Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review of SEXLESS SOLITUDE AND OTHER POEMS by Gwilym Williams in The South Asia Mail, an Internet daily

Back To Main Weekender

There's a lot of R K Singh in his book Sexless Solitude and Other Poems. Poet-in-Residence readers will be familiar with the exotic, spiritual, sexual and darkly threatening unsettling qualities of Singh's work.

Most of the poems in Sexless Solitude and Other Poems are vignettes of a dozen or so lines, as you'd expect from this poet, but their short length is very often their strength. In their brevity lies their force. You cannot read more than a few lines of R K Singh before you start squirming in your seat wondering when the next punch to your solar plexus, or even lower down, is going to come.

Singh writes about many things; often of what he sees on a day to day basis in the streets of an Indian city. Sometimes he comes across as a lone voice crying in the wilderness. Frustration with life, existence, meaning, dirt, smell, sex, God, and consequently the driving need to explore these themes is never far away.

Barbed Wire Fence begins with typical Singh bluntness - a kind of warts and all poetry to put you through the wringer; gone is any hope of salvation - no description of pleasant fauna and flora, as with D H Lawrence, to help the poetic medicine go down -

“My window opens
to the back of a garage
where guards make water”

Don't Condemn Me opens the collection. It's nothing if not straight to the point -

“It's all linked but I don't understand
or don't want to understand because
I am too much with me and worry
about her dying libido and my
own shrinking sex . . .”

Where R K Singh scores high for me is when he looks at the world and the ugly things in it, which he often does. I enjoyed, if enjoyed is the right word, the metaphorical poem Dying Light, a reflection of our times, which begins -

“Spiders' network
gleaming with corpses
that have no face”

What's really behind R K Singh's unceasing output of verse? is a question I have asked myself more than once. Why does he strive so long and hard? Is there here an eternal search for some universal truth? Or is it simply anger at the way the world, and India, is?

On the other hand I sometimes feel like an intruder, one who forgot to knock at the door, a stranger witness to an act of poetic masturbation. An ejaculation of poetry is certainly taking place -

I secrete poetry like semen

Singh informs the reader in the poem I'm Different

and different he certainly is. But it's a refreshingly honest no-holds-barred difference.

By exploring the work of R K Singh we may not only come to understand something of the world of this unique poet but may also come to discover more secrets about ourselves and the world in which live and have our being.

The title poem Sexless Solitude brings the reader to a wonderful image:

she dwells on moonbeams

I can see her smiling
with wind-chiselled breast
in sexless solitude”

It's been a pleasure to share your world R K.

--Gwilym Williams


Tuesday, May 19, 2009


R.K. Singh. Sexless Solitude and Other Poems ( Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot). 2009. Pp.86. Rs.98/-

Book Review by Rajni Singh

Many critics and reviewers, under the influence of the prominent poets of the 1960s and 70s have come to believe that the genre of Indian English poetry has now come to a standstill. With their myopic vision they believe that no worthwhile poetry has been written since a couple of Nissim Ezekeils, Ramanujans and R.Parthasarthys.

Recently Bhaskar Ghose in his article “Tragic Irrelevance” in the Frontline (13 February 2009) declares that “a number of people have been writing garbage and passing it off as poetry.”(p.89) He laments that “a great deal of depth, richness of expression and awareness is now confined to the circle of poets who read one another’s poems, and to a small number of lovers of poetry.”(p.89)

If poetry appears irrelevant, it is not because good poets have ceased to appear. It is because publishers do not find much money in the business of poetry. There are several good new poets who have published their volumes either themselves or from small press, and for want of proper distribution they have not been able to reach out to appreciating audience, connoisseurs, academic critics and reviewers in magazines and newspapers.

As a student, researcher and teacher, I am convinced that relevant and aesthetically sound poetry is being written by many less known or new poets. But if a publishing house like Oxford, Penguin or Sahitya Academy does not notice them or finds no sense in investing money in publicizing their poetry, the fault lies with the system which creates and sustains a situation which is least conducive to poetry reading, writing or publishing in India.

