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Images & Metaphors in the Poetry of Kulbhushan Kushal


Kulbhushan Kushal’s poetry is an elusive enigma of a man who has drunk deep the philosophies of life. His four volumes of poetry Shrinking Horizons (1989), Rainbow on Rocks (2005), Whirlpool of Echoes (2006) and Songs of Silence (2008) present before the mind’s eye images which include auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, kinesthetic and visual qualities. Images are the soul of poetry. They represent descriptive things, actions and abstract ideas. Images sharpen the perception and the reader undergoes the same blissful experience like the poet i.e. the ability to enjoy beyond the precincts of the concrete world. A writer can combine both visual and non-visual images, as in Poe’s The Haunted Palace:

Along the ramparts plumed and pallid
A winged odor went away

– (Beck son & Ganz: 119)

The term is one of the most variable in meaning. C. Day Lewis’ statement, in his Poetic Image (1948), pp.17-18, clearly depicts its meaning. He says, “An image is a picture made out of words. A poem may itself be an image composed from a multiplicity of images.” Image is one of the distinguishing elements of the “language of art”, the means by which experience is often communicated. (Coles: p.94) Ezra Pound made perhaps the most widely used definition of image in the 20th century: "An 'Image' is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time." (Pound 143) In Pound's definition, the image is not just a stand in for something else; it is a putting-into-word of the emotional, intellectual and concrete stuff that we experience in any given moment. It is also important to note that an image in poetry, contrary to popular belief, is not simply visual. It can engage any of the senses. And, in fact, for it to be an image, it must engage at least one of the senses by using sensory detail.

The powerful and appealing imagery is the result of a poet’s vast learning and erudition. Kushal’s poetry is rich in images and makes the reader empathetic. He captures the mind of the reader in such a manner that sometimes one feels roaming with him in the deserts, sometimes enjoying the gratifying sceneries of Nature. Kushal’s images are both sensuous and sensual. His poetry is song of the soul. It originates in heart and appeals to the heart. The beauty of his poetry lies in images and metaphors which enhance the meaning and sharpen the imagination. Kushal’s poetry abounds in sensitive images, paradoxical symbols, metaphorical complexities and at the same time it has a direct appeal to the intrinsic human nature. His images range from the elements to the Divine, from the child to the old man and from the finite to the infinite. His emotional turmoil aroused by the void and have-nots in life alienates him. The irresistible fight with negativities in life and a searching eye for perfection in the world around thrust him on a journey through the deserts, dead lands and graveyards.

Sometimes he appears as a prophet observing objectively the drama of life and pointing out the cause of man’s grief. Sometimes he becomes one with the sufferer and sheds tears at broken promises, fragmented friendships and his poetry becomes a song of an aching heart, looking for solace in an alien world. At other times, he is absorbed in eternal search and his search transcends time and space. He wishes to break every limitation and become one with the infinite. He can look beyond the visible and hear beyond the audible. He appears like a deer searching for the musk which he has within himself. His poetry is a perfect blend of mythical and mystical imagery. He alludes to the Hindu Gods and Rivers and asks a number of questions on deliverance. Though he replies his own questions yet his quest is never- ending.

His metaphors beautifully explain emotions, feelings, relationships and refer to something in a brief but effective way. His sustained metaphors run through the whole poetry. A metaphor is a comparison. A metaphor establishes a relationship at once; it leaves more to the imagination. It is a shortcut to the meaning; it sets two unlike things side by side and makes us see the likeness between them. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in “a sea of troubles” or “All the world's a stage” (Shakespeare). Kushal binds the metaphors so artistically to the theme of the poem that they haunt the mind with their irresistible presence.

The most recurring image of Kushal’s poetry is that of rainbow. The rainbow becomes at times, a symbol of perfection that he is searching for everywhere. At other times, it becomes a hope for bright future and a gift to be cherished. He wants to present this gift to his mother who is in Heaven.

I wish to walk on milky ways
I wish to chase the shooting stars
I wish to pluck rainbow
And gift it to my mother
Who I believe is there up in the sky
. – (Songs of Silence p.39)

In some of the poems, he imagines the sparrow holding the rainbow, dressed in rainbow, heralding transition.

Twittering sparrows holding
Rainbow in their beaks…….
Twittering sparrows
Now clad in the rainbow…
… – (Rainbow on Rocks p. 76)

Rainbow becomes a net hampering the action of those caught in it. In his poem Dark Rainbow, he imagines a swarm of fish imprisoned in the rainbow net. They seem to be singing for deliverance. Now, the fish are thrown on the ground. But none except the children are concerned with the dilemma of the fish. The sun keeps on burning:

Children alone are moved
At plight of fish
In rainbow net
The sun goes on
With its business of
Beaming light on the planets dark
. – (Rainbow on Rocks p. 13)

Rainbow is the crown on the forehead of the sky. The sight of the rainbow mesmerizes the poet, draws him closer to God, and makes him remember the perfect artist painting on the canvas of the sky. He wants to preserve the beauty of the Divine image in the folds of his poetry for the generations to cherish. The seven colors of rainbow satiate the aesthetic thirst of the poet. He wants the whole world to bathe in the glory of its scintillating showers.

