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|Analysis of Veronica Valeanu's poem|
|by Kuldeep Srivastava|
Veronica Valeanu is Romanian poet and writer.
Having read many of the poems of Veronica Valeanu as available on www.agonia.net, I select the poem (I) the latest one as posted by her for analysis. I will like to lay my cards on the table by stating six parameters that should qualify a poem as a good poem and in doing so I will try to keep lens of my mind free from chromatic aberrations. First, in a good poem telling is neither sufficient nor essential. A poet encapsulates what a novelist can take pages and pages to describe. A poet summarizes while it is for the novelist or essayist to expand. One’s job is to squeeze; the other’s to release.
A good poem is one that thrives on it’s own form of evocation. This encapsulation-evocation combination makes the insight bloom again and again, in another mind-that of a reader. Second, a good poem does not begin until it is finished. It begins only after the poet has completed the last line and decided not to visit the poem again. Third, a good poem evolves images that are such as to stimulate in a reader a sort of curiosity that sparks immutable responses and meanings thereby opening, in the mind of readers, what Jorge Luis Borges calls a maze of forking paths from which several realties may flow. Fourth, a poem raises more questions that it seeks to answer and thus constitutes camera obscura where readers grapple with the prospects of getting most accurate meanings of both questions and answers. Fifth, a good poem is an exercise in what psychologists call, “free-floating” ideas i.e the poet is not subjected to again what psychologists call, “functional fixidity” or “blinding effect”. In simple terms, a poet does not suffer from a set of ideas or a combination of set of ideas and thus is able to look beyond these; beyond the boundaries of what is readily available in his mind and should be able to intuit and articulate pure essences. Finally, a good poem always remains inconclusive because the moment a poem concludes itself, it will cease to be a poem. Disputants may question these parameters of good poetry. They are at liberty to substitute the above by their own. Difference of opinion coexists along with opinion itself. Now the poem and then analysis:
A general analysis of this short poem reveals following features. First, it provides a closer analysis of five elements – time, memory, movement from unconscious to conscious, loss and the agony that comes from sense of loss. Second, there is presence of one identity and many identities; and their presence seems to involve their making, unmaking and remaking. Third, the imaginative- perceptual processes applicable to this poem have inbuilt ways of self-makings which happen to be flowing from self-awareness; essential for writing a poem like (I). In this poem a personal undercurrent seems to be rising to the surface of the poem; a new stone resisting the flow of a new stream. Poet uses her ability to assimilate the dynamics of loss into a framework of a poem without distortion of human character or loss of human character in abstraction. Fourth, she glimpses through the remorseful sense of waste at failure or weakness of human existence and relationships just lost and with eliminating awareness, she moves from quiet to quieter imagery. She does not make an attempt to minimize what is harsh or ugly about an experience but her poem is a revitalizing force when it comes to finding words for describing that experience.
(I).??. Even though poet’s meaning is somewhat obscure, poet’s sophistication is clearly evident from the lines. The choice of title (I) is at once an indication of the idea of restraint and of liberal usage of metaphor. (I) is the individual, but the multitude is made out of many individuals. The (I) in the title can be the alter ego of anyone, and everyone. As the Creator in Hindu scriptures says, “I am one but shall become many.” (I) is a via regia to we (Sigmund Freud uses the term via regia in the context of interpretation of dreams as a means to gain knowledge of unconscious). From the title itself, the sense of loss of self, and the idea of melding into the infinity of the multitude is carried forward. Critical perception leading to a multilayered commentary on existing feelings, sensations and imaginations is a ruling faculty here; an experience trapped within the closed circuit of the poet’s consciousness. How thoughts and feelings play in the context of moving and stationary train is indicative of a flux of the mind which continues with it’s continual change. Demarcated states, in such situations, cannot be an outcome of a state of succession but a part of a continuous flow-the poet performs two tasks separately but simultaneously: the task of self-thinking and self-observing. Hence, the title (I).
These are aspects that are closely linked to the alienation that comes from dwelling in close proximity with the multitude, or in an urban environment. Time is no longer immortal. It does not evoke reminiscences. Urban existence has wrecked the intimate tenacity of existing in a particular moment.
Morning is the time of energy, when the body reawakens, but when a body becomes duplicatable, it evokes a sense of bodilessness. There are thousands of different versions of the body unfolding around the self, each having been written and overwritten by the pen of the humdrum. It is here the movement from unconscious to conscious: that awful separation from the state of inertia, morbid and indeterminate i.e from sleeping state to waking one where dreams dissolve succumbing to realities, sometimes unwelcome occurs. Relevant here are the lines I remember of one of my favorite authors Marcel Proust from his book Swann’s Way “………in a keen frost, I would feel the satisfaction of being shut in from the outer world” and a bit later,” I could still believe in their possible presence for memory was set in motion now…………….and the good angel of certainty had made all the surroundings objects stand still.” It is the relationship between consciousness and unconsciousness that hallucinates; that chills. In (I) poet explores the relationship of the past with present and brings to the fore uneasy, strained states of consciousness. Images in poem (I) come to poet in borderline interval between the sleeping state and the waking moments. Such a moment of exquisite delicacy, alien to the physical state, can hardly be experienced by the normal five senses. This is a fluid moment; she transfers experiences accruing to her to the store of memory that helps her step out of the bounds of the solid world and step into a world of somber hues and pseudo-realistic visions that seem more real than reality.
