THE RIVER RETURNS --II
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
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—
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.
BERNARD JACKSON, Hon. Secretary, Cinque Ports Poets, England.
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