Rip Not the Sore: an anthology of poems

Book: Rip Not the Sore: an anthology of poems   Author: A. Naseeb Khan   Publisher: Writers Workshop, Kolkata, 2010   Pages: 110   Price: Rs. 200 (Hardbound)   Reviewed by Yoosaph A.K.

“Everything, in our eyes, took on the quality of a history, seemed a more or less logical sequence of events, of attitudes, of works”, writes Milan Kundera in The Curtain (2007). Quite in line with this statement, Naseeb’s poetry portrays the continuity of historical consciousness in one way or the other. His poems lament not only the lost demeanour of the past but also testify the brazen abruptness of the present. Dwelling on common and familiar ethos, he pokes a poetic fervour on the rhythmic strings of historical ruminations. There is always a mixture of silence with the boisterous undulations of life. In this sense, he dovetails life with the wanton actualities of every day experience.

Khan’s anthology consists of 60 poems covering multifarious subjects ranging from the ruminations on historical past, tradition and culture, mental agony, love, attachment, domestic life, politics, and on a host of themes relevant to the contemporary life. He presents an evolutionary mental picture that flows from the first to the last poem. The skeptical dilemma that he underscores builds up into an enervating problem but sublimely concludes with a satisfactory solution towards the end of the anthology. His poems amalgamate the concrete with the abstract and a whole lot of hybrid problematic that eat into the social, political and individualistic spheres of human life, displaying chaos and disparity in every context. For instance, the poet expresses his suspicion and anxiety in the following lines:

People feel out of sort / Proud of present, revile past / Surplus energy, random channel / Ethic, morality subject banal! / How will you write a palatable poem? (p. 106).

This crisis is further elaborated in the next poem with more emphasis on the minute aspects that contribute to the inner fabric of this scenario. Going to the past, the poet meanders through the snaky roads to the inner avenues of life to explain this crisis in the following lines:

How long from cocoon of the family / Will I peer at the world / See the life through tinted glasses? / I am young moth no longer / I’ll rip wrap cocoon / Force my way to take new birth/ To be an organ  /  Part of the system… (pp. 109f).

Looking at the past is like researching the inner realms of our everyday life. It could be observed that his poems integrate the contemporary worries of the rural, naïve and unsceptical human beings who seek a deliverance from the present. The experience one gained in the past about the commonplace of life has no value even though it has been taught and repeated at quite a lot of instances. Therefore, the way out is just remembering things of the past with the conscious suppression of the present as can be seen in these lines about the teaching that a man had been exposed to:

Approach plausible to reason / dismantles sentimental hypotheses / unfolds a long vistas / of ups and downs / and delves deep into our predicaments… (p.15)

In fact, Naseeb doesn’t forget to reveal the brighter side of the youthful celebrations of the present among fear and love as explicated in one of his poems “Life flows” representing the beam of light that passes the turbulent minds. However, he juxtaposes this sight with the reenactment of the past by old souls by blackening their hairs which actually shine white.

Sometimes the poet expresses reservations about the present in which irony is intertwined with melodious charm. The destruction of a political, social and cultural vantage seems to be a compelling theme in his poems. He asks with apprehension: “Is this the city you treasure the most?” In order to bring home the strength and vitality of the innate sensibility of his ideas to the reader, he resorts to auditory images by selecting short and rhythmic words.

Naseeb deviates from the footsteps of those poets whose narrative techniques are often elaborative, rendering the poems unreadable. He has selected words carefully to appropriate the sense so as to reveal the subtle nuances of the ideas behind each. In a world where dog eats dog, the melodious rendering of our worries and tribulations will definitely find space so that these poems would turn to be a soothing balm to afflicted minds. “Let Me Stand!” arouses questions about an ill-disposed world where love finds no depth and significance when “selfishly exposed minds” crave for the ugly and the shameful. This poem seems to highlight our loss of the spiritual and humanistic glory by being too materialistic. In fact, Naseeb relives the individualistic aberration of the romantic vein.

