Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 45

Biyani's Think Tank

Concept based notes

English
BA-II

Mr Ashish E. John
Deptt. of Arts
Biyani Girls College, Jaipur

Published by :

Think Tanks
Biyani Group of Colleges

Concept & Copyright :

Biyani Shikshan Samiti

Sector-3, Vidhyadhar Nagar,


Jaipur-302 023 (Rajasthan)
Ph : 0141-2338371, 2338591-95 Fax : 0141-2338007
E-mail : acad@biyanicolleges.org
Website :www.gurukpo.com; www.biyanicolleges.org

Edition : 2014

While every effort is taken to avoid errors or omissions in this Publication, any
mistake or omission that may have crept in is not intentional. It may be taken note
of that neither the publisher nor the author will be responsible for any damage or
loss of any kind arising to anyone in any manner on account of such errors and
omissions.

Leaser Type Setted by :


Biyani College Printing Department

English

Preface

am glad to present this book, especially designed to serve the needs of the students.

The book has been written keeping in mind the general weakness in understanding the
fundamental concepts of the topics. The book is self-explanatory and adopts the Teach
Yourself style. It is based on question-answer pattern. The language of book is quite easy and
understandable based on scientific approach.
Any further improvement in the contents of the book by making corrections, omission and
inclusion is keen to be achieved based on suggestions from the readers for which the author shall
be obliged.
I acknowledge special thanks to Mr. Rajeev Biyani, Chairman & Dr. Sanjay Biyani,
Director (Acad.) Biyani Group of Colleges, who are the backbones and main concept provider
and also have been constant source of motivation throughout this endeavour. They played an
active role in coordinating the various stages of this endeavour and spearheaded the publishing
work.
I look forward to receiving valuable suggestions from professors of various educational
institutions, other faculty members and students for improvement of the quality of the book. The
reader may feel free to send in their comments and suggestions to the under mentioned address.
Author

Syllabus

English

EZEKIELS POETRY
Q. 1 Assess Ezekiels contribution to Indo-English Poetry.
Or
Write a critical note on the poetic achievement of Nissim Ezekiel.
Evaluate the characteristic features of Nissim Ezekiels poetry.
Ans. Nissim Ezekiels High Rank as an Indo-English Poet
Ezekiel occupies a very high rank as a writer of Indo-English poetry; and his contribution
to this poetry is very substantial, weighty, and valuable. In fact, we can regard him as one
of the towering figures among the Indo-English poets though we find it difficult to accept
him as an Indian poet because he is essentially and a foreigner who was born in India and
who has lived in India all his life. His poetry has many facets; and it has certainly
enriched Indo-English poetry and given a new dimension to it by extending its scope and
its range. At the same time we cannot ignore the critic ** who says that although Ezekiel
is a poet of historical importance to Indo-English literature, his actual achievement
remains more limited than it might have been.
His Contribution to Philosophical Poetry
Ezekiel has made a definite contribution to the philosophical poetry produced by IndoEnglish poets. Indeed, Ezekiel has shown a certain profundity in his nature; and this
profundity has found an expression in several poems written by him. The poetic self of
Ezekiel has experienced two divergent pulls the existential enigma on the one hand, and
the poetic enigma on the other. (The poetic enigma implies the need for a correspondence
between art and life). He has the sensibility of a modern poet whose self confronts the
fallen world and stands in an ironic contrast to the ideal world. He shows that the culture
of the city and the represive social codes in the modern world inhibit a mans
individuality and his freedom to grow. This culture spreads perversion in all walks of life.
Thus marriage has become more of a bondage in which a man and a woman lose their
freedom and their identities, with the result that a man is damned in that domestic
game***. He therefore stresses the need of commitment, sincerity, and integrity as
essential conditions for the completeness of a poet and without such completeness there
can be no association of sensibilities os that a poets imagination would remain
fragmented. Ezedkiel has illustrated this view of his in the poem entitled Enterprise. In
this poem the pilgrims face a paradox which is due to their want of commitment,
sincerity, and integrity. Towards the end of their journey, the pilgrims discover, to their
dismay, that their destination (namely the centre of vision) is as unacceptable to them as
the city from which they have tried to run away. In the last line of the poem, Ezekiel
points out iwth conviction that the grace of fulfilment consists in the identification of the

