Prem P C K, Collage of Life, Authorspress, New Delhi,
ISBN978-93-5207-274-3 pages 96, Price Rs. 195, $10/-
Some times actuality appears like obfuscation and bewilderment. Poetry coming from poets like PCK Prem baffles sounding Eliotesque. Prem’s collage is a vast picture showing many clippings of different sizes hiding more than showing for a grotesque effect. The poet dedicates the two parts of this collection Collage of Life, and In Lanes Past, sets them in fourteen and twelve poems and dedicates them to his grand daughter Arya. At the out set I wish her all good luck for I consider her grandpa’s blessing it is to make her live up to traditional living patterns.
On the whole the collection can be renamed more effectively as wasteland revisited.
The poet seems to suggest: This is the way our world ends this is the way our world ends - neither with a bang nor with a whimper - but with bewilderment. This collage has in it portraits of various kinds and sizes of individual characters instead of newspaper clippings all arranged in an artistic manner by the poet. As in a collage human oddities and frailties are juxtaposed, sometimes grotesque some times odd but always piquant.
The poet has portrayed a troubled present. The intention is not penitent. There is obfuscation if you call it so. The poet does not want to miss an opportunity to look into actuality intentionally. In the first part called Collage of Life there are fourteen poems. The first poem ‘River of Life’ is electrifying.
Hills are very hot in winter too.
In heat, I muse and figure out
go slowly to the river,
with little water it flows.
… …. ……. …
as eyes look out for water,
and measure the depths of sky
to locate men in animals,
it is a modern curiosity and truth,
as thirst and hunger, pain and sorrow
of the dumb and the vulnerable,
indulge in chaotic original sin. (p.11)
The reader is taken far and only his imagination would give him a bit of understanding. As for the poet himself
Fallacy I continue to nurse if taps go dry
and create forever a crisis in projects,
where a man in a ghost would go,
a terrible situation it is,
a stained man refuses to concede. (p.12)
Then there is a glimmer of understanding:
It appears in a violent age
where man is a spectre,
and does not accept truth of a wasted life. (p.12)
Man is going to face deluge as the poet says:
Another age of calamity and wreckages visits,
Controls the moon and the sun without telling
If a man digs and devours it is quiet,
If he strangles and wipes out, the age is silent.
… …… ….
I am a hypocrite words invade,
and tell I am awake
and elongated cryptic eyes seem dead. (pp.13-14)
Here is a prediction in the poem ‘Voices’:
Grey water springs up pulsating waves
as hopping turns out a craze
in choking drowning,
While figures fill polythene bags
with human soil on route
to a soulful requiem,
where lips spread are abandoned,
like choral tunes in wasted time. (pp16-17)
Modern man is alone. This is because of his distrust and total lack of understanding as the poet said with a sigh in the poem ‘A Lonely Man’
I watch closely as breathings tremble
air appears scarce alone and glum,
it wants escape, believers not miseries
fated to strengthen.
I go nearly hesitant of me, I am
I laugh and fall with a thud and cry for help. (p.20)
For an earlier poet, remembered widely even now, men appeared hollow and stuffed. For this contemporary poet people appear tiny but not funny as we read as children from Jonathan Swift. Writes he in ‘Tiny People’
People spend nights on cold grimy beds
during chilly nights as water pours a lot,
to mock at eyes, stunted hands and bodies
that craft majestic giant structures,(p.22)
The poet makes us laugh/hate priests in ‘Painting of a Priest’:
Godly looks many zinnias in the eyes
and fragrant roses in tray
emit infected dribble to alienate,
parsons and babas of asylums
for they are no longer holy
as preaching gets murky with each word
because orphans, widows and the elites
look unsound and decrepit.
He burns incense, rings bells
and tastes marijuana and chants mantras
in a yajna but refuses entry to deities. (pp. 23-24)
The poet spits and spews venom with hatred and as the readers read it.
