Two very different poets whose works leave the reader longing for more.
A Depressingly Monotonous Landscape (Hemant Divate) is not a title readily associated with a book of poems. So, one enters the translated text, a little puzzled. It is not the usual stuff when ‘rain gets downloaded’ or where ‘paroxysms look like barbecued chicken to be roasted within you’. The language of the Bhakti poets Tukaram and Namdev is twisted, flexed, or shaken to limits. The rancorous images that ensue forth are paradoxical takes on monotony and the mindlessness of modern technology cutting through the flesh of humanity, slaying feelings, leaving scant space for nature or the soul to flourish.
Here is a rebel poet casting poetry to new frontiers, laying naked deceits and hypocrisies with his poetry purposely rancid, in a scenario of contemporary madness that is at once surreal, and alarmingly real. Thus, even those four letter words are liberally strewn about in the landscape where ‘everyone is mentally sick’. The poetry turns insane, and becomes a kind of intellectual masturbation which must rightly be. Blunt, and brazen, the poems push in lust and greed, grill through temptations of the flesh and addictions of the messiness of computers, cell phones, smses and other virulent forms of mangled inanity of modernity that distance, and wreck human emotions. It flays the confused mire of human apathy that ends up killing the soul. With the absence of love and feeling, loss of bloodline and kinship, humans are no different from mannequins, Camay soaps, or print outs in the malls, where God is also just a brand. The protest poems move up the fast lane of canon fires, spitting venom. Not beauty anymore, but human ugliness is truth. Existence is bizarre and must be painfully slouched through. ‘She’s yours for two hundred after twelve, if you go at nine she’ll quote a thousand, my pants are getting tight’. In this ‘manhole of living’, his poetry slugs on with the virus of fear and uncertainty all around. Hemant, the poet, turns formidable butcher in the collection. He cuts well and deep with his meat-knife. Sarabjeet Garcha, his translator, proves equal to the task.
Writing Again (Siddhartha Menon) is a tender nature diary. ‘You would be better off making your way, beneath the dark drip of awnings where you faintly discern that other footfall of slow departures in softened leaves’ (Lingering). Siddhartha’s poetry was noticed for its singular power of innocence of observation, layered with subtle poetic introspection that focussed much on the plant and beetle kingdom. He is one of those younger poets that Poetry Chain first published, who shows definite signs of growth. While writing long poems, Siddhartha must take care not to lose or give away the uncanny ability he douses his shorter poems with. Poems like ‘Prima Donna’, on a new lotus sprung, still retain his vivid singular strokes. ‘Uninvited Guest’ is well begun and finely ended. It speaks of a coming that at first appears trivial, but touches the heart when it leaves. ‘So we led it to the door — and all there is, now, is to clear the fragments, and then assume nothing happened’. The poem, like any successful poem, begins in calmness, holds surface tension, takes us down with it to subterranean layers, and posts it back into the reader’s core memory.
There are poems however, that leave you wishing, that the poet hadn’t overshot his craft as in ‘A kind of Achievement’, or ‘Now’, or ‘Thus Spake the Grudging Guru’, where the intended punches seem to fail. There is always a need to care, especially to ensure the effectiveness of closures, and that the punch line in a poem works like plaster that bands off the wound that a poem is. ‘Bird’s Eye’ — a poem which ponders on how ‘that eye… so red, and hard as a billiard ball’ must have been made by its maker ‘it must have been dipped, by gloved hands using tweezers, in dye, a petri desh of stringent colour or blood too fresh to have formed a skin; rolled through seasons delicately for the evenness; taken out, examined all around, dried, polished till it glowed… and clicked into position’ — looks exquisite. Poetry aspirants may take these lines as a valuable definition of poem-making in their attempts to craft and hone their ‘red eye’ of poetry.
A Depressingly Monotonous Landscape; Hemant Divate, Tr. Sarabjeet Garcha, Poetrywala, Rs 250.
Writing Again; Siddhartha Menon, Folio, Rs 100.