The growing communal tensions among the people of India on the basis of religion, caste and creed are perceived with fearful apprehension by the poet and he does not sideline the importance of social cohesion and harmony among the people but inculcates the secularist outlook in which people are treated as those endowed with qualities of living together as brothers and sisters. “Ramu and Abdul” is a powerful example of this egalitarian viewpoint. The green meadows, goats and cows of both Ramu and Abdul are meant for all whose senses are not deprived of the necessary human values on which a secular society can thrive peacefully. There is also an unbiased presentation of the violence that strikes terror on the streets that leaves hundreds of human lives mortally devastated and homeless with severe traumas that bring about “a long lasting effect,” as exemplified in “Death’s Dinner,” in the form of mental agony. Here it is quite out of the ordinary to note that the poet illustrates the terrible image of death as relishing food with violence.

Our life is always centred on the fire that glows in the hearth and in effect it is symbolic of the homely ambience. It seems to be a common observation on the part of the poet to point up the rural atmosphere where children enjoy playing without any obstacles and life goes on with amusement and empathy in a pleasant locale. Even the Sun enjoys being with the life that thrives on peace and enjoyment by providing “balmy glow” (“Hearth and Home”) to a corroborated sense of loss, perhaps.

“Come back spirit” is an invisible call for peace and amity among the people who live together, for they have lost the emotional attachment of one another. His pacifying words address them to foster confidence and commitment with the expectation that nothing fearful will be lurking behind the curtains of their lives. He strongly believes that “nothing can erode our confidence”. The pulse of life will be poised for a peaceful coexistence where the police and the forces will be forced to appreciate the bravery of the people. Nevertheless, the poet is conscious about the distraction of mind on the part of society and hopes that the straightforward nature of human beings will survive to enhance the dynamism of coexistence. The words and deeds will be the same as we had been expecting it for many generations. The moral virtues of human beings are, to a great extent, forgotten in the contemporary world, and therefore the reinstatement of these values is essential for the rural upbringing of the warm hearth of life.

Mahmoud Darwish’s observation about poetic creativity is notable when he says “every poet has his habits. I am among those who compose their poems twice. The first time, I let myself go with my unconscious inspiration; the second, I give priority to my perception of the imperatives of construction. And it seldom happens that the second draft in no way reflects the first.” Similar to the late Darwish poetic creation seems to Naseeb Khan a spontaneous and continuous overflow of reveries and inspiration which he polishes, if necessary, on the second thought. Thus his poetry has remarkable qualities that goad the reader to steer clear of the ubiquitous drudgery of everyday life.

Naseeb Khan deals with simple unnoticeable subjects in some of his poems in which he seeks full flowering of the emotions in an extremely poised mood intermixed with a sort of antithesis.Laugh generates a serious but emulsifying gratification when it spreads the light of joy among people, keeping their “grief off”. He goes on to justify the significance of smile that “warms heavy hearts” in the short poem Smile, exposing the augury of embrace as a warm and vital imperative for the camaraderie among like minded people. Smile is not just an expression but a remedy and relief to the broken minds of the contemporary world. InSunset or Dawn? the poet intensely presents the antithesis though, invisibly, in a moderate atmosphere with the symbols of darkness and light intermittently engaging in a busy world. The hardships of the day’s labour are vividly dealt in a few lines in the poem with a precision particular to the sharp-witted writers.

However, the poems are not without flaws which would cause to make the reader think again about the anomalies that pervade emotions. In some cases, the poems seem to be repeating the same ideas on different occasions. The rural and the child-centred life gets revisited in some poems while the tone does not keep the same pace. In some instances the poems happen to be more simplistic than is expected of a serious deliberation of some issues which are actually so simple and common. There are some cynical preconceptions about the inner dimensions of the life around, brought about in a despondent atmosphere giving way to pathos more than ethos. Essentially, the poems in this collection bring home the apprehensive deliberations of a serious observer of life whose actualities are contemporarily awesome and worthy of such considerations. The poet has, in fact, made a monogram of the multifaceted ill of our surroundings, thanks to his keen observation coupled with an in-depth meditation. These poems are therefore a commemoration of the righteous in contrast with the inhuman denomination of the present day world.

Dr. Yoosaph A. K. is an assistant professorin King Saud Univeristy, Riyadh