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|by Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.|
Where do these ideas come from
Poetry basically is a thirst for self-expression. It is soul driven. It is a spark, a flash of lightning. For the very serious minded it may not always be very convincing of the attitude it may reveal. P. Raja has been writing poetry in English for the last fifteen or more years. In the first collection which came out in 1997 he wrote an essay ‘My Poems and I’. The poet has a penchant for playing with the gorgeous boneless domes absolutely virgin though stupidly called just prosaically breasts. The poem ‘Boneless Domes’ is a precursor to a bigger and luscious effort of listing thirteen ways to see, honor, touch, embrace etc., with them but that is a little later though. This essay is carried in his book For Your Ears Only, Busy Bee Books, Pondicherry, 1997) In it he expresses the creative process in him : ‘Once inspired, the flame leaps in me. I feel I am possessed. It is like virginal conception. And I try to be true to the flame.’ Most of his poems are in the first person and many appear to be titillating and erotic. For many readers for this reason his poetry is attractive and interesting. One is reminded of Rabelais, the French humanist poet with no prudery and a robust jie de vivre. The poet is fond of a sensuously poetic expression. ‘The Birth of a Poem’ starts with a bang and it is necessary to quote to it wholly:
The Birth of a Poem
Copulation is an
This is not for prudes but for those who openly think of erotica in every action – even in the creation of poetry. Then there is the Tamilian way of being frank, jubilant even permitting and enjoying ribaldry in expression.
“It is very slippery
‘Boneless Domes’ deserves full appreciation.
Then there is the long and brave poem ’13 Different Ways of Looking at Breasts Not Yet Manhandled’ The use of the words grenadiers , not yet manhandled – grenadier sturdy – being untouched and unhandled by man is mischievous. Spiked is very suggestive – exaggerated standing like pointed thimbles. It is not very easy to call them nipples like an anatomy professor. Juicy jugs – not yet manhandled so simply to be sucked – melons, goblets, pillows, fruit , sullen officers – little Raja is not a little child , restless companions vying . The layers and layers of mystic meanings all can be appreciated by those who enjoy reading our sage Vatsayana or the modern ones painting porno pictures. The poems could be porno if written by the old explicator of sensuous sutras, carefully hidden under the pillows not really to be read in singles.
The poor grey hair actually shudders at what the master could do in haste and anger. He asks the slim , sly and sacred one as to whether he has done anything to justify its misdemeanor. Oiling, shampooing, protecting and perfuming he did his best and someone must have bribed it. He declares:
The dishonest and the unfaithful
The forefinger and the thumb must have axed it. Then there is another poem playing the role of the heirs. When writing aggressively as it were, being an academic, he gave the pedagogic twang to the twin poems – one being an ode and the other a palinode. While ode is a song, the palinode is kind of recantation in which the poet retracts or makes an effort to give counter balance to a statement in the earlier poem. The title of the poem is
To The Poet From His Hairs
Are we your slaves?
The hairs feel humiliated, insulted and even shorn. And comes the furious threat.
Aplogize and behave yourself
In ‘A Place of My Own’, for the bibliophile poetic feeling and love of fun are important and he is not bothered about his surroundings. Critics cannot distract him and other comments are not paid any attention. He has a place of his own at home away from the maddening mixie and the droning doorbell. He calls critics degrading souls who call a phoenix a goose. Killer time is the worst watch. The fancies and conceits convey his feelings which are the joy of a poet. The writer at home brings to the fore the continuous friction between the poet’s cerebral excitement and the prosaic practicalities of his not very good better half.
Born with anxiety, a writer
The poet never gives up hope. Rejection slips do not hurt him or stop him from exercising mind and wielding his quill.
A journey’s end lights up another
Acceptance and resilience are the hallmarks of poets and writers. The poets jocular treatment of himself as well as of his fans is seen in the poem ‘My Fans’:
‘Oh! What a great poet I am!
The poem ‘Indian Gods’ is satirical, making fun of people’s behaviour out of what they call their faith.
Tonnes of pure ghee drench our gods
Social awareness demands that a poet must sometimes have a tongue in cheek attitude to make his declaration effective. India that was only Bharat is not in her best either in its worth or glamour. Indian streets are a painful social reality. Naked urchins, thirsty women, dirty old men, disappointed young men, the wee ones with empty stomachs do not make the country proud. This is social realism that ends with a powerful barb, to call it so, again. Or, it must be the gods themselves screaming for their safety from bullet-battered temples.
‘Knowledge is not sheep as you think
This is educating the young fellow but the comment is piercing.
‘I can only tell you where the well is.
