Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A TRIBUTE TO POET I.H. RIZVI



A TRIBUTE TO POET  I.H. RIZVI

                                                                                --R.K.Singh

I.H. RIZVI, born 1936, in Bareilly, took pride in his creativity both in English and Urdu. The last he wrote me was about six years ago, saying “many reputed Urdu journals of India and abroad are giving room to my ghazals.” He was a social romanticist, who  had composed over 1800 ghazals besides a variety of poems in English.  His feet were planted in his country, but eyes surveyed the world.

Now the world of Poetry would miss his creative presence that shone with over a dozen collections and anthologies, including Falling Petals (1975), Unfading Blooms (1984), Thirsty Pebbles (1986), Wandering Fragrance and Other Poems (1989), Wounded Roses Sing (1993), Snowflakes of Dreams (1996), Gathering Broken Glasses (1997), Clouds in Cages (1999), Fettered Birds (2002), Dripping Wounds (2004), Love Never Dies (2004), Haiku and Other Poems (2005), and The Valley Still Blossoms (2007). The anthologies he edited includes Contemporary Indian English Poetry (1988) and Contemporary Indian English Love Poetry (1990).

He died on 3rd April 2015 at his home in Bareilly. I learnt about his death from Rahul ji (of Prakash Book Depot)  when I was in IIT/Patna, attending a conference on ELT.  I have lost a great friend in his passing. We have lost a great supporter of Indian English Poetry. 

For years he shared with me his concern about not being able to cope with the piling work and increasing correspondence with poets and writers from around the world. And, despite failing health, as long as it was physically possible, he kept Canopy alive as its editor and publisher. Personally he favoured me by including my poem(s) in almost each issue of the journal, right from its inception. He was so kind to me, always. 

For years we shared our personal hopes and disappointments, and worries about the health of Indian Poetry in English and particularly our systematic avoidance by the established, big-wigs of Indian English Writing, both in the media and academia. Yet, he felt lucky that more than half-a-dozen  persons had obtained PhD on his poetry. 

For years we knew each other and admired each other for what we had written in various journals. In fact I owe to him a great part of my reputation as a poet, because he not only published my poems and reviews in his Canopy but also he reviewed my collections such as My Silence, Above the Earth’s Green and The River Returns. In fact he was the bridge between me and the late Sri Prem Shinghal of Prakash Book Depot, Bareilly that published almost all our major books.

For years we had not met, but when we met at a hotel in Bareilly in 2006, it became a gracious occasion: I could feel love flowing through his presence. I had gone there to conduct the viva voce exam of a PhD candidate at Rohilkhand University. Since then, we stayed in touch by phone until he became bed-ridden and my calls went unanswered. He had shunned himself from the outside world.

It couldn’t be helped. The degeneration had set in. Now I remember him with respect for his original play with words. With amalgamation of a variety of influences – romanticism, imagism, surrealism, existentialism, modernism, and post-modernism—he expressed aspects from the multiplicity of life that surrounds us, maintaining his own sensibility within the confines of his craft and conscience. He sounded cosmopolitan, intellectual and ironical with ‘complex simplicity’, exposing the social reality as well as personal reality. 

Poet Rizvi is still relevant and readable. He is one of the most resplendent of Indian English poets,  with his awareness of today’s society where “streams of reason have dried up/And do not feed our minds./We trust around on borrowed plumes/With hollowed brains…” (‘Tagore’s Dream’) and “The moss of incest and rape is sprinkled/The fungus of sin is scattered around” (‘The Haunted Place’). 

Physicality, intellectuality and spirituality make up his imagination: The poet creates a modern ritual of ‘exposure’ of men and women who do “ha! hoo! he!” at the drum whose “music shows no muscles.” Drinks and drugs may “stir them for a moment but there’s no flame.”  The irony is:

                “All are there to play the game,
                 And yet afraid of playing it;
                 Lest each of them should be exposed
                 To the deep core of hollowness
                 When the game is over.”                                            (‘Exposure’)

Rizvi understands the dilemma of today’s man, who, like a fisherman, “has been spreading his own net/All woven by himself” (‘The Fisherman’) but he also knows he can’t help,

                 “It’s all the same
                   Flesh burns, blood flows, life cries;
                   And we boast of our laurels.
                  The world in silence looks
                  And turns away to other things.”         (‘Achievement’)

Let’s continue with our poetry to outgrow “all cares of the earth”, as Rizvi would insist, and re-visit the poet’s poems as tribute to his tremendous contribution to Indian English poetry.


--Professor (Dr) R.K.Singh,  Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad 826004 (Jharkhand)

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