There is a childhood poem ‘Man Does Not Know’ in three parts that even childhood is joyless and at times insufferable. This means that nothing is worth living.
A man does not know that he is born with fears
panic uncertain chases throughout.
Fear of crying, beatings and teacher’s rebuke
a cautious walk in the veranda of a school
with peeled off plastered walls,
giving ugly looks and asking to sit and cram
read lessons of great men visualizing valued tutoring
that tried to make good citizens. (p.25)
The poet goes further of the festive grasslands gone, nostalgia and fine word goodies. It was game of hide and seek when fears did not exist and he was happy though he was sad and angry when mom asked him to read and write. As he was grown up he often feigned work. However there was a way when the boy heard the sound of a door closing when mother was leaving. He rushed to grandma and enjoyed listening to fairy tales. The reader smiles to himself when he reads that he enjoyed when asked not to work.
Victorian Dickens in memory lane and conditions in Inida are described in eleven parts. In this long poem life in those times is honestly described and there is not much horror, anguish or disgust.
Dickens is prophetic and wittily incisive
and so he peels us social spectrum to tell
that man has not grown up yet.
Continuing life of austerity in hard times amidst plenty
a disorder and myth of intellect it is I feel,
Living with beliefs and growth is an illusion
forever young and exciting reaching nowhere,
for it looks age evolutes not and man appears to unlearn.(p.34)
‘Arty Message’ is not true and meant to be half true,
Life is a history of lies
a man indulges in
to create a self-protected image
of reality in an age of mendacity
where priests sing songs
and talk of hymns. (p.35)
‘Death that Designs’ is experiencing tragedy with not even a trace of joy anywhere.
Long ago conceived it was
thought out and brought near,
the scaffold for final punishment,
it happens, for none relinquishes
the right to love, (p,36)
Life continues. Continue it must and continue it will.
It is history of wrinkled weedy past
heritage of man’s violent exploits
bequeathed in a spirit young to feel fit
when future heard the sweet berceuse
to give birth to present that leads to sky
but fills it with blood and ghosts in men.
…… ……. ………
It is life’s imbroglio designed meticulously,
shaped enchantingly, and still without design and shape.(p.38)
The poet has another conviction:
This life‘s a façade
nothing but a moment’s decision,
taken in a dream, reveries
of living present. (p.39)
Variety is the spice of a collage. Here are several moods, several acts, and several feelings with many convictions. One has to experience several ramifications in beliefs. Further there are clippings of the young and the old, men and women, plain speakers and cheats, big and small – in short – you name it and you will have it.
In the second part In Lanes of Past there is another variety. Past is a matter joy and the poet begins talking about his walking along the river bed:
I recall my old days
when you walked along the riverbed
with eyes fixed on clear flowing water,
plucked wild flowers and uprooted little plants
of tiny white and yellow tulips sans motif
and asked everyone the name of little buds. (p.53)
Here is an experience never forgotten
Alone you stood and stared, threw the bag
none looked as if ignored your anger fake,
you stood, bowed, picked up the bag
without wanting took out a book
and began to shuffle pages. (p,54)
‘Whispering Rings’ is a poem which puzzles starting with a pandit, a woman’s eyes - with a bald headed man looking at a young woman and a parson and ends thus:
Mighty and hostile it is
and instils feats in bombs pinning for a timer,
and spreads stones-studded rings in fingers fleshy
on the table itching to press the button
as he surveys the scene and status of ruin
with folded hands and bare feet
and thus, ends a long tale. (p.57)
‘Dead Lives’ is a poem in five parts: In false hopes, In images of moral failure, In search of music undisturbed, In search of salvation, A life of many fantasies. Modern, especially contemporary, consciousness in particular has been vitiated by spiritual scepticism. This is this poet’s thesis. Anguished souls find escape impossible. Search for salvation never fructifies. Manifold illusions uproot serenity and basic thoughtfulness besides righteousness. With money and woman playing havoc value systems have fallen on evil days and evil tongues. A few lines from the poem ‘Dead Lives’ bear repetition.
