Review of ‘The Dance of the Peacock’ by Dr Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

Brave New Effort – ‘Epic Anthology’

 -Dr Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

 Of late there has been an un-orchestrated demur at Indian English poetry that it is hegemonised by desi poets and that the publishers too followed suit. Desi is no un-complementary word or deprecation. Desi ghee is supposed the best by all. How can one stem the so called hegemonists except by bringing out a sumptuous book of poems from the huge fraternity of poets native as well as Diaspora. Editor Vivekanand Jha and the Canadian publisher Hidden Brook Press, designed and displayed a voluminous anthology of one hundred and fifty of multitudinous cadres, professions, age-groups among both the sexes. There was Palgrave who brought out a golden treasury several decades ago. In this millennium Vivekanand Jha spent two years to bring out this anthology printed in our country.

Dr Debjani Chatterjee wrote in her foreword to this book: “…Another egalitarian feature of the anthology is the platform that it offers its contributors; well-known or neglected names.” (Emphasis mine) The editor rightly called the book an epoch anthology. Only a very few poems can be presented in this review as any review does.

Abhay. K’s ‘Qutub Minar’ is a brief and enchanting poem.

Soaring

poetry in the sky

unrivalled flight

                             or a feast

a toast to time

a tower of victory

                             or a calligraphic feat (p.6)

‘Kamathipura’ tells us of the location of a red light area in realistic terms with a conclusion of heart rending actuality:

‘….

The room smells of stale perfume,

Of sperm, of sweat of healthy thighs

…   …   ..

While pulling out and pushing in

He notices the mark that mother gave her

Last time he had ever seen

His seven year old sister, lost for

Fifteen years.

His pleasures became his instant fears

And knowing not what to do further,

He stays still, not knowing how to move any more. (p.7-8)

Ambika Ananth’s ‘When in Love..’ makes the reader think of alluring passion:

Like water with no colour of its own

Looks blue under the blue sky,

I feel lovely

Assuming the beauty of your love’s passion… (p.31)

Anita Nair’s short poem ‘Whisky Whispers’ is safe for it makes us think without inebriating us: uninteresting:

In the night

the undersides that strange light?

Is it the pale fist of the wandering moon?

Or the street lamp with its steadfast beam?(p.48)

Bibhu Padhi’s poem ‘A Sign of Winter’ makes the thoughtful reader look inwards and enjoy a new sensation of either flowering or blight;

‘In the old time, the new year.

Small promises rise up.

…   …   …

Promises. Will the hear

know which ones to choose

in an act of delicate gathering at all?(p.91)

Almost every penman or poet has his or her own perception of the ars poetica. Here is Bipin Patsani’s imagination:

The voyage

More exciting

Than the destination,

Making a poem itself, in itself,

Is a wonderful experience

As intimate and intense

As love making. (p.97)

C.D.Norman thinks deeper about the pre-making pangs in ‘The Unborn Poem’

‘Nothing spills out

but a few halting phrases

assembled limb by limb

to please the prying eyes

which quizzically enquire

can science give birth to poetry? (p.112)

The Himalayan poet D.C.Chambial wrote ‘Om’ which illustrates his devout temperament:

Ran

Like a horse

Amuck.

…   …   …

Over a stone

broken heard the sound

Om1 Om! Om!(p120)

Debjani Chatterjee wrote about Angulimala the dreaded finger cutter who turned Buddha’s devotee:

‘…   …   …

How many children whimper through the night,

chased by the finger-monster,

till theyturn around and don his snarling mask?

How many Angulimalas still stalk the earth?

Are any fingers safe?(p.123)

Geetashree Chatterjee descrbies autumn while trees shed leaves and cold winds blow:

Frozen leaves hold their breath

Footfalls are silenced to death

Autumn is yet to recede

But the painter’s brush has a wintry edge

As He hurries a stroke in watery hues… (p.141)

Gopal Lahiri paints a picture of the quality of serious minds:

In a quiet room with no window

Exploring the forms of life in darkness,

A search for strange and unknown depth,

We move to our dreams and destinations.

We fall for the inner mysteries and shadows….(p.146)

The tree is a wonderful trope with many an exposition by imaginative minds. Harish Kumar Thakur pays this tribute in his poem ‘A Lovely Poem is Like a Tree’:

A lovely poem is like a tree

But greens of leaves and strength of stem

In a poem shall we ever see?