It is also disappointing to see that anthologies such as 60 Indian Poets (ed. Jeet Thayil, Penguin, 2008) highlight only those few poets that appear in the west or do not live in India. It is unfortunate again that the critics and reviewers take note of only those poets who are supported by foreign press. The genre of Indian English Poetry cannot grow or survive with such a negative attitude.

However, there are critics and poets who have taken stand against such stances of enlightened readers like Bhaskar Ghose, critics like M.K.Naik or Bruce King and anthologists like Jeet Thayil, and worked hard to promote quality poetry in English.

It is high time they took note of a relatively less known poet, R.K.Singh, whose 13th collection of poems, Sexless Solitude and Other Poems has a very competent foreword by another poet- professor- critic, I.K.Sharma. Sharma seems to have kept in mind the love- hate attitude of the media and academia when he writes, “In contrast to many poets who peddle poor prose cut into lines of poetry, Dr Singh’s poems are sober, mature and disciplined. Though written in free verse they are yet compact. Neither the words nor emotions go astray. No cliché exists there. Only the power of plain words on display.”

The hazy sketch of a meditative mind on the cover page well- defines the title as well as the poems in the volume.

A marked feature of Singh’s poetry is that the poet puts before his readers, his perceptions and experiences in a very unconventional manner. His frequent use of sex expressions in his poetry is one such example of Singh’s unconventionality:

I secrete poetry like semen
…I’m different; I live in my poems
dressing or undressing like sexact
long or short, in bed or kitchen ( ‘I’m Different’, p.53)

Sex expression is a trade-mark of Singh’s poetry but in the present volume he has scarcely used it.

The other distinct quality noticed is the way Singh maneuvers language to make his readers think along with him. The poet never becomes tedious as there is no use of stock words; in fact, new words are brought in to refresh the language. Like a purely post- modernist poet, Singh weaves in words from sciences, media/ journalism and technology in a way to bring newness in his poetic diction and to relate with his present day readers.

Throughout the volume we find the poetic mind is engaged in peeling off the layers of abstraction, illusion and theoretical truths that reign the society. As he says-

…at the day’s end can’t reflect
something positive to take
pride in myself justifying
the age or hours just prolong

the animal existence

prove worse than animals with
smallness of mind and concerns
forgotten like news flashed in
media without vision (‘Ignite Minds With Flickers’, p.13)


Living among the sick
and the sickening what else
shall I carry except
germs and allergens
… I want to sleep without pills
Drinks ‘zines or sex
thoughtless prayerless in peace. (‘I Want to Sleep’, p. 16)

Sexless Solitude and Other Poems is the tension of inwardness, patterned in a kaleidoscopic way where every slide mirrors an introspective mind that examines the authenticity of the ‘self’ and the society. The poet skillfully employs the first person narrative to handle the rhythms of consciousness of the meditative mind. It is this state of mind where the body lets off trishna (cravings), dvesha (hatred) and avidya(ignorance) and fully accepts imperfection, impermanence and interconnectedness. Through interior monologue and the technique of split characterization and multiple consciousnesses, R.K.Singh presents the doubts and agony, sorrow and suffering of modern man.

Trapped in questions and “among the ungodly” the narrator tries to find his way from the directionless, destinationless pathways:

I want to rest now burying
ambitions and achievements
that ache the soul and make
empty sounds in the hollow
of a hallowed pond long doomed
for marrying self-indulgent
elites and idiots
sucking generations (‘Leeches’, p.69)

After its purification and purgation, the narrator’s soul feels His healing touch that gives him the courage to “…bear without regret/the burdens of the world/ loss of love, or even hope/to live like a lotus leaf.” (p.21) The desire to live like a lotus leaf is a desire to elevate the self, to attain sublimity, despite being in a morbid and decayed society.

