Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ram Krishna Singh BEYOND THE SHADOW A few notes and a mystery

To assess this poetry - and not the poet – we have to look at each poem and see
what it brings since it is a collection, hence coming from different periods and with no
connections among them. Then after examining the poems a few ideas may emerge. Here
are some of these ideas emerging from the samsara of this collection.
What is surprising at once for that poetry written in English is that in its form itself I
feel the Indo-Aryan syntax of the native language of the author that I assume to be Hindi
though I have in mind the languages I know, Sinhala and Pali. The second poem is typical
with its numerous present participles that give elements that have just been sort of fulfilled
as if they were preterit participles: fulfilled circumstances from whose fulfillment a vision
may emerge and in this poem what emerges is at the beginning: death of course that
cannot be as long as these circumstances have not been fulfilled. That will lead us to
another remark later.
At the same time his reference to haikus is true and false. These poems apart from
one or two very short ones are not haikus. But it is also true because the poet uses
standard concatenated static elements to build images that are at times striking and this is
haiku-ish. We have thus chains of such concatenated static vignettes or cameos and the
meaning can only come from the samsaric chain and not from each small tableau or any
logical or rational stringing of them. This is true of many poems.
But poem 28 is a mixture of both techniques. It is a haiku by its shortness and its
striking conclusion of “a ship on vacation” that sinks. But at the same time he transforms a
negative preterit participle clause into an English negative causal explanation, which it
hardly is. All the poems should be examined at that level of the intertwining of three
syntaxes from three different linguistic traditions, the Indo-Aryan and Indo-European
traditions that are quite close and yet quite different even though they have the same
origin somewhere in the Middle East probably on the Iranian plateau. The third tradition is
definitely different since the languages of the haiku are Japanese or Chinese, isolating
languages based on the concatenation of invariable nominal and verbal elements.
The second remark is poetical. It is the very extensive use of oxymorons to the
point of being able to qualify this poetry as oxymoronic. Consider the conclusion of the
third poem:
“heaven is a mirage in human zoo”
The use of the copula “is” comes from the English language but is not necessary
and the line without it would be a lot more striking in its appositive or concatenated style
and closer to a Dhammapada verse:
“heaven a mirage in human zoo”
“Heaven” and “mirage” are of course oxymoronic, at least if we consider “heaven” to
be a real concept for the poet and not a sarcastic or humoristic reference to something he
does not believe in. That would be trite, not poetic. At the same time “mirage” and “human
zoo” are oxymoronic since a “mirage” is what man sees that is not there. If the zoo is real,
then the mirage is impossible. But associated to “heaven” it then gives to humanity a
gullible and totally absurd reality. They cannot know, even heaven, because they can only
see mirages. Finally “human” and “zoo” are oxymoronic because man generally keeps
animals in a zoo. How can man keep himself in a zoo of his own making? It is this intricate
oxymoronic use of what is basically metaphors that makes this poetry striking.
This second remark leads me to a third one. There is only one allusion to Buddha
but the poems are deeply and pervasively inhabited by some Buddhists concepts.
The most obvious one is “dukkha,” that concepts that states that since everything is
changing (anicca) life is a vast cycle of birth-growth/decay-death-rebirth. The author is
obsessed by his own decay and death. Poem 8 lists his ailments:
“My shrinking body” . . . “devil in the spine” . . . “abusing tongue in sleep” . . .
“bleeding anus” . . . “oozing and stinking” . . .
He refers to that decaying process over and over again. His conclusive formula in
Poem 8, “onanist excursion,” is perfect to describe the hypercondriac onanistic
masturbation of his own self and body, ailments and evils. And this onanism is rightly
identified in poem 29 as “wank without wad” which, beyond the trilogy of initial /w/, the
dukkha cycle, the sterile attachment (tanha) of the poet makes that poet a wanker without
wad hence a sterile wanker practicing sterile wanking producing nothing.
This absolute domination of this totally negative dukkha that brings no rebirth at all
because of the poet’s excessive attachment (tanha) to his own decay (dukkha) is seen as
an evil of the modern world in poem 14. The growth of concrete buildings makes flowers
die, makes tree be felled and disappear, and leaves nothing but a world that produces its
own full sterility and frigidity. A world that has the wank without the wad.
A last remark along that line is the evasiveness and lack of precise presence of the
concepts of anicca, constant change, and of anatta, absence of soul or self. The latter is
totally denied and never mentioned. The soul I even asserted here and there and the self
is omnipresent. But the former can be found though not constantly. Poem 14 is typical of
that constant change anicca but as a catastrophe, an irreversible evolution to destruction,
what he calls “a calamity” and this calamity, this dukkha, in the absence of any rebirth, is
the end of life, of the world. On the other hand poem 13 is a lot more balanced, probably
due to the reference to Buddha. And he asserts that the “loss” due to this constant change
and decay “returns to wholeness,” hence leads to some rebirth, though “returns” is not the
proper word since it is not going back to what it used to be but a new wholeness reached
beyond the destruction of the old wholeness. “Return” is too retrospective.
We could and should examine the many variations of that theme.
A final remark has to be done about the last poems: they tend to become political,
The theme was touched already in Poem 9
“politics of corruption.”

