Book Reviews

Vihang A. Naik’s Poetry Manifesto

Manifestation of Manifold Musings

Studded with new and selected poems of Vihang A Naik, a reward winning contemporary poet writing in English,  Poetry Manifesto is his outstanding poetic manifesto with deeper understanding of manifestations of his poetic quality and distinctive style. He is a great poet of greater repute, ‘widely published and anthologised'. Till date, he has to his credit, including the present anthology Poetry Manifesto: New & Selected Poems (2010), three other significant collections of poems: City Times and Other Poems (1993) 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 flavor and beauty of his poetry closer to the world. The poems in the present collection, seen through The Third Eye, are the beautiful gems reflected through the 'New Websight. They are 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.

A comprehensive study of his poems, splendidly selected in the book reveals that Vihang A. Naik’s Poetry Manifesto is a manifestation of his poetic creed, his creative vision and beauty, intensity of strong emotions, philosophy of life, sense of realism, eco-socio-political concerns, and existential dilemma. His poetry has several features, both thematically and technically. Love for native places, personal love, ecological concerns, ambiguity, beauty of nature, quest for the meaning in life, poetic vision are some of the recurring themes that find a brilliant and frequent expression in his poems. Precisely divided into 11 sections, Poetry Manifesto begins with his introductory poem ‘New Websight’ wherein he has introduced himself to his readers.

Identification with the place- his nativity and identity- is best articulated in some of his poems. Love for his native place is the dominant theme. On the one hand he highlights the glorious past of the places he lives in, on the other he is saddened to see the engulfing pollution and the deteriorating condition of his towns. In fact, he is a poet with metropolis concerns. It has truly been said that "The hustle and tedium of urban living, the pressures of workplace, the ennui of domesticity, the unrest in the modern society, the distorted image of the nation, and the fast changing values- all breed angst, ire and a sense of alienation or aversion towards the milieu in the modern poets.(Kanwar Dinesh Singh)

The poetry of Vihang A. Naik bears a testimony to this fact. He is quite alive to the problems of the place he is living around. The Banyan City, Ambaji, Gujrat, Ahmedabad etc. are the significant poems wherein his love and serious concerns can be felt simultaneously. The Banyan City, a symbolical poem, is reflective of his concerns about his city Vadodara, ‘the aged city, facing the withered glory, now wrinkled, cracked’. He feels proud and disheartened at other times to see the sad plight of his city that

has stood the time.
The heavy breath,
breathing. A river turns
into a gutter.

He feels that life in a city is troublesome now-a-days. The city is mad with irrationality. Nothing works here. No courage, no reason. He sums up-

you oscillate
between furies
and sanity
finding your
own counsel
in crisis
nothing works

His “Gujarat” is a chronological account of loss of life and properties caused by the earthquake. It is a poignant commentary on the tragedy- “countless deaths/ in countless eyes.” It is a “horrific cracks” in the wall of human habitat.

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.” (The Banyan City) 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. ‘Indian Summer’ is great example of eco-poetry, which lays strong emphasis on the ecological balance. His apprehension can be realized here-

You search/ the city, lost/ in a mirage. The sun fumes.
There is only heat and dust.

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 song of a Koel coos
from engines and smoke pipes.
(Indian Summer)

India is burning in the ‘flame of passion” and “boiling sun”. To the poet, summer is

a roasting season
where the smell lingers
of flesh and blood
burning alive.

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. The ecological imbalance is the sole reason for all this sordid saga of vitiation of flora and fauna due to constant outbreak of pollution. Following the rapid industrialization we need to maintain aesthetics of Nature or environment, for “There is an urgent need to preserve nature mainly for two purposes; first for ecological balance and second for aesthetic value”(Chandra and Das 16).As a conscious poet, he seems to be able to draw the attention of the people concerned towards this serious problem, appealing for creating an eco-friendly atmosphere for peaceful life. The linguistic and the semantic effects are significant and so is the sense of the poet who conveys something very subtle. In addition, pros and cons of a city life is a recurring theme of most of his poems and this is what establishes his position as a poet of city.

Quest for reality and meaning in the desolate life and the world is yet another aspect of his poetry. The technique of questioning our being has contemplative response to our question itself. K.R.  Srinivasan Iyengar opines:

"Not the body, alone nor the mind alone, but the soul also needs to be fed; and the body, although it might be a wonderful piece of work, the cunningest thing under the canopy of heaven, has meaning only to so long as the soul- that invisible less than atom that is still infinite sensibility and limitless possibility- inhabits it, lights it, and charges it to with significance. Poetry is of little use, but of great value: like Beauty, or Goodness, or Love."

