(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal
Devoted to English Language and Literature)
A man lives at many levels at the same moment. Last decade of twentieth century was swift in movement, quick in diffusion of information, and equally absorption was a highpoint of deviating and ambiguous opinions and crises. It was time of rapid changes in psyche of people, where relations began to develop feelings of aloneness even in a crowd as population increased and hunger for materialistic joys of life disturbed a man. Man often thought of past and future and then, abruptly returned to present. It was an effort to determine the intensity of a criminal and brutal noise without alien sound where generations wept as if in a far-off past that lived on expectation to process a history plan.
Identity crises in this age was a big torture but man lived to enjoy because next moment, man realized it was a march toward a definite goal but journey still continued man believed as destination proved elusive. Even he found many traces of inconvenient bruises on hearts and minds of sensitive people, and the creative artists continued to speak poignantly of the not very happy phases of life.
A small digression makes it clear. Man was certain of changes in life as he grew up and adjusted to conditions prevalent and so it surfaced in poetic outburst that underlined anxieties of present and apparently rosy future but appeared cynical. Perhaps, it was visit of disaster inside born of melancholy and expectation, for here, to fight a battle of survival under threat of nuclear fear and unrelenting blasts in disgust and hate with logic of self-perpetuating refusal was a hard truth. In this situation of uncertainty, a man made a decision to wipe out the race of man maybe, a question disturbs. What a mental anarchy! I visualized clearly a scenario in the slice of time and scrap of a lyric and here I tried to scrutinize relevance of it to existing time despite the terrific changes in emotional response. Later, I felt it inevitable to relate it to past, present and future of man’s internal and external world.
Suddenly, a feeling took birth that living at many levels granted no uniqueness or exceptionality but alongside trust, it was antipathy or severity, or repugnance or horridness.
Thoughts of ancient times assail at such crisis-ridden moments, for one runs to teachers of humanity, the preceptors and sages, who lived in austerity but were rich within and taught lessons of peace, harmony and fraternity where man as image of god perhaps, lived happily. I think over and sit silent. It was time when lyrical symphony and assembly of primordial wisdom was the objective even while unified insight worked for the wellbeing of humankind.
One loves to live in nostalgic age, for it gives impetus to live not only meaningfully but also objectively for the welfare of humanity. From the music of nature, they –the ancients, learnt art of life and expressed in verses melodious. Life in hermitage was poetical as rhythmic sound of words pleased hearts and minds. An extreme sense of tranquil and harmonious feelings permeated as if divinity, and feelings inexplicable inundated not only the external world but also the internal world of man from where melody of life imbued in great philosophic thoughts sprang up and one called the outpourings as mighty work of wisdom, the basis of life –the scriptures in musical language. Now, man thinks of the Vedas, the Upanishads…and just thought of the origin of lyrics. It appears illogical but collective knowledge of age stirs and infuses spirit of affinity with whatever is old and not fully discarded.
Perhaps it was voice of those, who sat in meditation, silent with closed eyes, forgetful of world outside even as they penetrated within and found fulcrum of existence. When they opened eyes, it was luminosity outside that filled hearts. Abundance of satisfying ear-filling tunes bestowed ecstatic and divine joy and from here, lyrics took birth, a sensitive mind just thought, –and realized it was fantastic. Is it that the source of music and rhythm was somewhere in ancient wisdom –an age of peace? Is it true? Is it nature, or fear of man to keep aside thoughts of dissonance, I am inclined to ask? On in-depth inquiry, I realized and therefore, tried to avoid the dark side of what life is. From here faults on margins of resolution surfaced and here I, whether solicitous or blank, stood silent.
I confronted not a very mystifying question, but it was, to some extent. I am sure a sensitive man lived in similar mental state at that time. If sages spoke of wisdom, it was within but they thought of some unknown and infinite force and told of its blessings. Listeners were people of all ages –poor, rich, farmers, workers, and slaves, wealthy and kings…and when they went out of precincts of hermitages, they felt inner illuminating fulfilment I think. It is redundant, tiresome stretching of thought but if one dissects feelings and intellectual parenthesis, some unique light slides down to fortify an eccentric valuation. From this state of mind one wants to run away to some areas where one envisions a dreamy land of joy infinite –a taste of music and melody, which eclipses the moment one faces truth of existence.