self with the objective world. If such an identification is achieved, then art, philosophy,
religion, and reality would all appear to be a unified concept. The poems entitled
Philosophy and A time to change also show Ezekiels philosophical bent of mind,
although the former poem shows a distinct tilt toward s poetry as compared to
philosophy.
His contribution to Psychological Poetry or the Poetry of the Human Mind
Ezekiel is a poet of the mind. He shows a marked tendency to probe the human mind, and
his poems reveal not only the conscious but also the subconscious thoughts and conflicts
of human beings and, more particularly, his own thoughts and conflicts. Indeed, his
primary concern is with man and mans mind. His striving to become a finished man
compels him to self analysis and introspection. The poem entitled Case Study is one of
his several attempts at an exploration of his own mind. Here he portrays his own
personality and his mind, though he appears here in disguise, making it seem that he is
portraying somebody else. Self-exploration is also very much in evidence in the poem
entitled London. Here the protagonist is searching and probing the innermost recesses of
his self. His personal quest goes on relentlessly. Island is another of Ezekiels poems
where we find the same search for the self-leading to a resigned acceptance of his
environment. Indeed, Ezekiel may be described as an endless explorer of the labyrinths of
the mind.
His Realism in Depicting City Life
Ezekiel has made an equally substantial contribution to Indo-English poetry by having
written poems depicting Indian life, more particularly city life, vividly and realistically.
Many are the poems in which he has depicted the sights which are seen daily in the city
of Bombay, though he has depicted these sights in a witty and satirical vein. The poem
entitled in India is an outstanding example of his realistic imagery. Here he enumerates
the city sights, focussing our attention upon the poverty of the people as represented by
the beggars, hawkers, pavement sleepers, and the dwellers in slums. Here he also draws
our attention to the burning of women who did not bring enough dowry, and to the virgins
who are frightened of being molested by rogues and ruffians- burnt-out mothers,
frightened virgins. The poem entitled The Truth About the Floods also belongs to the
category of realistic poems, through here he is not particularly speaking about city life.
His Contribution to Humour, Wit, and Irony in Indo-English Poetry
We have spoken above of Ezekiels deeply philosophical nature and his strong
interest in human psychology. But there is another aspect of his poetic genius too. He has
a rich sense of humour, and he has a fertile wit. He has written many poems ridiculing the
absurdities and follies of the Indian people; and his chief weapon of attack is irony. One
of the absurdities which he has ridiculed is the half-educated or semi-educated Indian

English

committing errors of tense, syntax, and idiom while speaking English. He has ridiculed
this fault of the Indians in the poems entitled Good bye Party for Miss Pushpa and The
Railway Clerk. Then he has poked fun at the Indians for their hypocrisy, and their
pretence at piety, in such poems as The Healers and Guru. He has also ridiculed the
Indians, particularly the Hindus, for their practising Yoga to attain spiritual
enlightenment. He seems to be of the view that persons trying to attain spiritual
illumination through such methods continue to remain in darkness. There is, indeed, a
large fund of humour and with in Ezekiels poetry.
His Contribution to Love-Poetry and to Nudity in Indo-English Poetry
Ezediel has made a fairly large contribution to the love poetry written by IndoEnglish poets. His love-poems are mostly concerned with physical and sexual
relationships between men and women. The theme of such poems is sensuality and lust,
and not true love, or love which has its basis in the heart and emotions. Here again the
use of irony is pervasive. The series of poems in the sequence entitled Nudes, gives us
some very interesting and spicy, though very brief and terse, pictures of sexual
relationships between males and females of the human species. The poem entitle The
Couple is another outstanding poem of this category.
His Contribution to the Sense of Form and Structure in Indo-English Poetry
Ezekiel is not one of those poets who write at random, giving free reins to their
inclinations and using words just as they come to their minds. Ezekiel has a high sense of
his vocation as a poet. Although some of his poems are certainly loose in their structure,
the bulk of his poetic work shows a keen sense of form and structure, and a special
concern for the use of the right words in the right places. He believes that a poet should
labor to find the right words just as in a well-known poem by W.B. Yeats, a beautiful
woman says: We must labor to be beautiful. In his poem entitled, Poet, Lover
Birdwatcher, Ezekiel has written : The best poets wait for words/The hunt is not an
exercise of will/But patient love relaxing on a hill. Indeed, Ezekiel has made a valuable
contribution to stylistic felicities in Indo- English poetry. He has also made a substantial
contribution to the use of colloquial English and the conversational manner and tone in
Indo- English poetry. The whole of his autobiographical poem Background, Casually is
written in a conversational tone; and the poem entitled The Way it Went is a good
example of his use of colloquial English. Furthermore, he is equally at home in writing
metrical and non metrical verse; and his poems, written in metrical lines and his poems
written in vers libre are also a contribution to the technique of writing poetry.

