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O. P. Bhatnagar: Post-Colonial English Poetry

O.P. Bhatnagar being a professor of English wrote during his life wrote five books of poetry in English. His poems were translated into several European languages. On invitation he attended the fourth World Congress of Poets in Seoul, Korea. He was on the editorial broads of prestigious journals like The IUP Journal of English Studies in our country. Born in Dehradun, he studied in the schools there but moved to Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, and gone to Maharashtra to teach English in a college.  First he was seen and noted as a poet in the Encyclopaedia of Post – colonial Literature. Sometimes it happens that poets get proper recognition rather late. He opted for this basically suggestive art in a pensive mood, sometimes satirical and sometimes, ironical. Sometimes his vision is tragic as we see in the poems included for the study here.

Book I: Thought Poems

An Existential Dilemma

A class
Full of life
And Don Quixotes
Asked a Camus Specialist
If he could explain
To their pleasure
The Existential Dilemma
Combing agitated knowledge
With soft logic
(Like Einstein explaining relativity)
He began
When life is shorter
Than the dreams
And poem longer
That the theme
Struck with the ease of it
Like beauty devouring charm
The class
Cut his explanation short

Not to Die of Life

We hope
Not to die of frustrations
Not to die of realities,
To die of truth
We have no heart
In order not to die of life
We have art

Book II - Feeling Fossils

Bhatnagar is a thinker and his expressions are very strong and many a time pungent. This is evident in his expressions about contemporaneity. Memories do not die or, at least fade or are forgotten. The sharp feelings in the poems don’t need explanation: they are emotions powerfully expressed.


Memories have turned rocks
Sun, Moon, wind and water
Strike their head in despair
Someone may have to dynamite them
To use the toughness of their being
In laying the foundations of hope


When he was young
He set up boundaries
To define what he possessed
Now that he is old
With gout down his knees
His dream demolishes divisions
To walk through the fences
To share his miseries
With the neighbour
In his fields

Courage of Being Free

Bondage leases security
Free is being alone
We are afraid of ourselves
Like pale ghosts
Shying away from homes
But he was different
He loved her
But refused the dead body
To be his wife

Book III – Angles of Retreat

A Poem is a Smile

Sexuality, copulation, child birth and old age are portrayed in the poems in this section. Angles of turning back refers to the whole gamut of seeing, vision. The originally acute and correct vision reveals what is seen. The poet opines that the vision is either distracted or understood awkwardly. Sexual love goes on into child birth with the rays of light going high into heaven and god. The next poem melting ice in the heavy snow areas of Antarctic region. The conclusion is absolute truth and reality.

What can a poet say
That words cannot feel
In similes, metaphors,
Symbols are wits
In any suggestion of art
A poem is a smile
That spreads
From eyes to heart
Using words
That have laid their meaning
To rest to become beautiful
Like femininity of a woman
Emerging from a happiness
Locked in blue waters
Revealing the unconscious beauty
In parts

Mass Killing

Romans, Nazis or Russians
Panjab, Bangladesh or Vietnam
Oh I know
How it feels
To see a whole family
With eyes as open as a camera
I have long abandoned the exposures
In a cave of mossy forgetfulness
But the silence of it
Is louder than the shrieks
The dead gave

Book IV Oneiric Vision

The learned poet brings his reader to dreaming. Somewhere along the twisty path of the twentieth century, Vladimir Nabokov, our brilliant dreamer-in-chief, came into contact with Dunne’s theories of oneiric prophecy and was evidently inspired by them. The Indian reality is seen right at the opening of the poem.

Of Death and Life

The innuendoes of death
Stage space operas
With underground feelings
Autoactivating the life link
Off the aggerating mark
The life of death
Lasts a flicker
Giving a glow
To its dark
The death of life
Is a long living
In the anecdotage
Of a fictioneer
Locating Vertiports
Or setting hope-parks
Death is not empty
It only empties itself
Out of life
Like a shadow
Thinning itself out
Of light
Without a mark.

Reality Born of Romance

Mona Lisa’s smile is one thing
But the indifference she hides
Is different
Romance is just one side
Of the moon
The other side is dark
What begins as romance
Always gives way to
Children, kitchen, clinics and parks
Gas, office and soaring prices
Chase all dreams away
Like beauty
Conceived by moss in sands
Sun brittles even memories
And breaks the nets
That romance once laid
On sands
To hold what they could
And what they actually

BOOK V: Cooling the Flames of Darkness

Cooling the flames of darkness (2001) has a number of poems of political interest that highlights the poem ‘The Janus political front ‘. The poet speaks as one side of the Roman two-faced Janus. starts saying this from one face takes it yellow sweat and suffering

it takes it yellow sweat and suffering
to become a leader in these fruitful days!

with more charm disadvantages
way placement day dreams by old age
misleading drawings of fain hope is China

with all the imperfections
charm the unequal innocent (CFD, 17)

The Indian policy is called shams by this poet. Bhatnagar urges us:

“so, watch a hijacker of green seasoned

hardcore bandolero

intelligent murderer of A:

a smuggler of high-fi
a high mobile scamster
talk glib television
or dictate its undercover becomes
people twice besieged
him voting power with the
option forcing their way to a travesty of democracy.” (CFD, 18)

The poem ‘Devastated by children of civilized time’ shows almost all external conflicts in the world where people of modern times is more pleased in cancerous violence, sins and crimes being something ‘on-line fiction Bestsellers: / Blow up the media to view on the internet’. Politicians are like Cassius Shakuni are fixing distant personal energy Park designs and are ‘get off your nebulous dreams’. According to him, politicians will never let the world change in its former glory. Says:

“are stricken civilized times-
our spirits limps have their own unnerving truth:

philosophers, physiologists, and politicians on one side
all Fireworks end for his glory in ashes:
and the waters are empty
through all the gashes of the mountain.” And
Howsoever much innocence can stand the test
by fire and water:
violence will never lose its shine
the evils of innocence cold surrender.

can be return to the tenderness of heart
lies through bestiality, faxed around the world
unchanged text on their authenticity.” (CFD, 14)

Many of this poet’s work us take us back to some expressions of the poets abroad, like T S Eliot and, Robert Frost and historical mythical characters like Janus and Don Quixote.


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

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