The Dance of the Peacock: A Slice of Life
A Review by Rashmi Jain
Sigmund Freud says Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, which is held together by delicate, tough skin of words. This is reflected in The Dance of the Peacock-An Anthology of English Poetry from India, edited by Dr. Vivekanand Jha. The anthology consists of creative poesy by 151 poets. The anthology has a striking title ‘dance of peacock’, as peacock’s dance is exquisite and unique so is the poems included in this anthology. Some poems are graceful, some somber, some mystical, while others have inherent richness in it. Dr. Debjani Chatterjee says, “The poets whose work is included, represent many diversities: they hail from the many different states of India and have different mother tongues, a fact that also shapes the different ‘Indian Englishes’ that they employ; and the poets of the diaspora are globally spread, with most residing in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.” Another striking feature of this anthology is that the editor has tried to include all walks and talks of life, apart from the creations of poets he also included the works of doctors, engineers, diplomats, bureaucrats, politicians, film makers, management professionals, scientists, bank employees, accountants, journalists. The anthology in a way celebrates Unity in diversity.
Dance is a creative art which gives vent to emotions, feelings, expression, and aestheticism, so is poetry. Poetry is the chiseled marble of language; it’s a word-spattered canvas. Poets like Aftab Yusuf Shaikh, Amol Rediji and Aparna Kazi has feminist approaches in their poems. Yusuf Shaikh in ‘Kamathipura’ expresses the ill fate of daughters who are captured and thrown into the dark caverns of prostitution. Amol Rediji’s ‘Gendercide’ in a subtle manner sings about the gender discrimination in a patriarchal society where female child is drowned in milk when they are born. Kazi’s ‘The sun still rises and sets’ expresses the fate of female particularly of wife who had been working day and night like a machine and her sacrifices are uncounted.
Ambika Ananth’s ‘When in love’ compares the piousness, purity of love with calmness and tranquility of still water and sky. Water is shapeless, colourless so is love. Anita Nair’s ‘Hello Lust’ involves one of the cardinal sins as its subject (lust). Metropolitan Culture and Live-in relations are focused where one quenches his/her material and physical desires and drift apart as if nothing has ever happened. ‘You said, I Agreed’ has striking alliteration in it. Anna Sujatha Mathai’s ‘Goddess without arms’, captures the spirit of how poetry is conceived, recollected, contemplated and formed. It reminds of Wordsworth’s definition of poetry as ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings it takes its origin from emotions recollected in tranquility.’ In ‘Pilgrims’ the poet showcases that pilgrims are on a pilgrimage and they travel in search of their destination similarly human soul is also a pilgrim which is on its journey in search of salvation. Arbind Kr. Choudhry in ‘Leader’ sketches the modern leader as:
“A wolf in sheep’s clothing
Sheds crocodile tears for the suffering.
O Blood suckler of the sufferer!
Your name is Leader.” (61)
Poet compared leader to Faustus- a character of Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus who sells his soul to Mephistopheles in order to gain infinite knowledge. Similarly modern leaders sold their souls to gain all kinds of material benefits. They care not even an inch for people and the country but are busy in their pocket fillings. ‘In Quest of Extinct Pleasures’ by Arman Najmi, the poet narrates about the circumstances and memory. Conditions changes with circumstances but memories are evergreen; they remain sedimentated in the unconscious and subconscious. Asha Viswas ‘Another Vignette’ has been described in early Yeatsian style like the Lake Isle of Innesfree. Ashok Chkravorty’s ‘God is deaf and dumb’ is a glimpse of tragedy that took place in Iraq in 2003. The emptiness and helplessness in a child’s eye is highlighted. The pain, grimness and remorse are beautifully posed. His ‘Guns and Gods’ remind one of Owen’s tones.
“Boys, we are at the doorstep of the twenty first century.
The Crusade and Jihad are alive and well
with guns, in the name of God.”(88)
Bipin Patsani ‘Making a poem’ compares writing of a poem to love making. C D Norman wrote about what an unborn poem is and how it comes into existence. ‘The Rising sun’s’ vibrant images and color has been beautifully blended together. The ‘coppery bright’ color of rising sun, the silhouetted coconut fronds/waving in the morning breeze create a mesmerizing ambiance. Chandrashekar Dubey’s ‘Tribal Woman’ is a mockery of women empowerment. Poet presents the reality of life of tribal women, although on papers government is talking about the upliftment of women but in reality it just seems to be an illusion. Their progressive views on democracy with a call of liberty, fraternity, equality seems to be hollow less. DC Chambial’s ‘Om’ traces the journey of mantra Om, as people have been reciting this from centuries to gain mental peace and inner strength. Debjani Chatterjee ‘Angulimala’ and ‘Ravana’ are based on mythological concepts and she also presented a series of poems in Haiku. Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry having 17 syllables in three phrases of 5, 7 and 5 on respectively.
