Book Reviews

A Monument Gigantic

A Monument to Pigeons, Rajiv Khandelwal,
Global Fraternity of Poets, Gurgaon, 2013, pages 130, HB Price Rs 260/

Writing a conceived poem
Is as easy as
Lighting a candle
With wet matchsticks
In an open field
Pregnant with winds
Torrential rains

Even if the poem has
Beauty of form
Emotive expression
Change in pace
But if the words do not combust on the page
Do not agitate
Arouse kindred emotions
Refuse to stand on their own
Fail to refer to anything

You might find the poem
For all its beauty
A monument
Of interest to pigeons

Maturation and ultimate crystallisation are seen in the collection ‘A Monument to Pigeons’. Rajiv Khandelval has already carved a niche for himself in the Parthenon of imaginative, realistic, poetic achievement. Angst, anguish, and disgust with the prevalent heinous degradation pain the thoughtful penman. At times, he throws up with contempt and utter helplessness. For greatness this is the time to give the go by to rectitude and value addition. The quality of the poet’s imagination is stripping off pretensions. The poems reveal intense thoughtfulness and not always veiled moralisation.

Interspersed in the forward progress there are poems on poetry, sexuality, on greed of leaders and goons in this gigantic monument for the pigeons tender, harmless and pleasing all the time. Surely emotive poetry is small and for that reason beautiful.

While going through the poems, sensitive readers may think sometimes that marriage and dowry, marital and sex relations need a different spacing in writing. But then a poet does not plot a graph for his feelings to be expressed in a particular order. The reader surely can go back and forth to see the various levels of thinking while going through the poems time and again. A poet who never desists in talking about his concept of poetry is not born.

“Moments of inspiration
Tip-toe through
Like opportunities lost

Its only when
Words curate the soul
With meticulous perfection
Whimsical poetry
With all its lyrical strains
Throngs around
Wrestling to find a resting place”
(Pg 13)

Rajiv Khandelwal started his poetic saga with the sketching of the anatomy of love. Conch shells and cowries was his first collection which came out in 1998. Love is not just titillation and he wrote 20 years ago the poem, ‘Word’

“I searched for you
In every corner
Under the sofa
Amongst the flowers
In the Upanishads
Beneath the kamasutra
On the heaving bed
Couldn’t find”

“I searched and searched
And then
At the end of the rainbow
Amongst the pregnant cows
I found you, dear
Allowing yourself
To be seduced” (page 1, Conch Shells and Cowries)

The serious poet expressed himself passionately and the speaker in the poem ‘Today’ thinks of writing a letter to his lady love thus;

The winds are whispering
Sweet nothings into my ear
The claret is on the table
The lute leans against the door”
(page 12 -“Today” from Conch Shells and Cowries)

Rajiv has already been called a bird watcher staying far away observing unobtrusively the flutter and the flight of the bird. After this collection in the same year, came A Monument to Pigeons. Building a gigantic monument is an attempt of this wordsmith. The monumental poem is exciting and empirical. A poet alone can think and erect a monument to pigeons.

The poems in this volume are on many things: on poetry, on sexuality, on contemporary man’s greed and the lust of leaders and goons of all types and pigeons with deep thinking are among them.

In the poem ‘Writing poetry the traditional way’,

Catch electric moments
In language of symbols
Without corrosion of meaning
Through choreography of words
Which explore and reveal
States of emotions
In looks anew

If words
Smoke the environment

Maybe then
You catch
A poem that shimmers
(page 22)

Writing poems is a matter of the poet’s mood and the poets moods change and go on changing in every case.. In an adult view, the poet thinks of a poem and writes it down

Wakes the reader
From twilit stupor

Gives much needed
Late afternoon
Early evening

Enriches mood
Like smarter-sex drugs

Like designer-love

A wonderful poem
Like the taste of chocolate
Just stands out
(Pg 60)

Poetic imagination wanders constantly all the way and there is a poem on ‘Writing poetry- Women’s way’

Penning emotions
As skilful
As the campaign
For involving Indian husbands
In child care or domestic chores