Along with the body, time too has been edited and deleted into a limbo, and there is nothing left for the morning energy to do, except wafting around the nostrils that have ceased to be a part of the fragile thing that we call individuality.
Memory’s role in any poem hardly needs any reemphasis. So is true of (I). Memory has an inexplicable propensity: it gathers to itself other memories sometimes relevant and sometimes irrelevant. In his book Matter and Memory, Henri Bergson explains this tendency in terms of what he calls,” by natural return of the mind to the undivided unity of perception.” In this poem, the reality revealed beneath the surface of every day life is not the reality dictated by a single memory but by a sort of disjointed memories that stay concealed in the depths of that single memory but leads the poet’ mind to living unity of perception.
The allusion seems to be to the rushed, predictable atmosphere that we breathe and walk through everyday. The atmosphere that makes us place the mind, and perhaps the soul, on the assembly line, where it gets reconfigured into a predictable apparatus, which is bereft of individual memory and focuses solely on collective thought. Suddenly the (I) or the individual can’t remember what comes next. What comes next? Memory has stopped scrubbing, reliance shifts to the instinctive and intuitive.
Is the train not a metaphor of the urban way of life? And doors a metaphor for opening and closing of ideas and ideologies. Doors opening and closing refer to uselessness of time as writes celebrated Indian poet, Jayanta Mahapatra in his book of poems, A Rain of Rites, “Somewhere/a door opens and shuts/Years elapse quietly behind.” The idea of a woman being alert is symptomatic of many women and many men being alert. By making allusions to a particular woman, the poet is intending to point a finger at the modern way of life that most of us seem to be living. This is a way of life where there is constant motion between consciousness and unconsciousness and vice versa. When the train of life arrives, you board it unconsciously as many others are doing. Many people get into motion, “not knowing what has been lost.” What is it that has been lost? It is the sense of consciousness or of individuality or of both. Her preoccupations are with what seems to be moving out of reach, the nature of space and distance, their relationship-a railway platform- crowded but empty with nothingness in it; reminding me of T S Eliot’s The Waste Land,. “Unreal city/Under the brown fog of a winter dawn./ A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many.” Or another poem by Eliot, A Cooking Egg, “The red-eyed scavengers creeping/From Kentish Town and Golder’s Green.” Red-eyed scavengers here refer to people who collect the remnants of lost hopes and creep from their dreary suburbs to the city for various jobs of daily routine. In (I) loss of plurality of voices and importance of immediacy of perception cannot be altogether discounted.
There is an idea of timing in this poem: the scene seems to be at rest as well as in action.
Or is it an experience of a shock of identity loss resulting into suffering such as leaving the compartment and entering into original identity by getting down to platform and start moving amidst the strangers?
Despite living in a densely crowded urban jungle, all of us have known solitary confinement. Modern city of today is not a physical city alone. It is the city of the mind which further splits into the real and the phantasmagoric stimulating cerebral agility of the poet. The poem masks the sense of indifference beneath the quotidian surface of a city life, sense of failure and emptiness of life in a modern city, irony and pathos of human existence. While our physical selves remain in close proximity to thousands, if not millions, the soul inhabits isolation chambers where thought is not possible. There is loss not just of memory, but also of the sense of association, of human relationships. Life unfolds like layer cakes, where memory and relationships have been baked in so tightly that nothing can be deciphered. Everything beyond is uncertain. Like the opener in Samuel Beckett’ play Cascando “I don’t answer anymore./ I open and close.” And then the same opener, “From one world to another, it is as though they drew together.”
It is in these lines that the spotlight is finally turned on the lingering sense of loss – which, in a subtle way, has been colouring the entire poem. The poet seems to see life as a kaleidoscope of meaningless and the predictable that typify the contemporary urban experience: a decadent, meaningless journey through the madding crowd. Contacts and relationships are superficial, you can’t touch anything, you can’t even sniff at it and nothing touches you back. The bodies are in contact, they are interacting on a physical plane, and yet the mind is comatose.
To round off, (I) meets almost all the parameters set forth in first paragraph above. This poem is dense with marvelous imagery. The verse is alert and swaying. (I) oscillates between verity and verisimilitude-a hallmark of a poem that stays with readers for long. (I) is not a poem one can read quickly and move on swiftly. A discerning reader will find inventiveness and newness in each line of the poem. Meaning falls away; it melts away.
Veronica’ literary world, comprising of imagination, intuition, illumination and reflection, is a thinking world, where thoughts prosper and glow and where within each thought is nestled another thought; each avidly waiting for being converted into poems, possibly elevated to a higher musical and intellectual level.
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Comments on this Poem Article
Rajat Das Gupta
03/31/2012 00:00 AM
03/24/2012 00:00 AM
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