This corruption is like the rotten apple in a basket of apples. It makes the poet’s
“face ugly.” “There is no beauty or holiness left in the naked nation.” “I weep for . . . the
faces they deface with clay dreams.” And this clay is not coming from some messianic holy
city, but it is the heavy and dirty clay that can be found in any field, in the ground and that
turns into mud with some monsoon rain.
But the most powerful poem along that line is poem 24 entitled “Degeneration.” But
this poem asserts the existence of gods. We are far from Buddhism and its godless world,
its soulless man and its selfless (without self) human being.
“When gods are out to teach me a lesson
. . . my prophet friends . . . the palmists . . .
they seek money for rituals, stones or mantras
while God gives us the best in life gratis
. . . now or tomorrow they all delude
in the maze of expediency and curse”
His prophet friends and the psalmists are obviously exploiting the world and people.
But I can hardly accept the idea that god gives anything gratis and it contradicts the first
line, because with all we get from nature, and even from god if you want, there is always a
lesson and the price of this lesson can be extremely expensive.
Poem 27 goes even farther and states:
“. . . a professional loser
. . . strays a preacher
to revolution”
It is clear for the poet there is no honest revolutionary man, there is no honest
revolution which is nothing but a perversion. But this revolution can perverts a preacher,
that is to say “a psalmist” or “a prophet friend” and we know what we have to think about
such people. So a preacher does not need much convincing to be turned revolutionary if
that provides him with the electoral and financial support he needs, he wants, he
contemplates, he greedily craves for.
So, is this poetry worth reading?
Probably yes because it states clearly that if you do not have a spiritual inspiration
you are reduced to your bleeding anus and exploitation by all kinds of fake prophets and
greedy preachers.
One thing though is missing. It is quite obvious love is good but sex is a reduction to
an instant of pleasure, to a wank with a wad, but it leads nowhere beyond that wad. What
about though a sexual partner, a love mate of any sexual orientation imaginable? Let’s say
there is nearly none except a woman a couple of times, particularly in poem 30, the last
poem of the collection. But that evanescent woman is quite special.
“. . . she hates my face
. . . she questions why I think of Bangalore
for treatment of all my ailments
and takes me to Bannerghatta zoo
for animal viewing.”
We know what we can think of a zoo, a human zoo, a zoo that is for human beings
more than for animals. This “she” is not particularly inspiring. She is not a soul mate. She
is not mind mate. She probably is no love mate either, just a keeper and maybe a sex
mate or even only a body mate that likes her men oblivious of their ailments and reduced
to their admiration towards the animals who become an image in the mirror of the eyes of
the voyeur audience of a zoo when the direction voyeur-voyee becomes blurred and the
voyeur is the voyee and the voyee is the voyeur, when the ape is the watching man and
the watching man is the ape.
Don’t tell me such women don’t exist. They might prefer museums or department
stores instead of zoos but the project, the intention is the same: make their partners
contemplative voyeurs as if they were mute mirrors of what they see in front of themselves
and nothing else.



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