Wednesday, May 27, 2009

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

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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