Therefore, he recognizes the role of ancient gurus and sages, kings of wisdom, who thought of peace and confronted crisis of survival but maintained faith in the strength of harmony and peace, which only could cultivate finer intellectual, philosophical and spiritual powers lying embryonic within. If it was not scriptural outburst in verses, it was an ordinary lyric taking birth in the heart of a common person, who wanted peace in ‘the self’ alone and in solitary moments even as he thought of man and humanity.
I think over the conjecture and hypothesis for long, the deliberations continue to linger on, and there, I find, well, source of man’s lyrical disposition and wisdom exists somewhere in nature and natural world of ancient times that travelled silently, and generations continued to absorb and spread it further.
I come back and deliberate and so I believe if poets write on life in totality, it is in a spirit of gratitude to ancient times that they carry the heritage of aestheticism, music, rhythm and melody, which teach peace, harmony and enormous wisdom in spite of current distrust, prejudice and anxiety. They are conscious of the country’s history, heritage, cultural and civilizational impact and its literary growth where sages, saints, seers and religious gurus contributed immensely in the beginning. The traditions continue. It is also natural in the culture, heritage and civilization of other nations where people carried the torch of light ancestors handed over to them and so it was in literature and in due course, poetry sprang up from the first cry.
Poetry of nineteenth century demonstrates poets’ interest in nation’s culture and civilization and total consciousness of people steeped in Vedic thought and philosophy but open to absorb cultural and philosophic thoughts of secular and universal nature of other religions. Some poets born in the first half of twentieth century, who get education abroad or are product of missionary schools, carry influence of foreign culture, literary traditions and lifestyles and reflect it in what they write. Some of them draw inspiration from not only Indian culture, history and scriptures but also from alien history, heritage, myths, legends, and now, contemporary writers with a few exceptions, love to enjoy legends, myths and tales of other countries and the interest strengthens secular outlook and universal consciousness, and afterward, it becomes rousing source of poetic art.
Writing poems is a gratifying experience but it never reaches anywhere near realization. One is conscious of joy it gives but after a while, it leads to a bit of protracted disgust, a kind of protest against the unattainable in poetic pleasure. Therefore, another effort to enhance joy is imminent. Now, man is aware of poetic frenzy that besieges other poets but it is different with each individual poet and lover of poetry.
Whenever, a poet in man sits to scrawl a word or two or just draws lines on the paper, it is casual but the thought continues to chase feelings, and eyes catch hold vividly of what is outside as images dangle before the eyes and flow down and down through blood veins to the pen. At that time, he has a feeling that it is a haphazard get-together of words, solicitous reflections, images and similes. After a while, everything stabilizes and he feels nearly frozen or deeply philosophical, and wonders as uncertainty invariably chases!
A few minutes later, he, a creative man possibly, leisurely but steadily composed a poem as experiences, feelings and thoughts merged to assume a tangible shape of a verse that required relook, and after another pause, a poem had matured, a creation of a moment. Now, it is poetry to the man. He never hoped or expected that he thought in an unusual way without interlude and so, should appeal to the sensibility and knowledge of a critic. He was uncertain of the analysis, for poetry lover and a critic or a literary connoisseur hold a different approach. It is a way to collect dispersed thoughts in virtually poetic lines he realized but doubts chase frantically about its real purpose –is it to give pleasure or to irritate?
A critic moves from the social backdrop to the psyche, the inner world of man and the artist of poetry or prose. It is a tiresome journey, a bit monotonous and may look inessential exercise to boast of knowledge on close analysis.
As a poet, a man does not know how exactly he handles indistinct experiences and blurred impressions, mere imitations at times, but these indubitably transform into poetry. It is not necessary that it enchants, or conveys meaning.
He fails to understand how a critic, who is not a witness to what a poet in him experiences or observes, and wraps up within, delves deep and evaluates a piece of art. At times, a man simply forgets the objective and feels the joy of reading poetic lines a little bit. This truth amazes everybody.
