment and economic marginalization of a large part of the society. Almost all accepted norms and values are being called into question, just as standardization and differentiation obtain at the same time. However, the struggle continues for coexistence of the glorious past and naked modernization almost everywhere.

What appears more appropriate is the need to appreciate the emergence of a greater degree of interculturalism. The ruling politicians should respect ones right to be different and help create new cultural spaces for others to belong. They should help defuse, absorb and avoid those conflicts that result from the collision of world religions and cultures which are rigidly separated and social differences must be honoured and dogmatism must give way to dialogue. Our living together in a global civilization is not possible without some sort of global ethos on the part of our country’s politicians.


Sunday, November 05, 2006


We live in a sexually pluralistic world and whatever our conviction, sex is here to stay. No use decrying it. It is a fact of daily life and provides humankind with significant components of meaning. Through the realities of sex and sexual experience we can gauge a person’s inner most truth, his/her consciousness.

But how sad, despite global interaction and expansion in awareness, most people still tend to conceal bodily experience; they do not recognize wisdom of the body, which is worth loving for its grace, truth and reality.

Painters, photographers and poets view the human body with all its senses, emotions and intellect as a repository of actual pleasure, pain and ecstasy. They express it with imagination and philosophical intuition, making us conscious of our varied realities. They are not inhibited by false shame. They know human sexuality, if presented and used properly, should help us fuse the primordial male-female polarity into energy which could then make life in harmony with the original source, bring the individual and humanity closer, and promote stable sexual relations. If used unwisely it may degenerate into a diffracted and miserable world.

Sex : A metaphor

Artists do not question the cult of pleasure or the reverence for abstinence as they explore the naked physicality in all its dimensions. They do not create a work for the sake of casual stimulation. Rather, they know that sexual symbolism becomes devalued and inexpressive if it loses the wealth of its actual sexual experience and fails to illumine ones inner landscape; they seek to illuminate the realities of life through body-images.

Sex is a metaphor: the encounter of man and woman, woman and woman, man and man to express feelings, to feel valued or loved, to explore relationships, concerns, roles, to react against false ethical and cultural values, against stereotypes and prejudices, against hypocrisy and dubious social standards that enchain, and debase honest aspirations as lust or vulgarity.

Against a gnawing sense of loss of meaning and purpose in the computerized, simulation-filled emptiness of our life today, including gimmicks, imitations, romantic overtures, and even plain silliness that are often noticed, sex serves as an antidote to the fast dehumanizing existence: Its expression is a means of defying the disgusting sociopolitical world without; it’s a form of active resistance to political manipulation day in and day out.

No Narrow View

With their erotic presentation, artists and poets seek to create what is physically balanced and confident, and elevating to the senses. They know that the naked body is a pretext for a work of art and it can be made expressive of a far wider and more civilizing experience. As Kenneth Clark observes in The Nude (1956), “It is ourselves, and arouses memories of all the things we wish to do with ourselves.”

There is, therefore, a sense of purpose in a poet or artist’s eroticism or sexuality – love of the self through exploration of the body, or naked physicality leading to love, or libidinal sublimation, or sexual union of two consenting adults.

It cannot be objectionable to express the real human needs and experiences, the physical body artistically re-formed or sex-acts re-enacted with a sense of shared delight. The sexual imagery indeed conveys a mixture of memories and sensations, a desire to perpetuate ourselves in the complex of living.

Octavio Paz writes in The Double Flame (1995) that eroticism is a social form of sexuality which is transfigured by our dreams. I see it as a means to rediscover the original magic of life just as sex is the mainspring of ones psyche and constitutes the sensory experience besides being the balance-point of various beings.

It is in no way being “low”, “vulgar”, or “obscene”. In fact, in ancient Indian Writings love and eroticism carried the same connotation or concept: the pursuit of its language and emotion in various forms is art. In the Atharva Veda there are a lot of ashleela Suktas – obscene only according to narrow view of morality.