A poem is a song, a prayer, a psalm

That tells us to pray and sing of god

But a tree sings of god while raising its arms. .. (p161)

Clouds make us all thoughtful and for poets they give an impetus to imagine high. Poet Raghupathi says this:

I am drunk with the dribbling manna of their joyous spirit

as I sit in the lap of soaked hills

and heat their feeble but penetrating voice calling me

to wake up and race with them to the heavenly heights. (p197)

Karan Singh once the real king and later the learned parliamentarian sings of the Supreme Being in his poem ‘To Lord Siva’:

I am Your play thing.

You can breathe into me

the fire of eternal life

and make me immortal;

or You can scatter my atoms

to the far off corners of the universe

so that I disappear for ever

…     …   ..

I am Your plaything

the choice is Yours. (p203)

The writer of the poem ‘Evolution in Reverse’ is a microbiologist:

‘I am

an amoeba

one-celled

fluid and shapeless

moving in response

to simple stimuli.

…     …..     …

Tell me,

In all these many millions of years

What have we achieved by evolution?

Were we not

immortal

long before we knew it? (p231)

M.V. Satyanarayana mulls over things after life in “Graveyard’;

…..

At last, they found their real home here;

safe and snug in good neighbourhood and scorpions

of vultures, serpents and scorpions

having well escaped from vile human jungle.

This is the grand grave yard

Of life after life

Where every human is dreaded to tread

but ultimately reached when dead. (p.235)

Mani Rao has written this classic poem ‘Classic’:

If everything is impermanent why do you want it

I don’t want anything forever

You will disappoint everyone

Then you will be free. (p.241)

In an age of gadgets, electronic devices and computers and information technology things are imagined accordingly. Nikesh Murali writes ‘The Web-Cam Suicide’:

Death in 1’s and 0’s

The binary expression of muted cries,

The digital murmur of a broken heart.

Tears don’t follow hypertext protocals,

The soul is not coded to turn a blind eye. (p.275)

Nuggehalli Pankaja writes a long poem ‘Ripples of Emotion’ in seventeen ripples and here are a few of them:

III.

 

Old Age

Shrivelled flowers

Women haggard,

Eye,

each other

with thoughts unspoken

V

Glory

Stars twinkle

with mockery

over our short-lived glories.

XIV

Ains

Like so many daggers

At throat

Sins cut our soul. (pp 278-81)

Male behavioural quality has two hands which are shown by P.K.Joy in his ‘Two Hands of a Man’:

In the crowded bus

he slowly looks around

And stealthily stretches

his craving right hand

To touch the young lady

standing by his side

While with the left he protects

his own wife in the crowd…. (p.290)

Here is a mother’s thought in Poornima Laxmeswar’s poem ‘A Letter’:

My dear unborn-

While you silently rest in the warmth of my womb

With those sensitive eyes which cannot even descry

Here I am –

Already knitting you’re your perfect

Diamond like dreams

Unpredictable, yet wished for. (300)

Prabhanjan K.Mishra’s ‘The Dung Woman’ has humane sensibility and a deep apathy for the poor woman, poor in many ways:

The sickly, woman draped in a white sari

Turning gray by overuse and

For want of soap, collects dung

In a basket carried on her head.

…     ….   …

She takes a greying thread

from the hem of her threadbare sari

and wraps it around the sacred Banyan:

“May the memory and sweetness

of our union flower and bear fruit

in my womb. Oh Lord, don’t let

the little angel turn into a mean pig

like his chameleon father.” (p.303)

Raja Nand Jha looks deep into his heart when he writes ‘Poetic Homage’ marked (for my wife) underneath:

     1.

I wouldn’t let you die

Till ink’s left in the pen

I vow to write on thee,

Please grant it fulfilment.

   6

Spring of life

With whom I spent

I, an umbrella,

And she, its frame. (343-45)

Ramendra Kumar’s Adultery’ looks into the aetiology of the ailment:

More often,

It is not

The body

But the mind

Which commits

Adultery…. (.350)

‘Freezing Fantasy ‘ is a poem by Semma Aarella expressing the speaker’s heartthrob;

Time slowed the growing chill

Froze its tireless hands as the

Frost crept to every corner and

Settled immaculately on the wall clock.

