Musings and nostalgia

THIS is the third collection of poems by the author in a period of three years. Poetry has an ability to feed the heart and mind and as W.B. Yeats once said, "Poetry is a quarrel with oneself" while rhetoric is a quarrel with others. The poet finds a way to interrogate and transfigure a profound disquietitude, to bring forth what otherwise might have evaded consciousness. A poem creates a space for itself to live dramatically inside the reader, and they become meaningful when metrical patterns combine with complex ideas that tell us about the world.

From this perspective if we look at the poems of Mohankumar, they evoke a dialogue within oneself. It is a special kind of communication when the poet brings out his nostalgia, frustrations, protestations and musings. They are told in simple narratives, at times devoid of poetic flourishes. There is also an unequivocal current of devotion lingering in some of the poems. There are also attempts at strong social criticism, silent prayers for change of ethical values and lamentations on the cruelties being inflicted on innocent children and women, especially by overzealous political and communal elements of the society. The poet also dreams nostalgically of bygone years and of lost childhood.

Kerala's political violence has very deeply moved the poet as could be seen in a few poems including "Nightmares and Daydreams", "Murder in The School" and "Strife Torn". It has resulted in deep scars as expressed in "Incommunicado" when he plainly asks in anguish as to who can discover the scar in the heart and the load on the mind. But the question arises as to whether the poems are powerful enough to douse the animal passions arising out of blind faith in ideology or religion. Is the voice loud and strong enough to sway public sentiments, which would result in outright condemnation of violence? In answer, the poet contributes a little through the poems with symbols, metaphors and images. The "unflickering tiny flame" and the gentle flow of water and image that provide a soothing effect to the scorching, torching and brutalities. What he prescribed will be the cure, for sure as in "Cure". But are there any takers?

The theme of nostalgia for the village home is evocative in several poems including "Out of Print", "After The Weeklong Festivities" and "Patriarch". These sentiments and themes are also eloquently presented in his earlier collections. The poet is very fond of music and especially classical music. His concern for its dwindling patronage is well brought out in "A Different Music". It forcefully decries the tendency to go in for garrulous film music and laments the dwindling number of connoisseurs. The power of music for healing is also there in "Miracle Healing". The emotions of a father towards a son who realises its value later in life form the theme of "The Burden". Frustration with the boss and the dilemma of a civil servant are expressed in "Boss". The concept of paradise to the poet is worth recounting: joy in the steady climb and the final conquest: "The empire that I have built is my paradise". The lines are allegorical and the metaphysical aspects are clear in "Caged". The street circus is commonplace everywhere. Only a poet can empathise with the performer who goes to every spectator with his cap for the coins to be dropped, in "After the Street Circus".

The famous Aristotelian dictum is that poetry is superior to history. Poetry's worth is therefore universal. Writing poetry is therefore a service to society because of its intrinsic value. Poetry is a dense and compact literary medium and its impact in rousing the soul needs no emphasis. It is also the workshop of language and idiom and therefore the writing of poetry is always an exercise in self-criticism and every word, syllable, and text has meaning in poetic diction.

Literal images in the collection supplicate to the sense of realistic perception and simultaneously appeal to the readers' imagination by way of figurative images, the poem being a manifestation of a dialogue between the poet and the reader and through this volume the poet continues the dialogue by stimulating the reader.

Nightmares and Daydreams,

M. Mohankumar, Virgo Publications, Rs. 160.


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