Purpose of existence is an issue subject to a demystifying realization, and not to mere discussion and that is what forms a crucial crux of most of his poems. Shakespearean influence on his poetic sensibility can be apparently witnessed in his following lines, pregnant with philosophy of life and a sense of stark realism:

Life becomes now
a game lost in seeking.
A meaningless search.
(Growing Up)

To him “Life is a philosophy. Realizing the futility of life he prays to God to show in his life “purpose or meaning”. In short, his poems abound in his existential concerns. The poem ‘Question” puts a question mark on life. His questions are like

A dog’s tail
that seldom gets straight;
at the slightest philosophic
smell you can see it wag

He further asks only to get at the ultimate truth:

Who am I?
How did you come, where will you go?

and the answer to unlock the mystery of life and death ever remains shrouded in mystery as he reaches nowhere in the search for the purpose. In “Midnight City”, he expresses his helplessness:-“questioning the real /and the unreal / the night helps /none/search/the key lost...” in the city built of “the cry /of stones and streets”, littered with “dry skeletons” lying in “the grave of slumber”.

Vihang A. Naik is a poet of love. Making of a poet is greatly attributed to love in most of the cases. He expresses that “a poet/ hunting a butterfly/ends up/ with a pen/ a blotted image/ a poem.” In “Epic” he pinpoints heavy-heartedly:

Love keeps sterile dreams, reality
is mechanic. Man incomplete.
I have no one to invoke; there is no muse?

Beloved, to him, is a soulful ‘ghazal’, love a ‘haiku’. Hence, like John Donne, he suggests- “Let us kiss and depart.” For the loving affair is going to have an end with the passage of time, in life which is ‘ a tale of prose’.

Prosaic elements in his poetry find a great expression that is very unique of his poetic style. ‘Platform’ and A Day Begins” are very beautiful examples of prose poetry the poet has resorted to for communicating his ideas succinct with tremendous poetic quality. Poetically succinct phrases used in “ A Day Begins “like “ A folded morning slips in”, “The headlines erupt”, “accidents of lines”, “Dark alphabets of horror”, “Masquerades of  metropolis leading to aimless march”, “ A voiceless cry” etc. beautify the expressions of the poet in a different way stumbling to the hard reality of life. . Depicting a very vivid picture of an Indian platform he writes:“Travellers come and go. People meet and depart: squeezed passengers, beggars, coolies, news hawkers, tea stalls and littered tracks make up the scene.”(Platform)

The above poetic statement also has a pinching satire on the filthy surrounding of the platform and the railway tracks littered with garbage. Furthermore, the elements of vehement satire can also be found in his poem “Being Contemporary” based on the experiences the poet seems to have had in his life attending various seminars and symposia. He says-

These days it is wise
To be learned, certified and appointed.
You can be safe
Hammering your thought.

He opines that in the company of “barking dogs” like “Academics, seminarians, professional theoreticians” “You/become one, quarrelsome/ who seldom bites.”

As a matter of fact, it is the vast experience, profound and lofty thoughts and abundance of feelings and emotions refined with finer sensibility, innermost evolution of self, thus matured that make one a poet worth the name. If not, then he is otherwise. He depicts a very satirical picture reflecting his notion about so-called poets:

He saw an animal in front
of mirror. A portrait
of the poet as a young man
. (The Poet As A Young Man)

Suffused with sensuousness and profound thoughts, “The Song of Menaka” and “The Song for Menaka” are the most significant poems that sum up the philosophical temperament of Vihang A. Naik as a man or a poet. He conjures up a sensuous imagery hinting at the ideas of attachment and detachment for liberation of soul from the mundane bondage of life-

Desires may take any form
 just to reveal its urgency.
Fingertips have eyes, exploring.
Eyes become fingertips, unseen.
Body is moha, desired.Maya, admired
. (The Song of Menaka)

In another Menaka centric poem “ A Song for  Menaka” the poet paves the way for the inner and transcendental progression of self and soul from physical to metaphysical realm of the reality, from body to soul, from concrete to abstract, from gross to subtle and herein lies the true beauty of his poetry with an objective approach.  He doesn’t rule out the significance of the body.  He holds the view that “Menace’s charm works as a /Rule. A sage needs senses.” He accepts-

…….. I shall find my moksha
through the flesh of your glazing body.

Wherein “Eyes, lips, breast, thighs, throb with sensuous/ adjectives”, where ‘the heavens and earth meet” resulting into a divine confluence where “A river penetrates the churning ocean”. The poet tries his best to explore the realm of  liberation from the bondage of life and death for  ‘mukti and moksha’. Strains of Vedantic philosophy is quite apparent in his “Aporia” where he declares-

I do not find
the naked seed
after undressing
the skin after skin
of the onion in
my hand.

Endowed with a broader poetic vision, the poet prefers his poetry to be VIBGYOR and that is what forms the manifesto of true Poetry. In fact, VIBGYOR is the acronym of all the seven colors of rainbow (Violet, Indigo, Brown, Green Yellow, Orange and Red.) It contains the symbolic meaning representing different moods of human life. The poet here encapsulates the poetic objective in the life of human beings. Whether good or bad, everything is a part and parcel of our life and poetry is an apt representation of ebb and tide ever surging in the immense sea of life and that has to be tranquilized by the poetic force as can be realized in his titular poem “Poetry Manifesto”:

Yes, a poetry must be 
an unexpected thing ; perhaps silly. 
A nightmare or a dream. 
A craft, a paper art. 
Why bother for something more. 
The why, the how 
and the what of poetry . 
May it be black and white or bloody.
Or let there be VIBGYOR

Ambiguity is an important aspect of his poetry that deepens the meaning of his poems with greater profundity, subtlety and varied richness. Many of his poems are impregnated with ambiguous ideas that finally take us to realize the unexplored aspects of human life. Poems like “A Character”, “Death”, “Growing Up”,” Morning” etc merit our attention in this respect. In his “Night” he remarks-

After the flickers
and melting wax, a dark
void remains.