Doubts follow haste of a clouded death
death that seems the glory of life,
to valiant on whose grave fungus grows,
for whom failure seeks divine beatitude
in confused orchestration of life. (p.58)
Some where uncharted pains torture
Hearts bleed in grief at the inability of efforts
Warring opinions bring the fall,
And clamour for reunion remains a charade.(p.59)
Earth fails and groans for peace that lands
on moon savagely dampening the spirit of man.(p.60)
It is insurgence against hopes unfed
where edifice of peace crumbles in disgust
it laments and scrambles for an existence. (p.61)
‘Living in Patterns’ has five parts: Living in Peccadilloes, Living in Domes, Living in Distrust, Living in split patterns and Living in epitaphs. The poet has skilfully categorized weaknesses since he has been looking into frailties with a microscope of his own making. Whether we agree with the marking or not is not the scientist’s business. One thing is that he is understanding human nature in our particular contemporeinity. This is expressing the anguish of suffering our special modernity and similar misnomers. The poet ends this poem putting across his heart felt concern:
It is for you to live
but it is out of control
to die in patterns,
it is here you exist
in patterned fragments,
without an end an in death
without a grave. (p.67)
‘Cultural Notes’ is another expression of gnawing anguish. A bit of the concluding part (Part 8)
Here men and women move,
bargain and transact business
say goodbye and write
in separation of apparent continuity,
a phenomenon in comprehensible
without a repetition. (p.72)
There is philosophy in the poem ‘Romance’. Thinking and deep thinking it is that makes one philosophical. Ruminating along these lines this poet writes:
This means nothing. The word has no pattern
…….. …… ……
We think we never change, never say
that dreams die
and die with a moment’s glory,
it happened and so changed,
and the word stands without meaning,
a word that tells of immortality and death too. (p.77)
‘Mother is a long poem in eleven parts in ten pages of ratiocination.
When I was born, you were silent
crying with pain giving pleasure,
gripping slowly and lisping patiently
the incidence of time,
the propitious hymn of a new comer,
for pain was the harbinger
of an area of despair
and future insolence.
There was no God to create,
the heaven and the earth
for me it was a firmament without shape,
and so He did not bless me
and again I thought,
I was not born in the image of God. (p,79)
War panic and war mania lead to skewed thinking and here is an example of that in this speaker’s expression. The speaker here is the poet:
And I was earnestly waiting
the coming age at a time,
when age was denuded,
stripping its virginity
bombing ethics. (p.81)
This leads to the epics and canonical texts like the Holy Bible.
My brothers will not give me land
but usurp my wife,
and out of wailings of Garden
would emerge a robot and Ravana
and so Rama will be exiled
and Jatayu will disclose a truth
and so many mothers pities and laughed
and I will not build cities like Jacob.(p.83)
This is how the thinking of the speaker comes to a conclusion;
No resipiscence, for I am wise now
no domination from any side,
modern I am and no regimentation
humanity was fighting blasting age long edifice
when I was born.
…. …… …….. …
You go waste, your time gone
A tiny particle of dust and I worship not dust
I am modern of no pretence. (p.87-88) .
One thinks thus when God is not imagined. Ratiocination always makes one befuddled. The higher education the worse becomes the thinking. Prem is an Indian and a believer too with the devotion. He is a Hindu holding on to our canonical scriptures. Writing is to instil faith in god and make us hold on tradition, values and ethics. Ancient traditional theorist Mammata who wrote Kavyadarsha averred the goal of poetic literature:
kaayam yashase artha krite sadyah para nirvrutaye kaantaa sammitayaa upadesha yuje
(The goals of poetic composition, kavya, are fame, riches, protection from inauspicious events, removing doubts instantly and teaching as the lady-love)
Not always easily or quickly understood and assimilated these poems of the Himalayan Prem are caviar to the general. Once digested, no matter however long a time that may take, the thoughts are appreciated and, what is more, held in high esteem.