An Able Seaman, Though Not the Captain of the Ship of Indo-English oetry

Finally, we must take into account what a critic* has said about Ezekiel.
According to this critic, Ezekiel has tried a variety of poetic modes in his latest poems
which include poster poems, poster prayers, hymns, psalms, songs, Sanskrit-inspired
passion poems, and so on. And this critic then adds that, in poetry, Ezekiels dream of
becoming captain of the ship may not have been realized, but that he has certainly been
an Able Seaman on the ocean of poetry.
Q.2
Ans.

Ezekiels poetry is both the instrument and the outcome of his attempt as aman to
come to terms with himself. Discuss.
Poetry as a Means of Resolving His Inner Discord
As a critic** has pointed out, Ezekiels poetry is both the instrument and the outcome of
his attempt to come to terms with himself. Ezekiel was faced with the problems of a
choice between the outer world and his own inner world; and he then proceeded to strive
to bring about a harmony between these two worlds by stating his problem in his poems.
In other words, he has treated poetry as a means of resolving the conflicts and the
tensions which he was experiencing. Poetry seemed to his to serve as a means of
achieving a catharsis and thus of attaining mental harmony and peace.
Ezekiels Quest, a Kind of Cyclical Journey
In this endeavour, Ezekiel wrote much confessional poetry which enabled him to
withdraw to look at his condition with secret faults concealed no more (A time to
Change). Through this type of poetry he not only accepted his failures but also recorded
his experience of constant interactions with the multitudinous reality of life and with the
dichotomies in human thinking and in his own thinking. Poetry helped him to understand
the inconsistencies between his compulsive urge for redemption and his intense yearing
for the outer world. Ezekiels quest has amounted to a kind of cyclical journey from
himself, through the outer world of reality, to his own self. His poetry thus embodies the
experience of a man who travels widely to unknown lands in order to acquire primal
knowledge.
The Struggle to Establish a Harmony between His Inner Life and Outer Life
In the early phases of his poetic career, Ezekiel felt that the essential function of a
poet was not only the objective interpretation of life but also the satisfaction of his
spiritual urges by removing his own doubts. Ezekiel had therefore been moving between
the two extremes of introspection or contemplation and the outward or physical world of
activity. In a poem entitled Poetry, he tried to juxtapose poetry, art , and life with a view
to bringing about harmony between the inner life and the outer life. In a poem entitled
The Great, he tried to peep into history in order to learn a lesson from the lives and
paradoxes of the great men of the past; and so he tells us in that poem that the great are
egoistical, sensual, self-sacrificing, lovable and damnable, selfish and sympathetic. The

English

poets self therefore felt desirous of associating with whatever was pure in the lives of the
great men; but he found himself an inseparable part of the vicious side of human life and
so he wrote in a poem: I am corrupted by the world, continually/Reduced to something
less than human by the crowd. His moral self thus denounced the modern urbanity in
him.
Poems of Self- Analysis to Come to Terms with Himself
It was in order to come to terms with himself that Ezekiel wrote a large number of
poems of self-analysis and self-exploration. He has actually been conscious of his split
personality; and he has continually been striving to achieve a synthesis of the dichotomy
in himself and attain a serenity of mind. His poems were thus aimed at providing him
with stability and with a mental equilibrium. Then poem entitled Case Study is evidently
a poem of self-exploration. Here Ezekiel takes stock of his own failures including the
failure of his marriage, and his sense of having hardly achieved anything worth while,
though he does find some sort of consolation in the tough that every man, who fails in
life, is not regarded as a cheat or a fraud. Ezekiel tries to explore the labyrinths of his own
mind as well as the minds of others in order to achieve a feeling of stability and comfort.
The poem entitled London is also an exercise in self-exploration, though it gives us
objective pictures of external life too. The poem entitled In India is another such poem.
Here he depicts the beggars, the hawkers, and the pavement sleepers; but he also
examines his own plight, saying:
I ride my elephant of thought
A Ceizanne slung around my neck
Ezekiel, an Endless Explorer of the Labyrinths of the Mind
As a critic * says, Ezekiel is a poet of the city, a poet of the body, and an endless explorer
of the labyrinths of the mind, and he is constantly striving to define himself and to find
through all the myth and maze a way to honesty and love. Ezekiel believes that, as long
as the city man lacks a perception of the imaginative reality, he is bound to remain
incomplete or unfinished, and he would continue to suffer from the pain of his
fragmented view. In the poem entitled A Morning Walk, we witness exactly such a
person. The existence of such a man is without light; and the barbaric city, sick with
slums, cannot prove to be a source of grace to him. By bringing the protagonist of his
poems close to an awareness of their situation. Ezekiel suggests the possibility of
redemption for himself as well as for others who live in the city. From this point of view,
Ezekiels art is highly therapeutic. As a result of this aesthetic therapy, he finds several of
his poetic characters on the threshold of a new awakening; and this is a mental state in
which self-analysis plays a major role. In the poem entitled Marriage, Ezekiel depicts the
failure of his own conjugal life; and in the poem entitled Event his personal experiences