Singh’s poems are not such poems whose meaning leap to the eye at the first reading; here is a brief extract:

I stand on the edge
of earth’s physicality
waiting on the brink (‘Eyeless Jagannath’, p.9)

In another poem we see the speaker confessing/ admitting the trauma and suffering that he undergoes to understand the self:

It doesn’t end even if I abandon desire:
non-suffering is no key to nirvana
…the itch and sensations, growing degeneration
of island existence in dimming light
life only freezes; the foul of stagnant pool-
yet the hope of lotus rises with sun. (‘Nirvana-II’, p.77)

It is, however, also true that many of the poems of R.K.Singh cannot be appreciated unless we look for the half- hidden meanings in them.

To conclude, the volume carries well painted internal scapes and ‘Sexless Solitude’ is a metaphor of going into the womb of consciousness(vijnana) in order to unravel “the mystery of the dark womb” (p.73) that stores bijas or seeds which are inborn, and result from our karmic history. It is these bijas that combine with the manas or ego-existence, and by stilling mind, store house consciousness becomes identical with tathagata, “suchnesss” or the Buddha mind that is sexless. As in the poem ‘Realisation’, the poet says:

the soul has no sex
the form, the body
and the name unreal
the cimax of eternity
denudes the mind (‘Realisation’, p.63)

Sexless Solitude and Other Poems is a collection written in high serious mode that demands a serious analysis. With this volume the poet could be rated much higher than the poets of the 60s or even of the present times.


1. Singh, R.K. Voices of the Present: Critical Essays on Some Indian English Poets. Jaipur:Book Enclave, 2006, pp.261-267.

2. Bhaskar Ghose. “Tragic Irrelevance” in Frontline Vol. 26, No.3, February 13, 2009, pp.88-89.

Dr. Rajni Singh, Assistant Professor of English, Dept. of HSS, Indian School of Mines University,
Dhanbad, India.

Published in Indian Book Chronicle, Vol. 34, No.4, April 2009, pp. 7-8.


HAIKU SEQUENCE OF R.K.SINGH in moonset Literary Newspaper


by Rajni Singh, India

Many poets writing regular poems at one time or another have experimented with haiku or haiku-related genres. Perhaps, it would not be wrong to say that the present time witnesses the flowering of English-language haiku worldwide with some Indian poets as active contributors, namely Mujib Yar Jung, Angelee Deodhar, K.Ramesh, Kala Ramesh, Radhey Shyam, R.K.Singh, Maria Netto, and others.
R.K. Singh’s Every Stone Drop Pebble (1999) Peddling Dreams (2003) and The River Returns (2006) are the three volumes of haiku and tanka that confirm his presence in English language haiku scene. His haiku have appeared in journals such as Lynx, Simply Haiku, Mainichi Daily News, The Asahi Shimbun, Ko-, Ginyu, Moonset, Frogpond, Tinywords etc. Singh’s recent dabbling at haiku sequences as published in Lynx (vol. XIX: 2, vol.XXII:1, vol.XX:3, vol.XVIII:3, etc) is worth considering.
One can find varied ways of composing haiku and tanka sequences. The most popular way of sequencing is by compiling and rearranging the haiku and tanka pieces that revolve around a common subject. This style of sequencing may not involve poets linking verses with each other as in renga.
Singh composes ‘sequences’ by gathering and threading the haiku pieces thematically. His haiku sequence ‘Snakes’ is threaded with twelve haiku.
‘Snake’ commonly known as ‘habi’ in Japan is a kigo for summer. The first three, the fifth and the eleventh haiku in the sequence are rooted in Nature which is evident from the images employed. The variety of colours represented by adjectives and nouns, such as ‘silt’, ‘algae’, ‘mushroom’, ‘green’, and ‘thorn apples’ abound in earthy colours-- green, brown, brownish-black and black. In each of the first three haiku we see the full play of snakes amidst its natural surroundings. The fourth haiku is built up on a contrast between the rational and the real. The haiku appears simple and lucid but within it lays a whole gamut of meaning:
Searching reason
in the labyrinthine pattern:
snakes in courtyard
Here, one finds the action and image coinciding to form a meaning. The third line ‘snakes in courtyard’ heightens the intensity of thought-process. Moreover, a suitable Japanese expression for the meandering thoughts could be “Dakou” (i.e., to go like a snake) which is associated with the movement of snake. Thus, the kinesthetic image ‘labyrinthine pattern’ is akin to the movement of ‘snakes in courtyard’. However, it is through the ‘labyrinthine pattern’ that the reader imagines the entangled movement of snakes.
The act of mushroom gathering in haiku no.6 indicates autumn livelihood.
The seventh and the eighth haiku in the sequence are hued in Indian culture:
Searches thorn apples
to propitiate lingam:
snake in sanctum

