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Cascade of EmotionsThe Ganga (A River Poem)

Poetry Manifesto
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Poetry Manifesto

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‘One of the pleasures gained by reading Vihang Naik’s poetry is the awareness that every poem, both singly and when placed together as a body of work, demonstrates a belief in the possibilities that language truthfully and energetically communicates the writing experience’ — The Journal of Poetry Society ( India ). ‘Naik maps out the way in which a poem instills life into words’ — Indian Literature: A Sahitya Akademi’s Bi- Monthly Journal, New Delhi, India. About City Times & Other Poems  ‘the poet [Vihang A. Naik] has something up his sleeve to say beyond the appearances’ — Indian Book Chronicle.

City Times & Other Poems, which appeared in 1993, was Vihang A. Naik’s first collection. His Making A Poem, was published in 2004 after his Gujarati poetry Jeevangeet in 2001. This definitive edition, a testimony to his prodigious output so far and astonishing breath of vision, brings together Vihang A. Naik’s work from 1993 to 2009 and also includes a whole new section of uncollected poems.

The poems in this collection are vintage, Vihang A. Naik’s poems are intuitive, thoughtful, philosophical and creative pieces, where the poet displays a confident command, mature, with a fine balance of emotional intensity, irony, ranging across themes and places with experimentation.

A literary landmark from an authentic Indian poetic voice.

 

Reviewed by Patricia Prime ( New Zealand ) 

Following on City Times and Other Poems, which appeared in 1993, his Gujarati collection of poems Jeevangeet (2001) and Making A Poem (2004), comes this collection of Vihang A. Naik’s poetry from 1993 to 2009. 

Born in Surat, Gujarat in 1969, Vihang A. Naik’s work is widely published.  This collection contains 72 poems divided into 11 sections. 

Naik enables his readers to eavesdrop on the casual throwaway vernacular of the shorter poems and the more tightly wrapped language and energy of the longer poems.  For Naik, his native country is well-mapped in literary terms.  In the first poem “Indian Summer” he takes his readers to India and thus achieves the aim of integrating his work as a private memoralist with an impulse to express collective memory:            

The map of India burns           
with flames of passion           
when fire is set
           
against mid-day. 
You search
           
the city, lost
           
in a mirage. 
The sun fumes.
           
There is only heat and dust. 

For Naik, the countryside is a powerful prism, and gives him the freedom to explore his whole culture through his poetry.  “Summer Hill Devdars” (Shimla, 19 June, 2001) is an enlightening experience to read. In it the poet focuses on the stories which only the hills could tell, except that they remain mute:            

They stand.           
Tall
           
Mute.
           
Now
           
since hundred years
           
bearing witness
           
with silent hills
           
that will not speak.
                

In the prose poem “Platform” Naik once again manifests his strong sense of landscape, community and selfhood as the “triangulation” of his work:            

Travelers come and go.  People meet and depart: squeezed passengers,   beggars, coolies, news hawkers, tea stalls and littered tracks make up the scene. 

His concerns are also global.  In the strong poem “The Final Act” Naik relates to one of poetry’s oldest functions which is not just to memoralise, but to translate into language so that it can be not only an archive in itself but also a measuring stick for the future: 

His persona uses a style that in its diction, rhythm and phonological quality, remind the reader that poetry can have several qualities: something “silly. / A nightmare or a dream” as he says in the title poem “Poetry Manifesto.”  Naik admits the impossibility of the poet’s task to capture the truth of words: 

Reading Naik’s poems with the care they deserve gives an intimation of what it is like to write poems at an early age, as we see in “At Seventeen”:            

At seventeen you write a poem –           
You’ve lost your
           
su’arg.  Discover the narg
            

Within yourself.  At thirty           
You practice
           
moksha making a poem.
 

Naik combines a fairy tale quality in his poems “A Play,” “A Story” and “The Poet as a Young Man” – “He saw an animal in front / of mirror.  A portrait / of the poet as a young man.”  A discomforting atmosphere is produced by “A blank stare / against the page / of time.”  Central to Naik’s collection is the sequence of poems entitled “Making a Poem.”  Here the poet writes about love as well as the act of writing.  In “A Matter of Life,” for example, we see how the poet meshes his love poem between the first two lines and the last one to make his poem within a poem:            

How about making a poem within           
a poem?  You smell the Ocean and
                        

the sand.  A life within a poem.                       
She composed herself from the surf.
                        

