Book Reviews

Vihang A. Naik's City Times & Other Poems

City Times & Other Poems,
Poet: Vihang A Naik, Publisher : AuthorHouse. 2014,
ISBN: 978-1-4918-9713-3. Pages 81

City Times & Other Poems is a wonderful compilation of new and selected poems of Vihang A Naik, a reward winning contemporary poet writing in English. It is remarkable for his poetic quality and distinctive style. Naik is a great poet of great repute, ‘widely published and anthologised’. Till date, he has to his credit, including the present anthology City Times and Other Poems (1993), three other significant collections of poems: Poetry Manifesto: New & Selected Poems (2010) and Jeevangeet (Gujarati Poems published in 2001) and Making A Poem (2004). Furthermore, he is an outstanding translator at the same time. He is a tech-savvy; hence he has succeeded in getting the flavour and beauty of his poetry closer to the world.

The poems in the present collection are beautiful, thoughtful and spontaneous reflections of his experiences he mustered from time to time. They are innermost expressions of varied and vivid moods of the poet. Precision of language – brevity of expressions used in pouring out his thoughts and ideas – is a variegated feather added to his cap. Unlimited in range and variety, his poetry deals with manifold musings on the mundane.  City Times & Other Poems has precisely been divided into six sections- ‘Love Song of a Journeyman’, ‘Mirrored Men’, ‘The Path of Wisdom’, ‘Self Portrait’, ‘At The Shore’ and ‘City Times. Each section, except ‘Self Portrait’ contains seven poems.

The anthology begins with the subjective glow with eloquent beauty of love in the poem ‘ Your beholding’. Like a ‘journeyman’, he sings his love song all along his inner journey with the romanticism at its best-

I’d then begun
to hear wings
in empty spaces.
A song
in the desert
of my heart. A first journey.

In the age of globalization materialism takes a stride. He feels saddened and disheartened to see the sad plight of the contemporary times gripped with the notion and objectivity of physical pleasure. He depicts the realistic picture-

the world shrinks within
the boundaries
of flesh
(the world)

He is a conscious poet of ecological awareness. It goes without saying that pollution has defiled the beautiful landscape of the country. The hectic life styles of the people have turned from bad to worse. People are quite indifferent to the glorious past of the city they are living in. There is lack of ecological consciousness in them. Such people, lost in the tangled ways and means of life, “grapple for meaning /in the traffic of noses. His ‘City Voice’ poignantly describes this alarming situation-

…. signal lights
In crowded smoke
An old man coughs
The illness
Of his age

The smoke pollutions seem to have blurred their vision as “There is humming of vehicles. The city mumbles”. However, the poet is confident and optimistic enough to regain the healthy environment because “The roots won’t die.” Many of such poems are reflective of his ecological concerns. His apprehension can be realized in the following lines bringing to the fore the futility of city life-

in the noises
of a city
whose streets
lead you nowhere
(how long)

In “Midnight City”, he expresses his helplessness that he feels in the city built of “the cry /of stones and streets”, littered with “dry skeletons” lying in “the grave of slumber”.

questioning the real and the unreal the night helps none
search/the key lost...

‘Self Portrait’ sums up the essence of the poet’s quest for realising the ultimate reality of life. His focus shifts from the outward observation to the inner realisation. He stresses inner travelogue to the worldly migration for no purpose. According to the poet real purpose of life is to turn inward and evolve introspective approach-

wake up
to see; my
( Self Portrait)

Modern man forgetting the sole purpose seems to have lost into the world of flesh. Physical gratification of his desires has made him go astray from the right path. He has very beautifully described the desire of human beings through the use of ‘octopus’ as a metaphor.

the octopus of desire stirs arteries and veins tears flesh apart feeding upon fire swallowing air (desire).

Indian landscape with all its beauty, impurity and pollutions gets reflected through his poetry. His wonderful presentation of the things of life sometimes fills us with great pride, with joy and other times the plight of the country and the countryside, including the towns and cities, stings our consciousness. Beauty and ugliness go hand in hand. The poet has a keen tab on the transformation of romantic and divine love into perversion. He makes a satiric comment on such love that is much more poisonous. The love sans loyalty and fidelity, even if it is enchanting and beguiling, is useless. He remarks-

.. the skin
of beauty
instinct poses
forget the venom
of fangs

His poetry deals with the harsh, stern and stark realism of life with a sense of futility, pain and sorrow. In some of his poems, he has expressed this social reality and changing colours of the social beings through the outstandingly apt use of metaphors – insects and reptiles like chameleon, spiders, serpent, octopus etc. His sense of disillusionment, just like Eliot’s’, is reflected here in the following lines-

you find yourself
strange in the fog
of knowledge
enter the world
of deception
be cheated
cheat yourself
see things
with double eyes
(after innocence)

His sense of futility of life is further reflected in his poem entitles ‘bears a meaningless mask’ that is a universal appeal to the people to let the light remove the glaring darkness from heart and the world-

.…. open
the door of his heart
where the darkness lies.
A room of mere

The plight of the people faced with the scorching heat of life pains him to a considerable extent. Rain of peace and thunders of hope still elude us. The poem is expressive of his environmental concerns. He feels that life in a city is troublesome now-a-days. The city is mad with irrationality. It is a poignant commentary on the tragedy- “countless deaths/ in countless eyes.” His ‘a broken song’ is a “horrific cracks” in the wall of human habitat. He pathetically recalls-

memory still
the mugging parrot
cute companion
who died
by the sun’s
scorching fireballs
(a broken song)

All the poems in this wonderful collection are fascinatingly appealing, profoundly reflective, and emotionally enduring. He speaks of his own observation of modern metropolitan life - insipid modern man, and his surroundings. He satirises the follies and foibles of the times. If he sings songs of love and experiences of the world, describing all the vicissitudes in the human life with a thinking mind and a feeling heart with empathy and compassion, he also throws sufficient light on ‘mirrored’ personality of the people with various facets. He tries to find out some meaningful purpose from human existence in some way or the other. In this poetic endeavour he turns philosophically suggestive and morally instructive, showing ‘The Path of Wisdom’. He warns- Listen! Death Knocks’ only to steer the people in the right direction to the path of virtues, shunning away all the gross ‘ desire’, ‘pleasure’ that they have fallen into due to ‘ illusion’.

In short, Vihang A. Naik’s City Times & Other Poems is the rudimentary framework of poetic vision and stunning creation, wonderful expressions of his meandering musings on all aspects of life.. Love, longing, socio-political concerns, philosophy of life, spiritual, personal, impersonal aspects of life, his personal experiences, his deep musings and reflections find a great expression in his poetry. Apart from relevant themes as stated above, the technique of the poet deserves a special mention. His style is remarkable for the apt use of striking imagery and captivating metaphors. Truly, symbols, paradoxes, metaphors, shortened and extended, sensuous and sensual images, structures of the poems, beginning of the poetic lines, use of capital letters at some places etc. are very unique of his style that spontaneously engages our attention to the poems for their emotional, visual and aesthetic effects. Precision of the language, economy of words, different eye-catching forms and imagery with visual and non-visual, concrete or subtle content as a whole are the hallmarks of Vihang A. Naik as a poet.

The book is worth reading! Happy reading!

(An abridged version of this review was published in Asian Signature, Second Volume, 2015)


More by :  Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar

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