10

lead him to a disgust with the sexual love of a woman in whose presence he cannot define
himself. The woman idealizes him, but she hardly understands him.
The Hope of Acquiring Spiritual Strength
All these poems about his failures in life and containing self-analysis show
Ezekiels earnest endeavour to come to terms with himself his heightened perception of
the dichotomy in his heart and at the heart of existence itself. These poems generate in
Ezekiel a desire for some kind of constructive action; and this desire manifests itself in
such poems as Love Sonnet. In this poem Ezekiel depicts the possibility of a sexual
relationship in which the lovers respond to each other with both body and soul, and also
get involved with the world without any fear. The poem entitled Commitment deals with
the theme of action as an existential imperative. In the poem entitled Morning Prayer,
Ezekiel asks for a privacy of the soul, and prays to God to grant him a kinship with the
sky, the air, the earth, the fire, and the sea. He also prays to God to grant him the fresh
inward eye. Thus through self analysis and self recognition, Ezekiel tries to achieve
the inward eye and greater poetic power, and in this way to gain spiritual strength.
Q3

Ans

Examine how Ezekiel offers a characteristically self-deprecating explanation for the


sense of imaginative debility discernible in his poetry.
Or
Do you think that Ezekiels poetry suffers from imaginative debility?
No Evidence of Imaginative Debility in Ezekiels Poetry
The critic, whose view has here been quoted for our discussion, does not poem to us to
have correctly assessed the poetry of Ezekiel. In the first place have do not agree that
there is any imaginative debility in Ezekiels poetry or that Ezekiel shows any awareness
of this deficiency in his work; and, econdly, we do not agree that Ezekiel has offered any
self-deprecating (or self-disparaging) explanation of this supposed deficiency.
Imagination is a faculty which performs several tasks. These tasks include a
judicious selection, from the available raw material, of those facts which suit the poets
purpose, and an arrangement of the selected facts so as to offer to the reader a
coherent picture from which the reader may be able to draw the meanings and the
significance which the poet would like to convey to him. The imagination of a poet
enables him also to draw upon his accumulated treasure of his observations of life, his
experience of life, his meditations on life, and his thoughts and ideas about life, about
people, about mankind in general, and about himself also. In our opinion, Ezekiel has
provided sufficient evidence of his imaginative power and of the fertility of his
imagination so that, to our minds, the charge of imaginative debility against him is
almost baseless. Some sort of self-disparagement there certainly is on Ezekiels part,
both in his general statements about his work and in his poetry; but this selfdisparagement is more in the nature of modesty than any accusation against himself. In

English

11

fact, Ezekiel berates and belittles other poets by comparison with himself, thus indirectly
asserting his own superiority. For instance, in one of his poems he mocks at those
versifiers and poetasters who try to advertise themselves and their work in order to
establish a reputation for themselves. And he deprecates himself too in one of his poems,
saying that it was a long time ago that he had written a genuine poem.
Poems Showing the Activity and Fertility of Ezekiels Imagination
We find evidence of the fertility and the activity of Ezekiels imagination in
poems like London, In India, A Time of Change, A Woman Observed, and almost all
those of his poems which deal with the theme of sex and marriage. All these poems
contain vivid pictures of the sights which Ezekiel had himself witnessed in the streets of
Bombay and elsewhere. The arrangement of the facts in these poems is systematic
enough from the poetic point of view, and the words used in these poems also show an
active imagination.
An Adverse View of Ezekiels Poetry, Expressed by Another Critic Too
Another critic* has also expressed an adverse opinion about Ezekiels poetry.
According to this critic, Ezekiel is a representative poet of Indian writing in English and,
in this respect, he resembles Robert Lowell of America and Austin Clarke of Ireland.
Ezekiel has tried, in his own modest way, to express the Indian ethos through the English
language, and has always aspired to give vent to the genius or the soul of India. He is a
poet of the poem Background, Casually, Ezekiel says that one of his commitments now is
to stay where he is, in some remote and backward place. The fact, says this critic, is
that in this country Ezekiel does not have to experience that competition which other
poets have to face in some other parts of the world. This has naturally inhibited his art by
giving him an undesirable sense of complacency. And the sort of smugness, which he
enjoys, is not conductive to the creation of great poetry. His later poetry, through
technically advanced, suffers from a repletion of themes and emotions. He has aspired to
the simple and the sublime but not to the intricate and the beautiful. Sometimes he is too
matter-of fact and pedestrian to make any profound or permanent appeal.
The Best Poems of Ezekiel, Highly Imaginative: Enterprise
We are of the firm view that the best poems of Ezekiel are highly imaginative and
that Ezekiel, far from deprecating himself, has keenly been aware of the merit of these
poems which show both his capacity for original thinking and his craftsmanship so far as
the choice of words and the arrangement of those words into phrases, clauses, and lines is
concerned, and also so far as a command of rhythm is concerned. As another critic*says,
Ezekiels poems show the imprint of a keen, analytical mind trying to explore and
communicate on a personal level the feelings of loss and deprivation. Enterprise is a
poem which, in our opinion, clearly shows the imaginative power of Ezekiel.