The tempt (sic) of nature mounted outside

With congeniality to my thoughts

And the poet within was just about to

Transcend the physical and live greater ecstasies

But you vengefully rose from the seat,

Drew toy curtains over the window

And killed a beautiful evening

With the attribute of a jealous lover. (p.374)

Sneha Subrahmanyan Kanta’s poem ‘Death, A Prelude’ holds the mirror up to the busy modern traffic. Hearts of people briskly rushing forward on the road are mostly not in the right place:

She winced in pain

not a soul stooped by

passed away

at an unearthly hour

with silent deep sighs

The moon glazed her

motionless body

which became cold

as hours flitted by

Morning shadows arrived soon

To beckoned closed eyes. (410)

‘Keeping Count of Things I Need’ is Sreelatha Chakravarthy’s poem about the speaker’s wish, desire and hope:

….     ….   …

two eyes that twinkle,

twenty reasons to smile,

I peek for such pretty images

In the mirror for a while;

One word of kindness,

hundred different trends

I search for romance of that kind

from a human being I call friend. (p.423)

Stephen Gill’s ‘The World of Poetry’ is about poetry and it concludes thus:

The soul of poetry

can be reflected but partially

through the earthly mirror of symbols. (p.431)

Tej Deep Kaur Menon’s ‘Charcoal’ is the expression of a horrifying hurt with scalding burns in a woman’s heart:

Charcoal on a white hospital bed.

Who will keep the flies away?

The maggots of dowry that

poach the veins should burn

till no more.

I burn with a mugful of

kerosene kept aside

every time you doused me,

charged with sparks,

when you hit me. (p.449)

Usha Akella also wrote a poem about poetry in ‘Tomorrow’s Poem’:

I want to begin a poem

Without saying ‘I want’,

Wait like a page or

       Undone button in the dust,

A poem that comes like

a blighted ovum,

fading as a body fades into a shroud.   … (p.453)

Vandana Kumari Jena’s poem ‘Angst’ is a realization.

It took me

thirty minutes

to pour out

the pain of

forty years of my existence

all my suppressed desires

and silent screams

withered hopes and

clipped ambitions

into twenty lines

of poetry

How empty

my life

must have been. (p.463)

Vibha Batra’s poem ‘Happy Birthdays’ is about the speaker’s coming to a conclusion:

It’s my birthday

While some people exult and go ‘yay’

All I can do is grimace

And count the lines on my face

…   …   …

I just wish I could be free from birthdays

And they could go away

On a well-deserved holiday. (p.470)\\

Vivek Narayanan’s ‘Wind’ reveals intense cerebration’

If there are others on this page with just,

they are marked by a tapering mound of thatch,

or the yellow shrapnel of a shrine.

Wind is the hint of what could happen. (p.483)

‘Elegy to Animal’, is the poem by Vivekanand Jha, the editor of this anthology which reveals his deep thinking and attitude towards life:

Time turns turtle on tip toes.

Now roaming and bruised souls

of your slayed comrades

wavering over their heads

like rage on the mind of insanity.

They are now parched

For want of each other’s blood.

Soon you’d witness them chewing,

devouring flesh of each other

like a horde of hyenas. (p.489)

All the five hundred and odd poems in the anthology are valuable and each reader has his own taste and ability to rank or grade each poem or poet. The hard reality of life is that nearly all girls get married no matter their pulchritude. Beauty is in the eyes of the one who sees. To talk in terms of percentages – of the very great, pleasant, worthy, absolutely unworthy – is passing value judgements not necessary in literary criticism and still less in reviewing. I remember Sisson’s phrase ‘fishing in a barrel’. This book can be marked AAA – acclaimed with alacrity and aplomb.

The Dance of the Peacock, An Anthology of English Poetry from India, Ed. Vivekanand Jha, Hidden Brook Press, (Canada) 2013 ISBN 978-1-927522, pbk,

pages 518, Price 26.95 USA$

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Nuggehalli Pankaja on March 3, 2015 at 05:58

    Thanks for mentioning my poemlets

    Reply

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