Poetic lines engage and one probes into the meaning. If it is one go, the lines say little, is obvious. Later, one thinks over the substance, sensations and sensuousness the lines generate with hints of myths and history as these speak of social milieu. It is possible that the poet and the critic could fail to arrive at the correct multipart connotations the lyric offers but the peculiar situation may drive to weird feelings of unease and joy sans concealed message it conveys. It may look good to some and preposterous to others but then, lyric needs empathetic attitude brushing aside ethical quality, if one can.
Reflections though vague yet appear relevant and if words, symbols and metaphors engaged in the construction of a lyric convey straight meaning, it has specific rationale. It affects changes next moment and does not carry analogous character. Likewise, when one reads words and lines, a textual form, these convey different background and suggestions, insinuations and images within the meaning and at this moment, one is lost in the pleasure of appraisal of the text of a poem involuntarily, and leisurely one transforms words into imagery. It also tortures the analyst for he has to find import in the constitution of lexis an author creates, who is either dead or lives somewhere, or perhaps nowhere.
A critic is not a god and a poet is also a mortal -a frame of bones and flesh, and possibly, with a reluctant ability and unyielding efforts, tries to clarify what he writes or creates. However, he definitely realizes such apparent limitations.
Here too, he, the poet in man believes many images words form, are definitely but slightly dissimilar but changes are bound to appear during exposition though one detects that focus on vital thought process is still integral.
Present times are inscrutable even as the spirit of contest and conflict grows but permits intellect to expand with undefined restrictions of time and age. Time creates unease and nervousness that is more often than not a fertile soil for stimulating creation whether invisible or substantial fabrication.
Many a time, a man realizes that he had given different textual body to the old impressions or experiences that he had protected in the immediate present, now past, which in a lyrical form is quite near to imperfection. This aspect a bit fragile, he appeared to avoid in spite of genuine efforts.
Effect of lethal ennui it is that governs mind and heart, and so, fails to energize drooping imagination. Therefore, one cannot revive or invigorate earlier experiences in absolute terms and if constraint exists, it is breakdown in reliving experiences.
One consoles ‘the self’ with the new expression and meaning. An envious critical faculty finds it out soon, and this tendency permits poetic analysis to survive in fresh wordy frame.
Probably he, the poet in man, holds the view like many that a lyricist if uses uncommon and a little high-flown word it is not a good quality. Poetry of early years and a little after, suffers from this flaw and because of this, discomfiture to the reader and the critic is quite irritating, one finds and concludes later. Poetry of initial years carries abstractions, verbosity in phrase and some involvedness that causes barriers in understanding the real import but still the verse has its existence and spirit when one tries to read in between the lines. At this stage, he goes back to past to re-emphasize that it happens with almost every poet in the beginning.
Nevertheless, a poet realizes that to force a reader to read, is a tricky suggestion and assumption he feels, and then, he stops for a while and after that, to think deeply makes thoughts and feelings seep down and thus, give joy.
If a work of art surprises or asks you to read again and deliberate, it is a very good situation in the life of work of art – poem, painting or any other creation.
These views are prevalent and I admit initial employ of words irritated many but poetry flows and carves out its path. However, I feel simple words and expressions beautify a poem. A lyric is a flowing torrent of thoughts and emotions that move in soft steps as if it were soothing noiseless breeze walking over calm placid furrows to greet people living in traditional folklore of love, life and undying culture. That an intuitive mind can imagine such a gentle soporific situation sometime is obvious because it preserves its beauty and history of ancient times.
Many a time, elegiac agitation and neurotic outlook lead a creative artist to generate esoteric landscape that disregards judgment I feel. It may not appear difficult but unintentionally, such faults creep in, poets ought to know. It had annoyed me quite frequently but I failed to restrict propensity to indulge in peculiar idioms.
A question invariably haunted. What really I wanted to say in lyrics? Why I failed to convey the right feeling and thought? Was it possible in other genres? Was it an experience of inability of other poets to make right use of idiom when they thought they had given ultimate finish to a verse?