The night lamp burns                       
at the corner of the desk
                       
life is a philosophy
                        
book with pencil marks,
                       
wounds and comments.  A poem
                       
you cancelled at the end.
                        
You think of splashing waves and horses
                       
without reins.  She turned away.  I smell
            
the rose.  Her odhani stuck to my pen.
   

In “the End of the Affair”  he tells us – “I felt love as short as haiku.”  

The first poem “The Pen” in the section “A Poem Comes Alive” begins            

These days the pen           
is at the end
            
of making words
           
that would be
            
a poem for you,
 

and wittily alludes to the image of the struggling poet of cliché on his troubled quest, before concluding –            

You search your poem            

in the silence of death.  

It is not dreams, but reality that pervades this collection, and keeps it on track.  Naik’s tone, observant and self-appraising, is clear-sighted and without illusion, but strangely reassuring in its ability to state things as they are, and to place them so tangibly in among so much that is unknown. 

Here is a real man, as we see in the poem “WANTED” in the section entitled “A Poet.”  This is a persona with attitude, who accepts the uncertainty of producing poems, and has a sure grasp on the familiar tasks which face very writer.            

tonight I am awake           
with the paper
           
and pen
            

words hit           
me back in anger
           
that formed from this same ink
            

themselves           
a guilt-point
           
searching the lost face
            

WANTED            

by the reader. 

The quiet aspect of his life as a poet is recorded, its troubles and its small triumphs.  The enduring presence of the writer himself, with his take on life, both recording and questioning, as if commuting between different impulses, in a life of constant passing through, pausing, consolidating, moving on.  It’s a life in which the poet hides behind his words as Naik says in poem “V” from “Mirrored Men”             

he is different behind           
his words of cream
            

and butter, it serves           
his purpose.  His language
            

curves like dark night           
of desire, takes turns
            

with ambiguous intent.           
The diabolic tongue
            

holds fate, as it were,           
on the tip
            

of its tail.  

He talks about what he knows, ranging from his youthful beginnings as a poet to poems about his desires.  Often, these more tender poems inspire some of his most striking images –            

the octopus           
of desire
           
stirs
           
arteries and veins
            

tears flesh apart           
feeding upon fire
           
swallowing air
                        

(“desire”) 

Always there’s the awareness of the bigger picture, ranged against the contingencies of daily life, often with ironic humour as from “after innocence”            

fold all           
old calendars
           
and smoke the time
           
away
                       
what you get
            

is ashes in return           
the shell breaks open
           
crossed teens
           
innocence
             

massacred 

Naik’s usual free-verse style, of continuous down-paging in a rush of short lines, suits the vernacular of his vision.  Naik is a poet who knows the real world of the writer and its downside, but is still on top of it.  On top of it with his use of words, his techniques and with his native resilience.  Through it all, he smiles as though he has the knowledge of the unknowable.  

About the Reviewer :  

Patricia Prime is co-editor of the haiku magazine Kokako and reviews editor of the Australian online magazine Stylus. Her recent publications include interviews with Beverley George, editor of Yellow Moon (Aus), Sandra Simpson, editor of Haiku NewZ, and Raewyn Alexander, editor of Magazine (NZ). Besides poetry, Patricia writes reviews, articles and enjoys interviewing editors and poets. She has also judged poetry competitions. Recently she published articles on the poetry of Rimbaud and Ondaatje. Beverley George has interviewed Patricia for the spring issue of the online magazine Simply Haiku. One of her poems is to appear in a children's book of poetry entitled Poetry Pudding. She is a member of The New Zealand Poetry Society and a member of The New Zealand Author . She is also New Zealand editor of the American magazine Slugfest . Currently she is preparing essays on contemporary Indian/English poetry and on Australsian poetry. She lives in New Zealand . 

 


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