Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Book Review: Lantern in the Sky

 

Review Essay: Dr Pravat Kumar Padhy

Lantern in the Sky by Ram Krishna Singh. All the World E-Book Publishers, calameo.com.  pp. 59, 2022

 

Prof. Ram Krishna Singh is a celebrated modern Indian English mainstream poet and has the credit of  being one of the finest haiku and tanka poets during the formative stage of development of the Japanese short forms of poetry in India. R K Singh has contributed a lot to popularize haiku-like short poems in India during the early seventies. Describing the essence of haiku, he suggests, “It is the spirit behind the words that counts: the pauses, hesitations, and the silences between words and between the lines, the silences that make a poem live and breathe. That is what makes a good haiku.”

 

In the present collection, Lantern in the Sky, titled from one of the haiku poems, the mélange of imageries of the personal experience, the human psyche, the celestial references, and the sense of gratification of divinity have been artfully portrayed. The collection includes the translation of haiku in French by Agouray Fatima.

 

“You are different by just being yourself. Close your mind. Close your eyes. See with your heart to feel what others can only see,” as Mahmoud Al-Rajabi aptly summarizes the essence of haiku in the Preface to the collection. The poet tries to image various spectrums related to nature entwined with emotion, love, grief, and zen-feeling  with spiritual pursuits. The collection  reveals references to vivid visual observations, from the sky to the hill, and the spider to the bees. He tries to render his observations into art-of-words,  leaving enough  space for the readers to unveil. It reminds us of  what Wordsworth calls “spot of time”, as the spontaneous reflection is seen in R K Singh’s haiku poems. At places, he is influenced by the philosophical aspects of Zen Buddhism.

 

Prof. Singh, with sharp craftsmanship, uses the haiku elements such as depth and mystery (yugen), contained space(ma), pathos (aware), becomingness (kokora), lightness(karumi), creativeness(zoko), elegance (fuga), and simplicity(iki) in a very thoughtful style. It is a delight to read the poems along with the splendid paintings of emitting the light of lantern up into the sky,  as if depicting energy and brightness associated with womanhood.

 

The poet deals with socio-economic issues  with unequivocal imageries of searching for food by the dog and girl together! His poetic sincerity is reflected  in correlating ‘frail back’ of the woman and ‘autumn evening’:

searching for food

in the street garbage

a dog and girl

 

***

a  load of wood

on her frail back –

autumn evening

 

He focuses his observation on a poor woman struggling to catch fish in exchange for some coins to buy milk for the new-born. In the following haiku, line 3 takes a different swing at the end to a deeper meaning. Here the ‘knee-deep’ can be correlated with the drying pond juxtaposing perhaps her lean health.

 

knee-deep in the pond

awaits fresh catch to buy milk

for the new-born

 

It reminds me of Tony Pupello’s essay ‘Voices: Poverty in Haiku’ citing  Richard Wright’s haiku, “I am paying rent/ For the lice in my cold room/ And the moonlight too.” Tony Pupelo writes, “Abject poverty, in my view is, precisely, a lack of choice. In a state of abject poverty there is no choice; there are no options. Without options, one finds oneself (or a family finds itself), trapped, a victim to whatever winds are blowing.”

R K Singh manifests the subtle expression of gracefulness and poetic sensitivity in the following haiku:

 

her fingers

I taste in the orange

she peels

 

There has been a close parallel in the aesthetic sense what Basho inks:

             

The butterfly is perfuming

Its wings, in the scent

Of the orchid. *

 

* Nishio, pp. 379-80. The translated haiku are quoted from: R. H. Blyth, Haiku 4 (Tokyo, 1952): xxxiii, 321.

 

Poetry with honesty, depth and mystery (yugen) has been beautifully crafted by R K Singh. In the following haiku he is awakened by the light of mystery and imagination of darkness. The use of  whites pace (ma), the dimension beyond the images, is meditatively displayed in the following haiku:

 

watching

the darkness between the stars

enlightenment

 

The contrast juxtaposition between the light of enlightenment and darkness between stars is a brilliant creation. Let us compare how splendidly Bruce H. Feingold  composes his monoku with insight:

 

letting out my breath a billion stars

And visit the  mystic expression by Rabindranath Tagore in one of his epigrammatic expressions:

The stars of night are to me
the memorials of my day's faded flowers.

The ethical self-realization (zen feeling) symbolizes the essence of spiritualism. Rightly Blyth says, “haiku is a form of Zen”. R K Singh  writes poems embedded with a sense of ecstasy. According to the Pali canon, Harold Stewart opines,  haiku as related to meditation, and says,“the longest process of consciousness caused by sense perception consists of seventeen thought-instants (cittakkhana) each briefer than a lightning flash”.

