In “My Poetry” Kashmiri poet Wani Nazir claims ‘you’re my argument against the whole world’—argument against world’s madness, insanity, inhumanity, violence, injustice which stifle freedom of his people and land, Kashmir, once popularly known as a paradise on earth, now a burning hell. The poet is restless, helpless. His heart bleeds seeing the destruction of his land and people before his eyes. His pen is blood-drenched. He sobs, he mourns, he sighs, he sings, he rebels, he preaches. He is hopeless, he is hopeful. All these varied strands of poet’s feelings and thoughts sew126 pages of the present collection …and the silence whispered into an aesthetically enjoyable read. How does he achieve this? With his carefully chosen words, brilliant imagery, emotional urgency, conversational tone, subtlety in fusing thoughts and emotions and his subjective rendition of poetic musings.
Painful and Elegiac:
In “My Dark Fate” the poet mourns ‘Night was dark/ Like my sable soul, I made the ashes/ Of frozen embers my abode’. He cries in ‘Frailty Eternal’ for his ‘frailty, fallibility, and incapacity/ To fulfill the left over desires/ Of all my ancestors down Adam.’ In “Tankas” ‘He weaves thoughts/ With the thread of pain and pangs;/…His hungry and piquant reed,/In the pool of gushing blood’. His people are ‘broken’ ‘How bleak do they look-/ The deep furrows on thy brow/ And thy weary face’. ‘My waste land breeds/ Harvests of blood-drenched phantoms/ Out of the dead soil’. He vows to author his land’s miseries and woes and wounds and onslaughts. “A Lament” is wail of a young woman who has lost her ‘dear hubby/In some fake orchestrated encounter/ leaving behind her a kid’. Her mirror is frosty, cracked and walls dilapidated. In both “Bitter-Sweet Letters” and “Memories”, a relatively long poem, he recollects his old days’ ‘sobs and sighs’, smells ‘Those naked moments’ and wishes to ‘relive those moments’ ‘when I made a fanciful house/ In your unfathomable eyes/ With love-laden bricks.’ Then the poet lulls those moments to ‘sleep/ Lest their spooky guffaws/ Tear apart my eardrums!’. “A letter to my Beloved” (written on 13th September 2016 when Kashmir was under curfew and Eid-ul-Adhha was celebrated) his pathos touches its acme. His beloved is longingly ‘standing bare feet under old chinar tree’ for the celebration of Eid with her husband. But ‘curfew has been imposed/ On either side of the Jhelum’. Still he pleads the boatman to ferry him to the other side. And the boatman ‘pointing at his small kids’ says, ‘“Ferrying you through Jhelum will risk their lives/ As their feeble chests will be pierced by fatal bullets’”. His heart is shattered with recurrent waves of wrongs done to his land:
Once again, the soil of my land
Has been drenched in spates of blood,
Once again, the tender flowers
Have been denied their right to bloom,
Once again, a Pharaoh incarnate,
With all the slings and arrows in his armoury,
Let loose a reign of terror against the unarmed,
Once again, the chameleon might
Trampled upon the victims meek,
His ‘Good Mo(u)rning’ is a satiric lament. Morning headlines which are supposed to make the morning tea enjoyable, in reality are bundles of ‘heap of dead bodies,/ A volley of doleful shrieks’.
In “Divine Realisation” the poet in a dream ‘touched the hem of Truth—the infinite light’ and he was about to be ‘one with Oneness’ by overcoming ‘vortex of vexations’. But at the end of the poem his dream snapped. In “A Prayer for my Daughter” a father’s wish for his blooming daughter is laid bare thus: ‘May God enlighten your being’, ‘May you imbibe the traits virtuous/ of Fatima (RA), Aisha (RA), and their ilk’, ‘May you truly prove to your parents/ the glad tidings the Prophet (PBUH) decreed!’ His “Mystic Musing!” is an attempt to reach to the ultimate truth—the Satya, the Haq. The poet strives to escape from the ‘quaggy Maya jaal’ in order to be assimilated with universal truth, Bramhaan. “Mystic Mariner” is also in the same vein. In “Saqi e Kawther” he implores his beloved, adorable Saqi, Mohammad (PBUH) not to ‘fill my shredded being with shame/ In front of the Saqi e Kawthar/ Do plead Him on my behalf/ To satiate my searingly thirsty soul/ With the elixir of eternal waters’. His “Unholy Holy Men” is a veiled attack on the traders of religion who shamelessly enjoy parks and patronages at the cost of his fellow countrymen—‘I have seen scads of people/ Claiming Godmen,/ And their within is as stygian/ As you can imagine!’ Apart from wearing the garb of a mystic to escape harrowing experiences he at times wants to be transmogrified into ‘a pigeon’ or ‘a lump of ice’.