12

Suggestiveness in poerty is possible only if the poets imagination is at work; and


Enterprise is a highly suggestive poem. Being an allegory, it does not state the poets
meaning in explicit terms. Ezekiels imagination here shows in the suggestiveness which
is the most dominant quality of this poem. The different stages of the journey described
in this poem have been so described as to set us thinking as to what the poet has in mind.
Thus the poet has not only made use of his own imaginative faculty but succeeded in
stimulating our imaginative faculties too. It is through the exercise of our imagination
that we come to the conclusion that this journey is a metaphor for life itself, and that the
different stages of the journey stand for the various stages through which any thinking
man or any intellectual would pass before finding that home is where we have to gather
grace. And this last line of the poem again shows Ezekiels imaginative power because
this line has two possible meanings. Home may mean the city from where the travelers
had set out to escape from it; and home may be the inner self of each of the travelers.
Similarly the word grace may mean an adjustment to the urban environment or it may
mean a harmony between ones inner self and ones outer life. To us the poem Enterprise
is richly and meaningfully imaginative.
Night of the Scorpion, Also Indicative of Ezekiels Active Imagination
Night of the Scorpion is another poem which may be adduced as evidence of Ezekiels
imaginative fertility. This poem is apparently a simple narration of certain happenings.
The happenings are of an ordinary kind and the narration is almost prosaic. And yet the
poem has a deeper layer of meaning and significance which shows the imagination of the
poet and which also demands an exercise of the readers imagination. A vein of irony
runs through the whole poem through the poet has a serious purpose in writing his
account of the happenings. The poem depicts the different approaches to the incident of a
woman having been bitten by a scorpion. There is the approach of the superstitious
peasants; there is the approach of the scientific and rationalistic father; and there is the
approach of the holy man wanting to nullify the effect of the sting by his incantations.
The speaker in the poem, most probably the poet himself, is the detached observer of the
whole scene, perhaps smiling to himself when the womans pain ends after a lapse of
twenty hours. And, finally, there is the womans feeling of relief and the feeling of
jubilation at the thought that the scorpion had bitten her and spared her children. Can
such a poem he charged with imaginative debility?
Philosophy, Another Highly Imaginative Poem
The poem entitled Philosophy again shows not only the fertility of Ezekiels
imagination but also its wide range. The world of philosophy is here compared to the
mills of God which, according to the poet, are never slow. From philosophy, the poet
abruptly turns to the benefits which geology has conferred upon human beings by
providing them with some essential and basic knowledge. But residues of meaning still

English

13

remain after philosophy and geology have done their job. The poet finds philosophy and
geology to be inadequate, and he expresses the view that these branches of human
learning should not try to explain what they are unable to explain. The poet is a believer
in the mundane language of the senses which is different from the language of logic
and reasoning. The poem entitled Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher is no less imaginative than the
poems already considered; and the poems in the series called Nudes are exceptionally
imaginative and very interesting too. So is Poem of the Separation.
The Want of Imaginative Power in Some of the Poems
So, where have we to look for the sense of imaginative debility which one of the critics
has discerned in Ezekiels poetry? Perhaps in poems which mock at the ordinary Indians
use of the English language. But here no imagination was needed at all. These poems
simply express Ezekiels contempt for the Indians who are unable to speak English
according to his standards of correctness or excellence. In these poems he succeeds as a
satirist and a mocker, but his contempt for a misuse of the English language by Indians is
entirely misconceived and almost irrational. Ezekiel should have been told by someone
that English is at present the only link language in this country. None of the native
languages has been found acceptable to every region of India; and English, incorrectly
and imprecisely through it is spoken by the vast majority of the Indians, is the only
language through which the people of one region can communicate with the people of
another region, and through which the tourists from foreign countries can communicate
with our porters, shopkeepers, taxi-drivers, hotel waiters, and even the ordinary
wayfarers.
Q13

Ans

Write a critical appreciation of the poem Night of the Scorpion.