A snake’s tail
coils round a sweet
in the box

Though the seasonal customs related to snakes in India and Japan are different, snakes are associated with certain religious beliefs, mythical tales, and folklores in both the cultures. The Japanese Aodaishoo (a common snake) is said to bring good luck to a home where it stays, while the Indian Cobra is considered as an ornament of Lord Shiva and is offered to Him during “Shravan”(July-August, months of Lord Shiva) or on “Nag Panchami”(Serpent Festival) on the fifth day of “Shravan”. Thus, the line ‘snake in sanctum’ in haiku no. 7 is purely religious in tone. “Lingam” is well contrasted with snake. It is a phallic image that stands for the divine power and creation. In both the haiku, snake is in coiled position which in Japanese is termed as “Toguro O maku”.
In the ninth and tenth haiku, the snake symbolizes phallus:
Smells a snake
in the wet grass
her smile
The haiku is sensuous in appeal as it includes not only visual sense but also tactile, thermal , olfactory and kinesthetic sensations of movement.

Thus, the ‘snake sequence’, which subtly combines both haiku and senryu, takes the reader from the outer to the inner state, from Nature to Man. Probably, it is this dramatic organization that adds to the pattern of sequence, i.e., what comes next to the first, in the sequence. However, another arresting feature of the sequence is the parallelism between motion and stillness, which provides the sequence a snake like mobility (zigzag movement). The first four haiku present snakes in locomotion whereas the next four show the snakes in static positions. And again, the next three haiku are kinesthetic while the last one wraps within it all the movements. The seasonal setting of the sequence is between late summer and early rainy season.

Each haiku of the sequence is terse, dynamic and complete poetry and focuses the momentness of a moment. Singh’s haiku can be broadly divided into three categories: ‘Nature haiku’ ( rooted in Nature with a kigo), ‘Human haiku’ (referring to some aspects of human nature, physical or psychological, and thus have references to the natural world and no season words), and ‘hybrid haiku’ (contents of which are from natural as well as human world and often include kigo). The poet weaves the links of the sequences by hooking the pieces thematically. There is no chronological pattern or relatedness, yet they easily go together in forming a pattern. The absence of the period at the haiku is meant to leave the haiku open-ended for an echoing extension.


1. Catherine Mair, Patricia Prime, R.K.Singh. Every Stone Drop Pebble, New Delhi: Bahri Publications, 1999.
2. Charles Trumbell, “The American Haiku Movement Part I: Haiku in English,” Modern Haiku Vol. 36.3 Autumn 2005.
3. John Marton, “The Way of Poetry: Part I of II- for Jeremy Seligson” in Moonset, The Newspaper, vol.3. Issue2. Autumn/ winter 2007 Oregon: New York USA, p.16
4. Werner Reichhold, “Some Developments in the House of Tanka” in Lynx Vol.XIV: No.2
5. http://
6. http://

Published in: moonset Literary Newspaper (Oregon, USA), Summer/Spring 2009, Edition 5, Number 1, p.11 and p. 48


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Monday, May 04, 2009


The Citation of Honour reads as under:

INTERNATIONAL POETS ACADEMY, Chennai has conferred LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD on Dr R.K.SINGH (India) "In recognition of his distinguished contribution to World Poetry - and for his pioneering pursuits -- in influencing mankind - towards the path of World Peace - Global Harmony & Cosmic Humanism.

"Presented this 9th Day of April 2009 at the World Poetry Day Celebration at World Peace Centre -- Chemmencherry, Chennai-600 119, India"



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