“O jasmine garland
Wilted in white hair, you scent
My memories green.”(Recollecting Youth, 127)
K.N. Daruwalla in his ‘Wolf’ discussed how the wolf myth was a part of his childhood and later they have been hunted down both in reality as well as from the darkest memories. Khursid Alam’s ‘The sun’ brings bright light and sunny smiles to faces. It expresses the continuity of life. Jayanta Mahapatra’s poems in this anthology have a complex symbolic mode. His poems are filled with loneliness and gloom. William Walsh in his essay ‘Small observations in a large scale’ says “his mind and his language works, not by poetic murmuration or suggestiveness but by pointing, by specifying, by delimiting and detailing.” Mona Dash in ‘Love Lost’ expresses that sometimes too much of interrogation ruins the situation. When a true soul mate appears one should never let that person go because once he/she is lost its difficult to find them again and aftermath regrets are left. Nuggehalli Pankaja’s expression with usage of minimal words is mind blowing.
Poornima Laxmeshwar’s ‘A letter’ expresses a mother’s wishes and blessings for her unborn child. She is dreaming of a beautiful future for her child and wants him/her to be a great lover of literature as she says ‘I wish that you fall in love with words’. This represents a pure and selfless expression of love. R.J. Kalpana’s ‘Prakriti-The Elemental Women’ portrays the elementary qualities and strength of women. She is like earth produces life, preserves and nurtures; like fire burns impurities, illuminate light to others, fire also represents the capacity to fulfill impossible tasks; like water can follow and achieve her dreams, adjusts in any ebb and flow; like ether independent in spirit and mystic at heart. Woman is combination of all these qualities, a mystery unresolved. Ranu Uniyal in ‘Prayer’ says it’s the instrument to bring inner peace. It gives strength and ‘a reason to live and be happy.’
Smita Agarwal’s ‘Joyride’ seems to involve personal overtones and shows the joy of a child with her father on a ride. ‘Angrezi Vangrezi’ shows the importance of English all over the world with different assents and how an Indian is mocked when they speak English in an Indian manner. Sonjoy dutta roy’s ‘Words’ brings out the importance of reader as in reader response theory. Words are not only a medium of expression but sometimes of silence as well. Words are capable enough to rage storms but evoke sweet memories like on pages in album or books of poems. The absent is more important than the present. Words have power of creation as well as of destruction. In ‘To you who hold me in your depths’ poet speaks of the hidden mysteries of human eyes. The use of similes to describe the depths of secrets in eyes is extraordinary:
“Like the earth holds the roots
And the dark water, the hidden iceberg.”
Sonnet Mondal has majestically used imagery in his ‘Tyranny of hellish sea’ and ‘Ruined Generations’. Tyranny of hellish sea is filled with the kinesthetic imagery like rolling, thunder, floating which expresses the nature and intensity of sea. Ruined Generations has gustatory images like ‘shivering wine’, ‘offering posthumous drinks of desiccated fruits’ and so on. However these poems are quite different from his 21 lines caudate sonnet/Fusion sonnet.
Usha Kishore’s ‘Vishwamitra and Menaka’ is inspired by the painting of famous artist Raja Ravi Verma. The poet beautifully described the backdrop scenario with minute details of confrontation of Menaka and Vishwamitra. Beauty of Menaka, the celestial nymph has been beautifully portrayed. The beauty of her eyes was like darting arrows; her lips were like rosebuds and so on.
Vivekanand Jha in his ‘Sleep Indespensible’ used similes and metaphors in an outstanding manner. The poet pinpoints that the real face of humanity is so awful and brutal that he had been better in his sleep. The human who had been the epitome of humanity, compassion, brotherhood, love seems to be lost. They turned into ‘pack of blood hounds’, a flock of vulture. In ‘someone else’ the same essence is brought out. He focuses on the atrocities inflicted on the victim of gang rape. The heart rending description shows that the victim suffers not only physically but mentally as well. The tragedy of girl has been described as ravished like a wrecked ship or the souls without wings. The inhuman and heartless nature of mankind has been brought to focus where they resist helping a helpless person as “Her only guilt – she was the daughter or sister of someone else, not of the passers-by” Poet deals with sensitive issue of honour killing in the poem ‘Honour killing’. Poet put forwards the view that though a man boasts of being in twenty first century he couldn’t separate himself from the bondages of caste, creed, and status.
Yasmin Sawhney’s ‘Ode to Daughter’ speaks of splendid relationship between a mother and a daughter. The entire anthology seems to be a slice of life, which represents various feelings and experiences involving joys, trauma, excitement, remorse, delight, love and others. The confluence of different cultures, ambiance with the individual personality of poets together compounded the master poetry. All the poems included in this anthology are engrossing and a typical representation of modern English poetry of India.
Rashmi Jain is a Research Scholar, University of Allahabad, U.P., India.