Or
Which of the qualities of Nissim Ezekiel as a poet does Night of the Scorpion
exhibit?
Or
Write a critical note on Nissim Ezekiel as a poet in the light of your reading of the
poem Night of the Scorpion.
The Merits of this Poem
Night of the Scorpion shows several of Nissim Ezekiels qualities as a poet; and he
appears in this poem in a very favourable light. Night of the Scorpion is undoubtedly an
excellent poem-realistic, dramatic, lyrical, with plenty of vivid imagery, and possessing a
narrative interest. The simplicity of the language used, and the colloquial words and
phrases employed in it, are additional merits of the poem. Furthermore, it is written in an
original kind of free verse, possessing its own rhythm and renouncing the use of capital
letters at the beginning of each line with the exception of only a few lines which begin
with capital letters. That is not all. The poem strikes us as authentic even if the experience

14

described in it might be imaginary. And it also strikes us as a spontaneous poem, written


without the least effort. The words seem to have flowed from the poets pen
automatically and naturally to the paper before him. And we would not be wrong if we
say that this poem is the expression of emotion recollected in tranquility.
A Dramatic Beginning, and the Heightening of the Dramatic Effect
The poem begins simply but dramatically with the author informing us that he remembers
the night when his mother was stung by a scorpion. The dramatic effect increases with
every line that follows. The coming of the neighbours in large numbers; the reactions of
the neighbours to what has happened; their efforts to assuage the womans pain; the
efforts of the authors father to do the same but by different means and the poets
watching the flame which rises from his mothers toe-such is the progression of the
poem.
Vivid and Varied Imagery
The imagery in the poem is not only vivid but varied. The scorpion has crawled into the
house and hidden himself beneath a sack of rice. There is the scorpions diabolic tail in
the dark room. The peasants come like swarms of flies. The simile here is note worthy,
though it is some what inflated. The candles and lanterns throw huge shadows on the sunbaked walls. This particular detail-the walls which are sun-baked-is note worthy because
the poet here shows a tendency to minute observation. Then there is the picture of the
mother groaning on a mat, with her body twisting and turning because of the pain. The
picture of paraffin being poured upon the bitten toe, and its being set aflame with a
burning matchstick is even more vivid.
The Scorpion, a Symbol of Evil
The scope of the poem widens when the poet tells us that the neighbours regarded the
scorpion as the Evil One. The scorpion becomes a symbol of evil, and is even regarded
as an agent of the devil. The scorpion here acquires a certain character and a certain
personality, reminding us of all the evil in this world. Thus a very small but very harmful
creature serves to represent something much bigger than itself.
Superstition Versus Rationality
One of the most striking, and also interesting, features of the poem is the contrast
between the superstitious view of the neighbours and the rationalistic attitude of the
father of the speaker in the poem. While the orthodox neighbours, steeped in superstition,
utter prayers and express their holy wishes, the father tries every scientific method known
to him to assuage the womans pain.

English

15

The Streak of Irony in the Poem


The irony of the whole incident is that, while the neighbours and the father have been
making earnest efforts to assuage the womans pain, actually the pain subsides naturally
after the long twenty hours of suffering. Thus the two lines
After twenty hours
it lost its sting.
mark a kind of climax to the whole situation. Here we feel really amused by the futility of
all the efforts which have been made. It is the working of nature which brings the muchneeded relief to the suffering woman. Actually a streak of irony runs through the whole
poem. This irony shows itself in the way in which the author has described the efforts
being made by all those who have gathered at the spot to relieve the womans pain.
The Speakers Emotional Detachment from the Occurrence Described
The emotional detachment of the speaker in the poem is another striking feature of it. The
speaker describes the whole incident like a spectator not personally involved in it. He
makes no explicit comment on the efforts made by the neighbours and by his own father.
In the case of his fathers efforts, the speaker merely says that he watched the flame
feeding on his mother, and this is all that he says. This emotional detachment of the
speaker is intended by the poet to let the readers form their form their own opinions about
what has happened. In other words, the poet does not try to influence the readers
judgment.
The Rhythmic Flow of the Free Verse
The poem is written in free verse*; and this free verse is Ezekiels own. The free verse
here is innovative. Free verse has its own rhythms; and, as we go through this poem, we
do experience the pleasure which comes from a rhythmic flow of words.
The Unforgettable Closing Lines of the Poem
The last three lines of the poem bring the poem to a close which is unforgettable because
these three lines express the bitten womans own reaction to her experience of the agony
of the sting. Here is a typical, orthodox Indian mother who, forgetting her own agony,
thanks God for the scorpions having spared her children. Here is maternal solicitude;
here is maternal tenderness and affection. This is, of course, a most moving conclusion to
the poem. The womans pain and agony were certainly moving; but the close of the poem
is much more deeply moving.
A Most Remarkable Poem
We have in Night of the Scorpion a most remarkable poem, gripping because of its
narrative interest, fascinating by virtue of its dramatic quality, and deeply moving
because of its poignant and yet exhilarating close.