In “Am I a Human?” he asks himself a bitter question, and finds ‘The serum in my veins/ is brewed with venom of thousand cobras—venom of prejudice, pride, seven deadly sins’. He is wallowing in self-abnegation. He wants to be rescued by Wordsworth’s leech-gatherer. ‘A shoal of leeches’ will stick to his venomous veins. His blood will be purged of drossy venom, and consequently he will be a human with a bold H. “I still call myself a Human!” is his ironic assertion about man’s venomous nature ‘I am on prowl to devour any of my fellow beings’ even the whole world. “Am I a Hollow Man?” is a shameless advocacy of his brazen nature, ‘No voice admonishes me/ On my executing a long chain/ Of vicious deeds again and again’. He is Eliot’s hollow man, stuffed with sawdust.
Pains of Penning Poetry:
His poems “A Frizzled Attempt”, “Exorcism”, “My Muse” “The Bloodied Quill” attempt to attest his lament for temporary bareness, dryness of his poetic frenzy. ‘A horde of thoughts thronged his mind’ but ‘the thread of thoughts snapped again’. He gropes for language to express the ineffable. He fails, breaks nib of his pen. Sometime the muse blesses him. But he can spill words of elegy and mourning. He shrinks to sing beauty of the world. To him birth of a poem, as it is evident, in his ‘Birth of a Poem’ is akin to birth of a child. In “Mother” he strives to write a poem on Mother’s Day. But he fails and finds, ‘yes, I am the poem/ with all hemstitches balance/ in symphonic rhythm and rhyme/ composed by my mother’. The poet undergoes labour pain in giving birth a poem. In his last poem “Driving away the Demons” the poet ‘frantically flung away the quilt/ Looked for his piquant pen/ And scribbled a few lines/ On blank canvas/ He sighed, he sobbed/ he breathed in long breaths’. ‘Skewed thoughts’ pricked his breast, ‘demons haunted his being’. Poetry is his argument and in “Poet: the Redeemer” he to his soul’s contentment finds a redeemer. The world is full of violence:
Syria here, Palestine there,
France here, the US there, where human souls are rent apart,
Along with the world, Kashmir too
Where the Jhelum has turned red,
What can a poet do? And he asserts:
‘Ay! It is the poet/ Who can harbour rays of hope/ In the parched hearts’ and can ‘illuminate a golden dawn/ That shall herald an effulgent era’.
Friendship and Environmental Concerns:
In “A friend’s Pain” the poet appeals his friend to ‘feel each other’s pain/ Mixing with mud under our feet’. In broader sense it urges us to hold hand, to stride tall with our neighbours, friends, relatives, countrymen, irrespective of caste, creed, region, language. “Let your Door Ajar” is also an advocacy to mitigate mistrust, doubt, cobweb of misunderstanding and usher in ‘one ray of trust kindle in your heart’. The door, if not wide open for our fellowmen, let it ajar at least. Through the slight passage a ray of sunshine and warmth will enter our room and drives a darkness and disease.
His environmental concerns are raised in “Let’s Awake” with a forceful clarity and precision ‘Is not man putting Nature in jeopardy?’ He apprehends that time is not far when ‘clouds will pour down acidic rains,’ rivers will dry and human beings fill the air with doleful shrieks, mourning the doom they have created. Finally he urges us to pledge to make our planet an ‘abode of peace and harmony’. His mantra is to save our biodiversity and survive by ‘live and let live’.
There is a host of poems where we find the poet’s rebellious wings beating against the raging winds. In “Rebel” the poet questions all the dogmas, all the canons that manacle the flow of feeling of humanity. ‘The fire within me burns brighter than fire without me’ in his pithy poem “An Epigram”. He resists the tyrants in “The Rage in the Cage!”, ‘My bondage does not hinder me/ To see through their tattered hearts/ And blood-stained hands’; ‘I will catch these false powers/ Unawares someday indubitably/ and like Moses will declare war/ Against all these tyrant gods’. In “A Letter to My Beloved” he categorically asks, ‘Can they impose curfew on the sentiments/ Bubbling in our bosoms?’ and he believes curfew days will not last long, birds will sing songs of freedom and peace and the air will be cleared of oppressions and ills.
Poems such as “A widow and her Tale”, “Sanguinolent Paradise”, and “Spring” stand, to some extent, outside the purview of the said categories. Both in imagery and content they add a varied taste and flavour to the volume under review.
The limitation, if any, I find is his use of unnecessary adjectives and physiological epithets in some poems, which act as hindrance to the flow of his doleful, heart-wrenching, rebellious, mystic musings.
The writer is an Assistant Professor in English at Plassey College, West Bengal. He is a bilingual author, editor, critic, poet and storyteller. He has three critical books: Representation of the Marginalized in Indian Writings in English (Ed.), Misfit Parents in Faulkner’s Select Texts, Banglar Musolman, and two books of poems: Whispering Echoes, Rugged Terrain.
Cover photo by Azhar Amim