He goes on expressing his despair and disillusionment in “Infertility”-

The wind carries the seed
and drops at infertile land..
There is a beast within
everyman. Know thyself.

Brevity of expressions with glittering pearls of beautiful thoughts is the true beauty of his writings. Chunks of thoughts and patches of expressions give a full meaning of perfection in their imperfection. Unlike other poets, he takes recourse to a very unique style of putting himself across in the cris-crosses of myriads of poetic output, put in by rest of the poets. His greatness as a poet lies in his technique of telling a very little and leaving rest to the readers to understand and realize. His poetry is like a tip of a vast iceberg that arrests our attention to delve deep into his oceanic psyche and heart to explore much more. Sonnet Mondal has rightly pointed out:

He possesses a musing mind about dual characteristics of people and surroundings and takes up these issues in this thematic caricature. He is never broad at his narrative. Instead he wonders while penning and passes on that wonder to his readers to leave space for his words to echo.

In his poems Vihang A. Naik also tries to highlight the power of poetry in one’s life. In order to bring his point home he often resorts to brilliant and apt use of metaphors and scintillating imagery and succeeds in creating the desired aesthetic effects on a reader’s mind and heart. With remarkable lines, ‘Woman and Man” is a very beautiful poem dealing with the theme of man-woman relationship. He rightly writes-“A poet rhymes the woman/ And the man.”  He further reveals that “a poem / injects life/ in the rib of words.” He makes an elaborate description of making poems out of  ‘pulse’, ‘heart’,’ life’, ’love’, ’feelings’, ’emotions’ etc. He points out- “you discharge feelings/your loose emotions/and flush them/to make clear a poem of words….’ for exploring the joy and beauty of life’ in the desert of waters and bubbles’. To the poet, a poem is a search “in the silence of death". Moreover, moh, mukti, moksh, swarg, nark etc are the key words that he has plentifully used in his poems to push our reluctant soul to comprehend the profundity of philosophy of life.

In short, Vihang A. Naik’s Poetry Manifesto is the rudimentary framework of poetic vision and stunning creation, wonderful expressions of his meandering musings on all aspects of life. Pen, paper and poems are the tools that he has tried to weld around the prosaic ambience of the present time. 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. He expresses his views-

Beauty is surf
Surfing beauty
Here there is
no boundary

Apart from relevant themes as stated above, the technique of the poet deserves a special mention. Dr Kalyani Dixit is quite right when she remarks about Naik’s poetry, “Striking imagery, captivating metaphors and subtle use of other figures of speech add a fresh glory and grace to his poems.” 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 hallmark of Vihang A. Naik as a poet. Using a very befitting metaphor, he exhibits a reader’s response to poetry, and this also holds good with the present anthology-

The endless sari of Draupadi
disentangles. Unending
meanings seductively
Reveal themselves. (A Reader’s Response)

References :

  • Chandra, N.D.R. and Nigamanand Das. Ecology, Myth & Mystery Contemporary Poetry in English from Northeast India” New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2007. Print.
  • Dixit, Dr.Kalyani. “Colossal Range Of Experiences And Philosophical Vision Of Vihang A.Naik’In Poetry Manifesto (New And Selected Poems).”
  • Research Scholar: An International Refereed e-Journal of Literary Explorations I. IV (2013): 248-252.Print.
  • Iyenfar,K.R.Srinivasa.Indian Writing in English Sterling. New Delhi: Publishers Private Ltd., 1994. Print.
  • Mondal,Sonnet. Rev. of Poetry Manifesto at The Enchanting Verses Literary Review .ISSN: 0974-3057.Issue-XVI July 2012 Page(s): 36. Print.
  • MLA Handbook For Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New Delhi: Affiliated East-West Pvt. Ltd., 2009. Print.
  • Naik,Vihang A. Poetry Manifesto (New & Selected Poems). New Delhi: Indialog Publication Pvt. Ltd., 2010. Print.
  • Singh, Kanwar Dinesh. Contemporary Indian English Poetry Comparing Male & Female  Voices .New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors , 2008. Print.


More by :  Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar

Top | Book Reviews

Views: 3497      Comments: 2

Comment Congrats Bhaskar Jha..Commendable Work. Excellent !! Keep it up !!

Mohini Gurav
15-Jan-2016 09:47 AM

Comment Great job done indeed Sir.

Khanindra Talukdar
11-Jan-2016 09:31 AM

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