Sunday, April 18, 2004

Many moods in modern poetry
Kamaldeep Kaur Toor

He Who Was Gone Thus
by Thachom Poyil Rajeevan. Yeti Books, Kerala.
Pages 95. Rs 125.

Rain Rising
by Nirupama Menon Rao. Rupa, New Delhi.
Pages 89. Rs 195.

He Who Was Gone ThusINDIAN poetry in English has come a long way from the romanticism and sentimentalism of early poets. The contemporary scenario is dominated by modernist, post-modernist and surreal tendencies. The two collections under review confirm the modernist persuasions of poets. As is common to all good poetry, these collections also emanate from both personal and professional experiences of the poets. While Rajeevan has already published two poetry collections, Rain Rising is Menonís maiden attempt. Both collections capture the moods of the poets in myriad themes, ranging from history, mythology, professional experiences and personal relationships.

Rajeevan begins with a nostalgic reminiscence when he visits a museum and is reminded of an acute sense of loss. He also captures the immense sense of loneliness in contemporary life, thus expressing the modernist dilemma: "The night burned out/but not the cot/nor the door/the room/the house/or the street/Lying on earth/I alone/burn." From abstractions like "A Lament," "Pains," etc., Rajeevan shifts to concrete images like "The Tree," "Crystals," etc. He makes interesting use of metaphors, for instance, peon-breeze. The third section of the volume abounds in poems on animals like "Worm," "The Fish," "Tortoise," etc. There is also an obsessive awareness of the self and experimentation with the visual shape of the poems. Words are used with economy and precision, with an emphasis on understatement.

Rain Rising Nirupama Rao Menon, former spokesperson of the Indian Foreign Office, is the author of Rain Rising. Her first volume of poetry is neatly categorised into three watertight compartmentsó"Remembrance", "Reflections", "Exploration." The first section stresses on nostalgia. In "Stations," she writes: "I freeze in this sleet of memory/waiting in this room full of strangers,/to crosscheck the miles Iíve clocked."

In the second category, she deliberates on the various personal experiences, but it is the last section "Exploration" that stands out in the entire collection. This is so because while the first two sections seem to be written from a fixed and settled point of view, the last section appears to be an immediate response to a place that she has visited as a diplomat. It is this naturalness and directness of expression that makes the last section outstanding and spontaneous.

She is also critically aware of the abysmal political and social plight of India. In "Old Maps of Hindostan," she writes: "India within the Ganges,/and India beyond the Ganges,/plotting the meridians/of our destinations,/hand coloured by widows/and orphan children,/stare at me, through prisms,/at odd angles`85" It is in this section that Menon has dealt with multifarious themes from "Images of 1857" to "St. Petersberg" and "Chinese Pictures."

Both volumes are characterised by multifarious themes with no dominant theme. There is rumination on history, society, mythology, and the political dilemmas that face the individual and society. Though the poetry is interesting in phrasing, cadences, word play and imagery, it cannot be termed as path breaking. The volumes are recommended for the general lover of poetry and academicians alike. Their contemporary, but natural flavour will appeal to both.