To evaluate a piece of writing is not easy but if a critic is genuine, it also burdens him with the responsibility of objectivity because it happens many a time that a critic is prone to subjective outlook sporadically and it tarnishes total impact I feel.
Any writing appears expression of anxieties of a writer, who wants to be an active participant in the activities of men and society and thinks well of it.
As a critic, one has to think of lexis and its limits. To what extent it communicates the right thought and feeling is the question. Does the language convey multifaceted meanings? If it is, then, what does the author wishes to say? If distortions crop up in the mind of critic, it also becomes the duty of a writer to use language warily.
At this stage, a work of art, a lyric or…engages the critic in a probe into the cultural heritage and civilization that exercise impact on author and various other carry-bags of knowledge, wisdom and history in totality of not only of the soil and country in which he takes birth but also about the other lands and people. However, it is worry of a critic and not of author. Nevertheless, that does not absolve a critic of the obligation to be true to art, man and society realistically.
I observed it in various exhaustive annotations and appraisals of works of many authors and poets and thus, I feel it is necessary for the critic, a detractor at times, to stick to the principles of locale and history but not at the cost of creative yield. When I speak of cultural and civilizational influence imbedded within, I keep in mind the limits, range and congeniality of a man (a creative artist). To what extent, he is able to absorb and assimilate varying and erratic influences, is crucial as times change. At this moment, consciousness of age surfaces with its sense of art, and now, creativity and values enlighten man to live together in workable peace and harmony. Not a big demand on man of any culture or heritage he often boasts of and pledges to safeguard, which permits orderly and systematic life-flow.
Even if I do not wish, I ought to deliberate on the philosophic and psychosomatic functions of mind and its discernible influence on heart.
If heart and mind cause immense strain together and become fountainhead of positive tension, it is fine. Interaction of thoughts and feelings that take birth in man is noticeable if one is shrewd enough to understand. The implication of interface and negotiation with the social, religious and spiritual and the metaphysical is possible.
Not as an author but also as a critic one is inclined to visit these unknown areas while the curiosity to understand varied locales of social, economic and political situation of the country remains alive even as impatience to know about the world exists, and stirs ingenuity to inquire more.
Challenges and conflicts arise and if one is ready to face, well, it makes an optimistic impact. I realize it as a writer and as a critic as well.
However, I experience that a thin line of segregation or splitting up between the twofold functions haunts, for struggle involving the ‘objective and subjective approach’ disturbs where the universal and the specific thoughts or philosophy of life and existence intercede often, which again is quite an expected derivative of estimation.
As a critic with total knowledge and wisdom a man’s intellect has and the fund of emotions and feelings a heart carries, he has to be unprejudiced, neutral and positive but true even if he finds some flaws with little bit of gratifying critical pricks. It is applicable to the writer as well as the critic and so they need to respect each other areas of functions. It is an ethical obligation one ought to discharge genuinely as a good judge of art.
Thoughts and feelings of love, optimism, expectation, suffering and conflict amidst incongruous situations exist in life and cause regret the poets often reveal. A natural reaction it is I believe and it emerges out of experiences one tries to reorganize when poetic obsession and rage work as stimulants in hours of loneliness. It is good to think over and inquire into the possible implications.
About the Author:
PCK Prem (PC Katoch Of Garh-Malkher, Palampur, Himachal, A Former Academician, Civil Servant And Member Himachal Public Service Commission, Shimla), an author of more than fifty-five books, is a poet, novelist, short story writer, translator and a critic in English and Hindi. Associated with several social/ literary organizations, he has brought out eleven volumes of poetry besides six books on criticism, four books on ancient literature, two on folk tales, six novels and three collections of short fiction. In Hindi, he authored twenty novels, nine books on short fiction and a collection of poems besides critical articles, reviews and critiques published in various national and international journals and anthologies. PCK Prem - Echoing Time and Civilizations 2015 and The Spirit of Age and Ideas (in the Novels of PCK Prem) in 2016 and Kathasagar of PCK Prem are books on him.