THE RIVER RETURNS: Reviewed by I.H.RIZVI
THE RIVER RETURNS
(Collection) by Prof. R.K. Singh
To express the maximum possible thoughts in minimum possible words is a Herculean task. This is what poets of Arabic, Persian and Urdu poetry have been doing in their ‘Ashaar’ (couplets) and this is what Hindi poets have achieved in their ‘Dohey’ (Couplets). The Japanese have attainted this distinction in their Haiku of three lines. Their Tanka of five lines gives a little more freedom of expression.
It is, undoubtedly, very difficult to convey the desired effect in three small lines. When words act as symbols, they have more intellectual appeal rather than emotional. In my opinion, poetry must appeal to the heart and should be soul-stirring. It should move to the heart as waves in a lake stir, shake and spread when a stone pierces its heart. This is what poetry is all about.
However, Haiku which was born, brought up and bloomed in Japan spread its branches far and wide and became a craze in the last quarter of the 20th century and became very popular in Europe. Poets of India also took a fancy for Haiku and they are being written in languages like Urdu and Hindi also. Many Indian English poets have also developed a taste for it.
Prof. R. K. Singh, who loves to write small poems, some of which twinkle like little gems, rubies and diamonds, has given himself to Haiku and Tanka. He has distinguished himself as a poet of Haiku and Tanka not only in India but also in foreign countries, particularly in Europe.
The River Returns by Prof. R. K. Singh is a collection of Tanka and Haiku. The title reminds me of one of my Urdu couplets (Sher) which means: “As soon as I saw them I drank all my tears. Has anybody seen water flowing backwards”? Most of the modern poets writing Tanka and Haiku do not believe in the traditional form of both and enjoy the freedom in the number of syllables in each line. Prof. Singh is also one of them. There are 144 Tanka and 371 Haiku in The River Returns. Dr. Singh is a poet who believes in symbolism, emotion, sensation and sensuality. Some times, he is extremely frank in portraying human relationship and uses words which perhaps Indian poets will be scared of using in their poems. He picturises the sensation of the ensuing bliss, the desired effect of the emotional message, the throb of separation and melting tears like a candle, memories of human relationship, fear of separation, revival of the sexual desire, love relationship, consciousness of loneliness and separation, pining, longing, craving, wistfulness, frustration, meeting, togetherness as also boredom and satiety in man and woman relationship in his Tanka and Haiku.
In Dr Singh’s Haiku one may discover the same trend. He has written more than three Haiku on the same subject. There are 22 Haiku on moon, 6 on mosquito, 6 on fog and 2 or 3 on several other subjects. There are Haiku on many subjects. Once again Dr. Singh is sensuous, sensual and sexual in his Haiku. Birds, flowers and other natural objects glimmer, glow and shine in his Haiku. There are Haiku on autumn, bluebells, hazels, bulbul, migratory birds, morning, sun, winter and other subjects.
Human relations are portrayed boldly by the poet in many Haiku, like man-woman relationship, his relations with his wife and daughter and the like. He remembers his son in several Haiku because the former is in the army and away from home.
Sexual relationships in different shades comes to the fore in Dr. Singh’s Haiku:
“Seeing her/a liquid sensation/between the thighs”; ”Crouching out of the bath/with hand on the genital/his new tenant”; “Fondling her breasts/I incite a poem/on her body”.
One may discover Haiku on a variety of subjects like spider, mushroom, autumn, winds, painting, human relationship, old age, death, poverty, love-making, flowers, leaves, pond, politicians, terrorism, sex, married life and many other things. What startles one is the use of the word penis in one of his Haiku:
Staring at the huge
Stone-penis at Shinto shrine
two female lovers.
As far as the use of syllables in one line of Haiku is concerned Dr. Singh does not follow any tradition. His use of words in one line of Haiku may vary from one word to seven words in a line. Dr. Singh’s Tanka and Haiku are individualistic, thought-provoking, original, striking, sensational, bold, symbolic, mind-boggling, touching, exciting and sensual. I am not sure whether his Tanka and Haiku often turn vague, but one thing is sure that Dr. Singh has made an indelible mark as a poet of Tanka and Haiku on the international scene.
-Dr. IFTIKHAR HUSAIN RIZVI
Canopy, Vol. XXIV, No.65 & 66, January 2007, pp.29-30.