Sexpression: Indian Heritage

Many of our thousand-year old temple sculptures are an undisguised exaltation of physical desire; the sensuous friezes of the temples at Khajuraho and the figures carved on the stone walls of the Sun Temple at Konark are great works of art because their eroticism is part of the Indian philosophy; it is our cultural heritage.

We should be able to appreciate the purity of intention, the desire to distil from the smallest experience the largest, most universal insights, something which unites us all.

The process of erotic creation, like Kama-adhyatma, pursuing sex to spiritual height, is something positive in Hindu ethos; it is an important psychological fact of life, a sort of libidinal sublimation if one also performs with an awareness of the rich and ennobling pluralistic dimensions of the Hindu culture.

Love and celebration of womanhood, as part of erotic experience through a process of exhilaration, stimulation and relaxation – swimming through the river of heavenly happiness, uniting the eye, mind and imagination, and losing ignorance – is both physical and spiritual. This is what keeps an artist going, giving birth to new works, one after the other, reaching a height to feel silence through spirit in the body.

Orthodoxy Undesirable

But somehow, in recent years, largely due to lack of the spirit of enquiry and appreciation of the Hindu culture, tradition and values, discussion and expression of sex in public seems to have been denigrated. Authors and artists have been frequently subjected to violence of the orthodox right wing which seeks to ban honest sexual self-expression and is intolerant of recreational and non-procreative sex acts.

There was a time when even prostituted in India were an integral and respectable part of the Hindu society. There was no social tension due to unsatisfied lost. Sex practice was not looked down upon just as men and women enjoyed healthy emotional relationship both within marital and larger societal contexts. The writers of the ancient Sanskrit manuals like Kamasutra, Panchasakya, Smara Pradit, Ratimanjari, Kokashastra, Ratirahasya, Ananga Ranga etc. educated men and women in the art of courtship, foreplay, actual intercourse (including various postures of union) and post-coital activities; they treated love not only as a matter of giving and receiving pleasure, but also as a means of access to the realm where human and divine meet.

Emotional lyrics of poets like Kalidasa, Bhavabhuti, Bhartrhari, Amaru, Yashovarman, Jayadeva and others reflect frank eroticism but create a transcending spiritual effect and meaning with their expression of the primordial pursuh-prakriti, or what the Chinese call Yin-Yang interplay.

God Created Sex

I do not know how many people would disagree with the view that the taste of the forbidden fruit in Eden was actually the awareness of physical attraction between man and woman: The tree of knowledge was actually the knowledge of the process of creation, of love, of sex.

The Bible, like the ancient Hindu scriptures, does not decry sex. In fact celebration of physical union is God-ordained; man and woman are expected to stay together, love each other as their own flesh.

Because God created human beings as male and female, He created sex and ordained sexual union (in a socially acceptable form) to bind man and woman together, to make them dear to each other as husband and wife, to lead a healthy emotional life through love and sex, and thus ensure personal and social stability.

As I see it, it is God’s design that we enjoy life, be happy, be one flesh in coitus, and thus glorify Him in body. In the Vedas and Upanishads, too, sex is the source of happiness in equality, in oneness of man and woman, in love.

The search for love, or desire for sex, even if erotic, is essentially the aspiration for entering into another to know, to understand. It is rather a search for the ‘whole’ in daily living and giving. It is the search for a bridge between the uncontrollable external events and the often impulsive, subjective, or internal responses.

Body as Soul

In brief, depiction of sex in art and literature has been metaphysically serious in India, just as sexual desire and fulfillment is an action of the spirit in body, leading to pleasure and harmony. The body images illuminate the realities of life; sexual metaphors in art make it possible for artists to convey what it feels like to be filled with desire, transmuting and transmitting memories of experience.

Artists visualize human body as a picture of the human soul; they celebrate it to understand the world and the self. If they glorify nudity, it is to explore the consciousness, in conflict with the muddling external chaos.

As a poet I realize humans are flesh in sensuality and there is divinity in it. The fleshly unity is the reality, the passage to experience divinity, and its expression should not be repressed through governmental interference in the name of morality and all that.