The narrative arrangement

As difficult
As giving
The never-had-a-baby look
After three female issues

Writing poetry
As easy
As natural
As giving birth by a thirteen year old
(page 63)

The poet advises painters as to how poetry should be written starting with the don’ts in the poem ‘Writing poetry-The Painter’s Way’

Do not splash emotions
Like spin art
Spatter art paintings

If you palette
Feeling and thought in rich hues
Layered with hidden promises
Of what they can reveal

Skin the word layers
Slice the visual overloads
Into a new experience

Only then
The poetic canvas comes to life
(page. 90)

There is another way of writing poetry, which this poet names the sit-still way. The ideas are laudable and following the guidelines make the penning of any poet fascinating.

If reality ruptures
And appropriate words
Let you
File them
Sand them
Polish them
Till they glow
Maybe then
You might have
A poem dangling before you
(page 104)

Khandelwal describes how the poem while flying takes to great heights, almost all the time dizzying. Thoughts and feelings waft perfume in the breeze. The economy of words makes the reader think with joy:

Words adolescent
Wrench a navel-gazing grip
With intensity

A new captive
An old addiction
Gathers wing
(page. 112)

There is a poem titled deliberately misleading, ‘A New Dawn’. This is about the aftermath of a disastrous cyclone where everything was washed away and only a young woman sitting on the heap of debris with nothing to wear and the last line tells us what she has done.

Enveloped in arid odour of funeral
She sits atop the debris heap
As if in trance
Inhaling security
Emanating from her mother’s saree
Draped around her legs
(page 10)

Thought processes and skilful use of expressive devices decide the selection of words in the poem. Words deserve choreographic skill and these make the emotions brought out and make them fresh and scintillating. Khandelwal’s view of writing traditional poetry appeals to the readers and strengthens practising poets.

Catch electric moments
In language of symbols
Without corrosion of meaning
Through choreography of words
Which explore and reveal
States of emotion
In looks anew

If words
Smoke the environment

May be then
You catch
A poem that shimmers
(page 22)

An accomplished poem does several things and the poet describes what they do.  New poets get help from these invigorating things.

At times
I envy
The caged parrot
(page. 32)

Dowry in marriages and mismatching among other things, lead to extraordinary problems. The mechanics of happy living in old days intended a monetary gift to the grooms. Khandelwal’s favourite topic/subject is man woman relationship.

The ad libitum
Symphony went on
As long as poetry
In golden dowry notes

The thunderous applause
Was awarded
In currency of her own tears

One night of terror
A never ending night.

‘Death on the Tracks’ is a very disturbing, realistic, poem. Leaders and politic hooligans gain political mileage in announcing money bags for the relatives’ children of the victims in the disasters. Khandelwal calls a spade a spade. He goes to the roots of unjust deeds.

The vultures
Unaffected by the disasters
Press for setting up of an inquiry commission
The dead be given monetary compensation
Hope the disaster be personally beneficial
Yet give their party political mileage

Those who saw death and doom
Can safely assume
The blame will be fixed by a commission
On mechanical failure or a scapegoat human
(page 47)

Khandelwal describes how successful, accomplished poem win applause.

A great poem
Like an intersection
Continuously continues
Moving in different direction
For it’s point of arrival
Not the destination.

All things considered
A poem
In a meeting place
Of imagination
Personal experiences
…… …… …. …

Through stalk of words
Blossom thoughts
That may or may not make literal sense
But seeks attention
Like the swallow swooping down
In mid flight
As suddenly soaring up
With agility and acrobatics
With feel of emotion
Which speak directly to reader
Invites response

The poem ‘Flight of the Poem’ throws light on the way a poet should think to make the poem gather wings to fly.

Words adolescent
Wrench a navel-gazing grip
With intensity

A new captive
An old addiction
Gathers wing
(page 112)

The must-read, the long and never really ending poem in twelve parts, is the last one ‘Changing Definitions (A Time to Cry)’. It is noticeable that the very first poem in this collection is ‘A Time to Cry’.


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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