16

Arun Kolatkar
Q1

Ans

Attempt a comparative study of the poetic achievement of Arun Kolatkar and R.


Parthasarathy.
Or
Compare Arun Kolatkar and R. Parthasarathy as Indo-Anglian poets.
Similarities Between the Two Poets
There are certain obvious similarities between Kolatkar and Parthasarathy. Each of them
has written a long work divided into a number of sections. Parthasarathys Rough
Passage consists of three parts, each subdivided into short poems, and all the parts taken
together containing thirty nine poems. Kolatkars Jejuri consists of thirty-one sections,
each section being a poem in itself and having a separate title. Then, the sequence of
poems written by each of these two poets has a quest as its theme. Rough Passage
describes a quest by Parthasarathy for his own identity and an effort by him to explore his
roots in the ancient culture of his native region (namely Tamil Nadu). Jejuri is
Kolatkars quest for spiritual truth and an examination and investigation of past legends
and myths. In fact, Jejuri, may also be described as a serious attempt by Kolatkar to
review his ancient heritage. According to a critic*, Jejuri could have been a far more
substantial achievement than it actually is if Kolatkars vision had been less fragmentary
and if he had not remained content with scratching the surface of the problem.
Parthasarathys Themes
Speaking about Rough Passage, Parthasarathy himself tells us that here he has dwelt
upon the question of language and identity, and upon the inner conflict that arises from
being brought up in two cultures. The first part of Rough Passage is entitled Exile. In
this part, the culture of Europe is contrasted with that of India; and the consequences of
British rule for an Indian man, especially his loss of identity as an Indian, are examined.
An Indians loss of his own native culture and the need for him to re-discover his roots is
emphasized. The second part, which has the title of Trial, celebrates love as a reality
here and now. Love alone holds forth the promise of belonging so that the turmoil
caused by ones loss of ones culture and identity may be eased. The third and final part
of Rough Passage has the title of Homecoming. This part explores the phenomenon
of returning to ones home and to ones native culture. This part is a sort of preliminary to
holding a dialogue by the poet with his Tamil past. According to one ** of the critics,
Rough Passage is autobiographical poetry written by Parthasarathy about his traumatic
experience of exile (from India to England), and the even more traumatic experience of

English

17

home-coming, the experience of love, and the experience of sex. There are some themes
in the background, such as the damage done by imperialism and the degraded quality of
modern Indian life. But it is Parthasarathys personal and persistent unhapppiness which
finds an emphatic expression throughout his account of the rough journey of life.
Parthasarathys poetry is primarily a poetry of feeling, of feeling expressed concretely
and concisely.
The Differences Between the Tones of Rough Passage and Jejuri
The difference between Kolatkar and Parthasarathy, so far as their themes are concerned,
is clear from the above analysis of Rough Passage. The themes are similar no doubt but
the emphasis in Parthasarathys case is upon the poets own predicament and distress,
while the emphasis in Kolatkars case is upon the absurdity of the beliefs which a pilgrim
to Jejuri holds. Besides, there is a difference between the two poets so far as their
treatment of their themes is concerned. Parthasarathys genius is essentially lyrical. Each
poem by him in Rough Passage is a lyric; it is short; it is intensely emotional; it is
deeply personal; and it does have a pleasing rhythm. Kolatkar is chiefly and primarily a
satirist or a mocker. His poems in Jejuri do have a lyrical quality. The Butterfly is, for
instance, a pure lyric, though it does not express any personal emotion and it does not
have the intensity of Parthasarathys poems.
The Great Value of the Poems of Jejuri
As a critic* points out, many of Kolatkars shorter poems present a dark, surrealistic
vision in which his personas lion has bared it teeth, the cat knows dreaming as an
administrative problem; and a hag devours oranges in self-defence. In Jejuri, this
technique yields better results. Here the protagonists impressions of the famous temple at
Jejurji are juxtaposed with those at the railway station at the end. The surrealistic
similarities startlingly disclose how at both the places the protagonist comes across the
same bline faith which people have in tradition, the same exclusiveness, and the same
dilapidation and general deadness. In other words, there is hardly any difference between
the outlook in the temple and the outlook at the railway station, even though the temple
represents spirituality and the railway sation represents machinery and a mechanical
civilization. The last but one poem in this sequence offers an experience which provides a
sharp contrast to the atmosphere in the temple and at the railway station. Here we read :
A dozen cocks and hens in a field of Jawar**in a kind of a harvest dance.
This is obviously a vision of primeval vigour and the joy of life missing both from the
temple (that is, the religious tradition) and the railway station (that is, a civilization based
on machinery).
The Different Services Rendered by the Two Poets to Their Fellow Countrymen