Sexual self-expression should be treated as ones fundamental right just as personal freedom of choice, sexual privacy rights, and tolerance for diversity are the hallmarks of a liberated enlightened society.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006


NEW INDIAN ENGLISH POETRY : AN ALTERNATIVE VOICE edited by I.K. Sharma. Published by Book Enclave, Jaipur. 2004. pp. 370, Price Rs.850/-, ISBN 81-8152-085-8.

New Indian English Poetry: An Alternative Voice is a significant publication in light of the fact that the larger Indian English literary space has been occupied by a few flourishing academic and bureaucratic authors, including the Diaspora or expatriate authors, and most of the India-based authors and poets, despite their quality, have remained virtually beyond the pale. Both the important print and visual media and influential academic and critics have been less than lukewarm about exploring or examining ‘new’ poets who feel marginalized because no renowned person talks about them at national or international forums.

Aware of the reality that the “subaltern voices that have burst upon the scene of poetry cannot be shooed away” (preface), poet-professor-critic I. K. Sharma chooses to present a comprehensive book on one of the noted new poets, R. K. Singh, who has already published ten collections of poems and has been active as critic, reviewer and ELT practitioner for more than 25 years.

In fact, I. K. Sharma seeks to challenge all those critics who see nothing but ‘chaos’ in the world of poetry by collecting 22 critical articles, 14 review essays/comments and six interviews published in India and abroad. Over 25 scholars, venerable, middle aged, and young, examine from diverse angles the mystique of Singh’s poetry and prove “creative efflorescence” that scores of new, marginalized, poets epitomize.

In his learned Introductory, I. K. Sharma takes a broader long-term view of Indian English poetry as a genre, criticizing discourses of discrimination and exclusion, and advocating alternative and creative discourse of the new generation of poets. It’s appreciation requires “tough minds, cooperative, collaborative and critical” and not the ‘snob net’ that has vested interest in indifference, hostility and obscurity (pp.203), he cautions.

Sharma examines R. K. Singh as a test case and discovers that the poet brings in “novelty and freshness in his way of communicating his ideas and feelings…with skill and insight” (p.8). As the critic points out: certain key aspects of R. K. Singh’s poetry – manipulation of language to a special effect, lack of punctuation marks, practice of giving no titles, use of erotic metaphors, and depiction of the painful realities of the Indian society — have already drawn readers’ attention, but he is “essentially a poet of dark imagination” (p.10) and “self-conscious artist” who knows “the value of concealment in art” (p11).

No doubt, as a poet, R. K. Singh is remarkable for his vitality, variety and quality. He is not esoteric, negative or westernized, yet he appeals nationally and internationally, with his vision and impulses, depth of feelings, sense of self, and richness of language. He explores and reinvigorates traditional forms and styles with eclectic understanding of creativity.

Those already familiar with his work, as the essays in this volume, too, testify, acknowledge R. K. Singh’s competence as a poet and accord him a high position, even if he is not a ‘metro’ poet and/or he has not yet been viewed as a poet in the center. I. K. Sharma recognizes him as a poet with great potential and future promise and puts together some selected articles, review essays, comments, and interviews published in various journals since the late 1980s not only to motivate scholars and researchers’ further studies on R. K. Singh as an Indian English poet, but also “to beat the ghost of ‘chaos’ that has become an all-time alibi for inaction.”

All the contributors -- practicing poets academics and professionals – look at R. K. Singh the poet with a sense of discovery, openness to artistic innovation, and appreciation for recent Indian English poetry. They reflect on his work with empathy, recognition and equality. With faith in the poet’s discourse, they negotiate differences and communicate poetry’s human dimension; their criticism strengthens Indian English creativity.