Sky, in his poetry is like a constriction, a veil which hides the face of the almighty. He craves to unleash the sky to look beyond it to explore new skies:

Beyond our sky
There are other skies
and beyond
more skies
. – (Shrinking Horizons p. 38)

The wish is fulfilled in his dreams where he is free to see the sights of the hidden regions:

I often walk in those distant skies
Wrapped in my darkness
I have seen the parrots flying there
The birds singing there
And the people talking in alien dialects
Wandering about our transactions here
The rocks on those skies
Meditating on the mysterious deep
Haunt me
. – (Whirlpool of Echoes p. 86)

The clandestine paths beyond the sky haunt him. Conflicting emotions flood the sensitive mind and it yearns for an outlet. The outburst of his emotional upheaval further alienates the poet. He becomes a wanderer in search of elixir of life. The first poem of his first collection of poetry gives a glimpse into the restless mind of the poet. The world emerges as an alien land. The loss of warmth in relations maddens him and he interrogates the world:

Who has snapped
the ties of blood
why alien is the land
why hostile the sky
why alien the stars?
– (Shrinking Horizons p.26)

This alienation deepens and the images become more complex. The metaphysical expressions create a sense of void in the readers and his poetry becomes a miscellany of mutilated colors, elusive fragrance and eternal yearnings. The land turns into dead land covered with weeds and cactus. Cobra clutches the legs and impedes the progress. The present is fractured and the past is fragmented. Such poems echo Eliot’s The Waste Land. The weather is too cruel to rejuvenate nature. Parched earth pines for rain. Everyone becomes a victim of wrath of cruel destiny. The tone of dejection is clearly visible in the following lines:

Childhood failed to
keep promises
youth again betrayed
the old age is
silently yielding to
the bleeding wounds.
Let’s see
What shatters next?
– (Shrinking Horizons p.52)

The journey of life turns into a prolonged voyage in the dreary desert where a sight of distant mirage keeps the feet moving on and on. The metaphors of the poet grow pungent and satirical. He mocks at the ingratitude of modern man who is indifferent to the bliss of nature. The world appears chaotic and like Yeats, the poet knows that it is time for demons to rule the world. The modern times are totally out of joint. The center is losing its hold. The insatiable hunger for power and fame lead man to the path of crimes and treason. Such lust reminds him of Dr. Faustus. His poem Burden is a poignant cry of an absurd man bleeding on the thorns of life:

A hollow life
We carry on our head
And on our shoulders
Living corpses
Of memories dread.
– (Songs of Silence p.13)

The absurdity and vacuum in life take him closer to nature. He sings of elements. Trees, Rocks, stars, earth occupy metaphorical presence in his poetry. Rocks enthrall him with their fortitude and forbearance. He dreams of turning into a rock himself. His poetry is replete with melting moons, stars and fragmented sky. The comfort is denied to the soul by dreams even. As he says:

Dreams are the fragments
Of promises un-kept
And hopes betrayed
. – (Whirlpool of Echoes p.22)

Dreams are like his friends but plotting against him and praying for themselves. He has a desire to measure the infinite stretches of time and look beyond in the dreams. Metaphors are other adorning elements of his poetry. Time has important metaphorical existence in his poetry. It appears sometimes as a thief or river or cruel monster while at sometimes, time is sweetened by the reminiscences of his beloved. He loves these gifts and every gift is a relic of all the beautiful moments shared by the lovers. The gift of love birds keep on chirping in the moonlit nights. He passionately remembers the embraces of his beloved:

And the kiss you planted
On my forehead has smeared
My thoughts with blood
I will tell you some other day
What other gifts
Have done for me
. – (Whirlpool of Echoes p.75)

Time scares the poet with its speed. Time has fettered the feet and hands of the poet. Modern time is unbearable when everyone around is carrying fake smile, mask on real face, nothing appears to the poet natural and beautiful. He mocks at the pretended smiles on the face of modern girls and says:

Video them please
And show the grandma’s smile
To the group of girls
Going to the picnic
With varieties of smiles
In their minds
Along with hundreds
They have rehearsed today
Before the mirror
– (Rainbow on Rocks p.41)

The shifting moods of time and its impact on his poetry are clearly discernible. He satirizes the materialistic approach of the contemporary people. Time has effaced all the beauties of the soul. People move like the denizens of the Waste land purposelessly, hopelessly and desperately. Life has become directionless. Hatred has become the first trait of the modern man; there is none to rely on. Mark the pungent satire of the poet in the following lines:

The entry to heaven
Is manipulated in Hell

These are easy times
Distances are mobile
Proximities are out of fashion
Stay wired even if you are tired
Virtue is substituted by virtual

In these times
It is easy to live
And easier to die
– (Songs of Silence. p.74)

The poetry of Kulbhushan Kushal opens new vistas of experience unexplored before. He makes the reader think, feel and act. He appeals to the head and heart. His poetry is all- absorbing and rejuvenates life in the dead land of modern humanity. From Shrinking Horizons (1989) to Songs of Silence (2008) the shifting tones of poetry enrich the experience, enthrall the imagination and we return to life again with a new perceptive and insight.

More by : Supriya Bhandari
Views: 3588      Comments: 4

Comments on this Poem Article

Comment Fine exposition on images & metaphors. Poetic diction capturing the pulpaple poignance on modern life,lilting pathos on unfulfilled dreams,untramelled filight into time & space and enchanting experience of mother nature in all her glorious colours is remarkable.Mnay thanks for this wonderful piece.Looking forard to many more!

Ram S Nalandula
02-Jul-2015 00:00 AM

Comment This is an excellent article, it points so clear the impact that images and metaphors have in depth and impact of expression. Great lesson . Thank you.

28-Aug-2013 00:00 AM

Comment beautifully writen article, in simple words . i am feeling the fragrance of Kulbhushan kushal ' poetry as well as your text.

Ravi kumar
29-Apr-2013 00:00 AM

Comment a very good evening mam your articles are really inspiring for me being a student of literature its nice to have such innovating articles by you.

05-Mar-2011 08:53 AM


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