Monday, December 18, 2006

THE RIVER RETURNS -IV

THE RIVER RETURNS

By R.K. Singh

A Review by Kala Ramesh

As I hold this blue book in my hands of a renowned Indian tanka and haiku poet, I feel a sense of pride and warmth that in the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to review two Indian poets who have published their work this year. First is the Hindi translation of Shiki’s poems by Dr. Angelee Deodhar and the second is this book of tanka and haiku written by Mr. R. K. Singh.

The title of the book itself captured my imagination the first time I heard it. India is the land of holy rivers like the Ganga, Yamuna, Cauvery and many others. And my mother tells me that in their village during monsoon, Cauvery would flow in her full capacity, and the children would stand at the bridge to cheer the swelling river shouting out her nick name- Oh! Pregnant Cauvery!
They say, a river carries our memories . . .

Now, we live in cities, leaving all those simple joys and lives far behind . . . but my mother’s words came gushing in with a feeling of warmth and I welcomed this book - THE RIVER RETURNS.

In his latest book, R.K.Singh provides a collection of his 144 tanka and 372 haiku. To quote from his prefactory:

Though i have been writing short lyrical poems for over three decades and practising haiku and tanka in English for over fifteen years, I could find my rhythm in miniature poems only recently.

As readers will bear me out, it is possible to convey so much within the 3- or 5-line span of the short-long-short or short-long-short-long-long flow of the haiku or tanka rhythm 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, or expresses natural concrete action or object, or experiences from ones whole being, and does not 'fake' poetic feelings or render fictitious or imaginative experiences.

I undertook to review this book with mixed feelings. Mr. R. K. Singh is a poet of standing, spanning more than 30 years and to evaluate his book would not be easy . . . but still here I am trying to make a big task easy!

This book begins with the tanka section followed by haiku
Singh’s tanka and haiku have a magic of their own, many of them being love poems, they twirl around emotions. . They pull; nudge at your heartstrings, relentless in their grip

Roses await
sun and wind to clear
the baleful fog:
I fear she’ll say no
to my love again

The longing all the more increases with nature’s signature love tunes.

The nightqueen fragrance
seeps in through the window
coupled with full moon
adds to my delight though I’m
alone in my bed tonight


yet again . . .

Her letter smells
the lotus she wore each time
Meeting in the dark:
I touch her fingers again
with all the hopes and passion


You and I alive
in cold winter night feeling
warmth of your body
through erect nipples
after days of abstinence

Singh’s poetry reflects deep truths that can unsettle a quiet mind – questioning the very basis, which supports this craving, which we call - life.
And he loves his kids like any father would . . .
His son is in the army, I heard

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


This one below has all the right touches of a kyoka!

One thousand miles
traveling together
in tense silence
he and she contemplate
the next round of duel



Feel the lyrical beauty of this one?

I’m no river
flowing toward the sea
I must find my way
asking strangers in strange places
sensing soul, using insight


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


Almost tearing open his heart for us . . .

Couldn’t be happy with
my present nor could realize
any dreams all these years-
there’s nothing to look back
to say I lived my life well

Can you read the tension, the suspense, the romance behind this haiku?

Alone
the cellphone on her bed
rings

His other haiku – some seasoned with kigo, others not, but all the same they come out with conviction.

Away from home
the smell of frying fish
in the air

Crossing the shadows
in the Indo-Pak match-
the last ball

The evening fog
invisible her hand
on my shoulder

The long night passes
sleeplessly I deep-breathe
the December chill

Bronchial breathing-
the only sound audible
in the soulless space

Winter chill-
sweating under the gown
her thighs and breasts

Writing with strands of
watery hair on her back
a love haiku

This is an extremely satisfying book. There are a few editing mistakes which could have been avoided to heighten the reading pleasure. I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of haiku and tanka, to realize that there are different dimensions to this genre.


(Mrs) Kala Ramesh is a Pune-based haiku poet of repute and is actively associated with WHCindia


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For copies contact: THE RIVER RETURNS by R.K.Singh.
Publishers: Prakash Book Depot, Bara Bazar, Bareilly- 243003, India. 2006. Pages: 102. Price - $ 8 / - ISBN 81-7977-188-1
Email Id: prakashbookdepot@sancharnet.in
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R.K.Singh earlier published his haiku collections,
EVERY STONE DROP PEBBLE (1999)
jointly with Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime (both from New Zealand) and
PACEM IN TERRIS (2003) ,
a trilogy collection with Myriam Pierri and Giovanni Campisi) in English and Italian.

His poems have been widely anthologised and translated into French, Spanish, Romanian, Chinese, Slovene, Bulgarian, German, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Serbian, Croatian, Esperanto, Kannada, Tamil and Bangla.

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