 

This evokes ethical goodness with a meditative tone and searching for the light of peace journeying through the infinite sky. Gracefully Singh pens:

 

on the river bank

his soul is lighted for peace—

lantern in the sky

 

His poems are often characterized by a sense of solitude (sabi) as he says, “awake/

alone on the house top/ a sparrow.”  He discovers the language of silence in a different orbit. I think it is not to exaggerate  to say about him, quoting  Subramania Bharathi’s excerpt from the  article on “Japanea Kavidhai” (Japanese poetry)” in Swadesamitran  in its 16th October 1916 issue based on a haiku article written by Yonae Noeguchi in Modern Review, Calcutta:   “The one who understands loneliness and silence and the language of the flowers and lives in oneness with nature is a poet.”  The poet deeply discovers the inner sense as he unfolds:

 

in silence

one with divine will

growing within

 

Let us compare the elegance of ‘silence’ in the manifestation of the celestial body (sun) by haiku Master, Buson, with that of (moon) by R K Singh  in the following haiku:

 

mist on the grass

on soundless waters

the sunset

 

The activity-driven poetic enchantment within the realm of silence (white space) has been wonderfully pictured by the poet:

 

drifting

in the night’s silence

moon’s shadow

 

Metaphorically he articulates the serenity when he opines purity has no shadow. It’s a brilliant search by the poet!

 

the sky

without a shadow

on the earth

 

The poet portrays the psychological tension of a man through complex imageries of unexpectedness (atarashimi) and drifting mood (nioi). One can closely observe the art of ‘leap’in the last line of the haiku:

 

prayer book

covering the glass—

his last drink

 

Jeffrey Winke pens, “Eroticism and haiku are a perfect fit. Just as the haiku is the art of indirection, so too erotica. Whereas the explicit is an imaginative endpoint, the best haiku are a suggestive starting point for the imagination.” Prof. Singh has pioneered in presenting romanticism with sensual touch in his mainstream poetry. Some of his haiku are entwined with sensual imageries depicting the human psyche. For him, love culminates into an inexplicable unification of souls embedded with sensory touch and romantic resonance:

 

touching her tattoo

in the darkness of mirror

moon from the window

 

***

tangle together

flames of a double lamp

on the terrace

 

One can observe a wide spectrum imagery  of poetic elegance (miyabi) and intriguing juxtapositions (renso) in his writings. R K Singh  manages to sketch the beauty of the genre with the touchstone of creativity as he paints albeit  personification at places:

 

the clouds gather

over the hillock—

the air too turns black

 

***

float over the hill

the autumn circles of smoke—

her long hair streaming

 

Word phrases like ‘masks of happiness’,  ‘ blades of grass’, ‘long hair streaming’, ‘night’s silence’, ‘moon’s shadow’ etc have poetic resonance. Robert Spiess says, “A haiku lets things become what they are.” Touchingness of things (mono na aware) and touchingness of life (yo no aware) are the essences of haiku. Ram Krishna  Singh imbibes them and wishes to dwell in the present and in the instant moments of love, anguish, grief, despair, anger,  with full sense of awareness,  as David Steindl-Rast writes: “the one basic condition of the human psyche that accounts for genuine happiness is living in the now.” There is an insightful testimony to it as I choose to conclude with my favourite haiku of R K Singh:

 

hitching up the skirt

she fills her pockets with

unripe mangoes

 

*********

Brief-Bio

 

Pravat Kumar Padhy holds a Master of Science and a Ph.D from Indian Institute of Technology, ISM Dhanbad. He is a mainstream poet and a writer of Japanese short forms of poetry (haiku, tanka, haiga, haibun, tanka prose).  His poem “How Beautiful” is included in the undergraduate curriculum at the university level. Pravat’s haiku own The KloštarIvanić International Haiku Award, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Invitational Award, IAFOR Vladimir DevidéHaiku Award, Setouchi Matsuyama Photo Haiku Award, and others. His haiku are published in many international journals and anthologies including in Red Moon Anthology. Haiku are featured at “Haiku Wall”, Historic Liberty Theatre Gallery in Bend, Oregon, and at Mann Library, Cornell University. USA. His tanka is figured in “Kudo Resource Guide”, University of California, Berkeley.His tanka has been put on rendition (music by José Jesús de Azevedo Souza)in the Musical Drama Performance, ‘Coming Home’, The International Opera Through Art Songs, Toronto, Canada. His Taiga (Tanka-Photo) is featured in the 20th Anniversary Taiga Showcase of Tanka Society of America.His photo-haiku is presented at Haiku North America Conference, 15-17, October 2021.

 

Pravat is nominated as the panel judge of ‘The Haiku Foundation Touchstone Awards’, USA, and is presently on the editorial board of the journal, ‘Under the Basho’.

His publications can be read at http://pkpadhy.blogspot.com



Published in Poetcrit, Vol. 35, No.2, (July-December 2022), pp. 104-108

DOI : https://doi.org/10.32381/POET.2022.35.02.13

Friday, July 01, 2022

Book Review: An Anachronous Shower by Subhrasankar Das

 

An Anachronous Shower. Subhrasankar Das.  Delhi: Insha Publications. 2021.  ISBN 9788195325993 ; Rs. 470/-, hc, 61 pp.