The poet’s love of poetry comes from his love of books. The poem ‘Dust’ is the book lover’s confession of his frailty.
‘How can I be ever away
This writer is reminded of a young poet who could never forget what a doyen of Indian English poetry said to him, ‘Please learn the basics, because poetry is not chapped up prose.’ True, but my question is how can one make lines? Raja is a doyen who must be guiding some budding poets and this must be his peroration too. ‘The Inner Voice’ is a poem with a Rajaic chuckle:
‘Why do you speak in languages,
‘Tea with Belles’ is a poetic slur on women’s society/social ethos in the West. The speaker chats with Italian belles. Promiscuity and permissiveness are seen as followed/accepted behavioral patterns in the West. The Italian bellies are perhaps powerfully progressive.
‘Marriage and children,
This is the outcome of smoking a third cigarette while the earlier two stubs still smoulder in the ashtray. Our lady, we can’t call her a woman now thinks only of gays, for there is no harm or idea of procreation. The writer’s wife feels:
Pat comes the reply:
‘Is that why
Ladies admiring their own fleshy domes is no wonder even for the poet. The speaker’s poet-wife says that it is the quality/virtue/weakness of Bharat that has become India.
‘Whether by your nose,
And there is a poem on ‘Your Nose’. Nose beautiful, all beautiful, ever beautiful decides and determines great beauty. The poet declares it with aplomb.
I for one believe that
After nose it is the dental attraction that is the most fascinating. This has started in the poem about Italian belle first: ‘gleaming teeth over shadowing the flashing light of the camera click’. (p.370)
‘Don’t you know now, my doe, my love
‘The Woman Behind’ is another lighthearted memory of a woman who the speaker says made him a somebody of a nobody making him love himself by tailoring his clothes. ‘Sometimes counsel and sometimes tea’ of Alexander Pope comes into the readers’ minds. Humour tickles those who enjoy life and it is a boon to have a sense of humour. ‘In the Journalist’s Life’ is about the clock and its two hands. The journalist’s tribulations are softened because of his wife’s contribution. The job and its urgencies keep the man on tenterhooks being on his toes all the time. The goal is only one - to increase the bank balance.
The only blessing is the angel’s smile to begin with. The speaker of the poem confesses
“I would have gone mad,
Anything that interferes remains a block, a haddi in the kabaab, a fly in sherbet. Lovers with sweet lips would ever be eager to taste each other’s soft, slightly oozing nectar. But the alien cap called a hat stands in the way of cashing in during stolen moments. Caps interfere above are like the slippers below. Both are detestable for the youthful lovers. ‘Paradise Lost’ tells us
Caps and slippers provide protection
Raja’s love poems are sweet and delectable if only the reader basically has an imaginative mind and understanding of human nature. ‘To Live in High Love is a lover’s passionate expression of a deep yearning for togetherness.
There we shall walk hand in hand
The lines are about heart related love at its most sublime peak. The jealousy of society is painful for the lovers and detestable for the knowing ones.
There, my love, we shall forget forever
There are echoes of English poetic expressions like under the greenwood tree – death lays his icy hands. This is natural for the poet is a teacher of English poetry too. The mental state of a love crazy loner is felt in the poem ‘A Lonely Man Foresees His Death.’ The gnawing fear is insufferable and the speaker wonders:
Will the lonely man
‘Sweet Fifty’ is another amorous poem. The loving husband remembers the years of long cohabitation with his sweet heart wife. He gleefully says
Ah! Will fifty million sovereigns of gold
The totally delighted hubby pays a sumptuous and rich compliment to his angelic wife’s innumerable varieties cuisine. This surely is the Hindu concept that a woman wins her hubby with her cuisine most. The sweet fifty goes on and on year after year adding taste to time.
For divulging my woman power
There are three poems among those chosen from Raja’s poetry in Busy Bee Books volume that deserve special appreciation. These reveal his humanism. ‘A Balance Lost’ is a poem on the natural disaster, the horrible earth quake in Bhuj in Gujarat on January 26, 2001. People killed are killed and lost forever. But the pain of the survivors is heart rending.
The clock died of a heart attack
‘Traitor’ is about Iscariot Judas who betrayed Jesus for a handful of silver.
Dreaming his good fortune
Hopelessly sin-perturbed he can take recourse only to suicide.
He found sand in a piece of rope
Still another is a poem with social awareness on smoking. ‘Cigarette’ starts with a woman again. The dreadful white whore is described thus:
A submissive white woman
The poet knows that this kiss is of manly lips. But cigarette lovers are some women too as he described in the poem on the Italian belles.
1. Raja P, For Your Eyes Only, Busy Bee Books, Pondicherry, 1997
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