R. S. Tiwary’s three essays analyse R. K. Singh’s poetry – imagery, diction, style, and erotic contents – a la Sanskrit poetics and view the poet’s relevance in a wider perspective of literary communication. Mitali De Sarkar’s two essays complement Tiwary’s approach, though she concentrates on the poet’s social consciousness. The two essays by G. D. Barche look more closely, presenting a stylistic assessment and comments on Singh’s use of sex imagery. While the articles by Satish Kumar, R. A. Singh and Ravi Nandan Sinha seek to provide a general view on the contents of the poet’s collections published till then, Krishna Srinivas’s ‘Foreword’ to My Silence, R. K. Singh’s maiden collection, has a historical value.

Different from them, Michael Paul Hogan’s article seeks or relate to the poet’s actual life and living in Dhanbad while Chhote Lal Khatri’s article is an attempt to project R. K. Singh as the best known Indian English poet from Bihar/Jharkhand. P. C. K. Perm’s article seeks to highlight the recurring themes of Nature, Beauty and Woman in R. K. Singh’s creative discourse vis-à-vis the poet’s concern about man’s existence and identity in a multilingual, multicultural and multireligious society today.

I. K. Sharma’s essay deals with the poet’s Music Must Sound as a “carefully crafted” epic. Tejinder Kaur’s essay highlights the “seven major strands sounding like the seven notes of music” in the collection.

While the insightful essays by D. S. Maini, Stephen Gill, and I.H. Rizvi deal with various aspects of My Silence and Other Selected Poems, the essays by Patricia Prime, D. C. Chambial, and Asha Viswas review Above the Earth’s Green. The essays by S. L. Peeran and Abdul Rashid Bijapure take into account all the volumes published so far and concentrate on the poet’s evolution in terms of his thematic preferences and pursuit of higher reality.

R. K. Singh is best in his lyric poems and haiku and tanka are the shortest of lyric poems. The articles and comments on his haiku and tanka by Patrticia Prime, Urmila Kaul, D. C. Chambial, I. H. Rizvi, Ann Davis, Ruth Wildes Schuler, Ben Torbieu-Newland and Lyle Glazier point to the changes in R. K. Singh’s literary growth. His haiku and tanka poems are important in that here he enlarges himself to the universal sameness of human feelings and experiences in an international form. The reviews of R. K. Singh’s haiku and tanka poems point to the critic’s strengths and weaknesses in intercultural and intercultural mediation.

Patricia Prime also effectively responds to Joseph John’s much labored comments on R. K. Singh’s poetry in World Literature Today besides presenting, along side Tejinder Kaur, a comparative picture of R. K. Singh and U. S. Bahri’s poetry.

The second section of the volume comprises six interviews R. K. Singh gave to Patricia Prime, Jaswinder Singh, Kanwar Dinesh Singh, Sonja Van Kerkhoff, Atma Ram, and a group of students. This reveals the poet’s own background, biographical details, his opinion, mind, and attitude. It is rounded up with Uncle River’s reflection, pointing to the “tension inherent in the synthesis of cultural traditions” in R. K. Singh’s poetry.

Thus, the variety of critical articles, reviews essays and comments, though not as perfect as one would like them to be, proves that R. K. Singh is a poet to reckon with, deserving wider critical and academic attention at home and abroad. It is I. K. Sharma’s large-heartedness that he chose to make a book on a fellow-poet. The book should encourage new researches and deeper studies on recent Indian English poetry in general and R. K. Singh’s poetry in particular. M/s Book Enclave deserves kudos for publishing New Indian English Poetry: An Alternative Voice : R. K. Singh which strengthens the cause of Indian poetry in English in the 21st century.

by DR RAMADHAR SINGH, Department of English,Bihar Institute of Technology. P.O. BIT, SINDRI –828123, Dist . DHANBAD .

Dr Ramadhar Singh, till recently Professor of English at Bihar Institute of technology, Sindri, has been teaching language through literature, ELT, and EST for over three decades. He is known for his book Virginia Woolf: A Study of Her Tragic Vision (1994).
_____________________________________________________________________________________The essay first appeared in POET, Vol. 46, No.1, January 2005.