 

https://store.pothi.com/book/subhrasankar-das-anachronous-shower 

 

Subhrasankar Das is a promising Indian English poet from Tripura.  Born in 1986, he has been active as a bilingual poet, translator, and editor of Shadowkraft (an international multilingual webzine) and Water (an international video magazine), and music composer. An Anachronous Shower is his fifth collection of verses, which he dedicates to all the Frontline Covid Warriors.  He is a new voice,  with contemporary ethos and intensity of awareness beyond the vigour and verve of the region he hails from.

 

Das writes with confidence, is internationally-minded, cosmopolitan , and concerned with existential as well as personal and broader world issues. His collection has a distinct bearing of his multifarious reading and exposure, with ironic echoes of content and style one may easily relate to. For example, Rabindranath Tagore’s famous poem, ‘Where the mind is without fear…’ gets a changed perspective in his observation:

 

“Where the mind is with fear

and the head is missing,

where people have learned from grass,

the spells to be a Lilliput and the art of living

under the feet of a monster

is

the best place for the rebels to rise.”

 

                              (‘Where the Mind is With Fear”, p. 19)

 

and

 

          “We move our wrists, press keyboards or  pens

          to generate meaningful sentences but don’t write.

          We use our vocal cords and tongues

          to produce stunning sounds but don’t speak.

          We are engineered to be self sufficient and self destructive.

          …

          We have everything.

          But we can’t breathe

 

                             (‘The Country of Avengers’, p. 56)

 

 

Most of the poems that read well are rooted in emotion awake to its own environment just as the larger ecosystem of the NorthEast India  is predominant. For example,

 

          “The wicks and the condiments are burning themselves

          to keep the flame alive

 

          The God is in coma

 

          The legendary lamp-stand is absorbed in contemplation

 

          And the disciple has lost his prayer

 

                             (‘The Alter’, p, 7)

 

          “We’ve been facing frequent power-cuts

          since we are born.

          We urgently need some Happydents or laughing damsels

          so that we can pay taxes on love

          and avoid paying taxes on electricity.

          Then.. we can shed some loads to save money

          (..I hope you understand what I mean, don’t you?)

          or we can exchange our beloveds

          with the amateur or experienced ones

          and make agreements for some profit.

          Don’t you do that, huh?”

 

                             (‘For Sale’, p. 61)

 

 

          “…I don’t drink.

          But whenever I meet my darling

          I get drenched

          with the reminiscence of my grandmother.

          She said,

          Same are the ancestors of volcano and lake.

          She said,

          Pavement is vagabond’s dining table.”

 

                             (‘Pavement’, p. 60)

 

I enjoyed reading some of the micropoems that add to the poet’s lyrical richness, brilliance, thought, and  texture of the collection:

 

          “Trying to erase you

          I go on rubbing the eraser on me.”  (p. 30)

 

          “I’ve become a circle

          being desirous to be perfect.

          Please distort me somehow…somewhere”   (p. 32)

 

          “There is no scent of relationship

          in the sari of grandma

 

          Only.

          the handicraft of home-maid

          and whiff of surf excel”      (p. 47)

 

          “A tattered pair of shoes was thrown into exile and they yearned for a kiss

 

          A dog missed them

 

          A moonstruck rescued them

          and travelled across four cities at ease”      (p. 57)

 

          “ There is winter in one corner of Love.

          You won’t like to take shower, even if you are burning.”     (p. 59)

 

Obviously, the poet has a strong critical viewpoint as he raises questions that the system manages to avoid. He effectively articulates the anger of millions of people who have been suffering quietly.  An Anachronous Shower  has so much to think about.  It strikes me as a remarkable addition to the diversity of voices and verses from the North-East and merits wider attention of the media and academia.

 

  -- Dr R.K. Singh

 

Friday, June 03, 2022

Nina Alsirtawi, Libya translates my haiku

 

● محاكاة نصوص الشاعر الهندي
رام كريشنا
● Simulation of the texts of the Indian poet
Ram Krishna

فِي صمتٍ
إِنسانٌ بمشيئةٍ إِلهيَّةٍ
سيَنمو فِي الدَّاخلِ

Ram Krishna Singh _ India

ستعيش أبدآ
نبضات إلى العمق
هذا الداخل يتنفس

You will live forever
heartbeats to the depth
This inside breathes

Nina Alsirtawi Libya ©

ينحرفُ
فِي صمتِ اللَّيلِ
ظلُّ القمرِ

Ram Krishna Singh _ India

تسود العتمة
وفجأة تتدفق
الظلال الملتهبة
 
prevail the scotoma
she suddenly flows
flaming shadows

Nina Alsirtawi Libya ©

 
 
May be an image of ‎2 people and ‎text that says "‎الهندي الشاعر نصوص محاكاة کریشنا رام Simulation of the texts of the Indian poet Ram Krishna Nina Alsiawi‎"‎‎ 
 
 
 

ينحرفُ
فِي صمتِ اللَّيلِ
ظلُّ القمرِ
 
 
drifting
in the night's silence
moon's shadow 

--R K Singh
 
فِي صمتٍ
إِنسانٌ بمشيئةٍ إِلهيَّةٍ
سيَنمو فِي الدَّاخلِ
 
 
in silence
one with divine will
growing within 

--R K Singh
 
 Arabic translation by:

--Nina AlSirtawi
Benghazi, Libya