18

Kolatkar is, on the whole, sceptical and ironic in the poems of Jejuri though
there are one or two moments of huan sympathy as in the poems depicting an old beggar
woman and a teenage wife. It cannot be denied that Kolatkar has done a service to his
fellow countrymen by trying to demolish old, worn out religious beliefs. Parthasarathy
too has done a service to his fellow countrymen by trying to make them realize the need
of not forgetting their native culture and not becoming so westernized as to lose their
identity as Indians.
Parthasarathys Superior Craftmanship
Parthasarathy ranks higher than Kolatkar in respect of craftsmanship. For instance, the
whole of Rough Passage is written in a three-line, free verse stanza-form that
Parthasarathy has himself developed and which he handles with great skill. The
management of line-length, and of pauses and run-on lines; the deft placement of short,
one line sentences; and the sophistication of syntax are all admirable. Then there is
constant play of metaphor. Metaphor is indeed the hall-mark of Parthasarathys poetry.
The metaphors do not pretend to profundity. For instance, the line A storm of churches
breaks about my eyes (in the poem entitled Ghosts) is only another, but refreshing, way
of saying that one sees a lot of churches in Goa. No large statement about Christianity in
Goa or about Portuguese imperialism is intended by the poet here.
Kolatkars Lucidity, Precision, and Detachment
Arun Kolatkars poetry does not abound in metaphors, though it certainly has its
merits so far as diction and syntax are concerned. Kolatkars chief merit is lucidity, as has
already been pointed out. Kolatkar has written Jejuri with the same naturalistic
precision and detachment which he showed in the boatride; and yet Jejuri constantly
verges on the surreal. The strength of this work lies in its tantalizing interplay between
the physical and the metaphysical*. However the metaphysical comedy is sometimes
overdone. The animation of objects approximates to a Walt Disney effect. The story of
Ajamil and the Tigers is a strange compound of the Biblical lion-and lamb theme and
Lewis Carroll. In any case, the tensions between god and stone, priest and station master
have not been explored with much rigour or anguish.
The Sensuous Glow in Parthasarathys Poetry, and the Use of Irony by Kolatkar
Parthasarathy is, among other things, a poet of sex, love, and passion. The poems in the
second part of Rough Passage clearly show that. A few lines from those poems would
illustrate the sensuous and passionate quality of his love-poetry :
(1)

My hands fill up, slowly,


with your breasts,
curve to the pressure of spheroids

English
(2)

19
The touch
of your breasts is ripe
in my arms. They obliterate my eyes
with their tight parabolas of gold.

Kolatkar is a poet specializing in the use of irony. In this connection, we have only to
refer to a poem like Yeshwant Rao. Here Kolatkar carries his capacity for mockery to its
height. Here he says that there are gods who seek you for your gold, gods who seek you
for your soul, gods who can give you the power to walk on a bed of burning coal, gods
who can make your barren wife pregnant, gods who can stab your enemy, gods who can
tell you how to double your money and how to triple your land; and so on. While
Kolatkar has written nothing like the lines which we have quoted above, Parthasarathy
has written nothing like Yeshwant Rao. As already pointed out, the two men are cast in
different moulds even though there are points of contact between them so far as their
desire to explore the past beliefs and the past cultures is concerned. We can dispense with
neither of them, though some anthologists can.
Q.2

Ans

Write an essay on Arun Kolatkars poetic craft.


Or
What idea have you formed of Arun Kolatkars technique of writing poetry?
Imagery in Kolatkars Poetry
Imagery in Kolatkars Poetry
The initial consideration in assessing the poetic craft of a writer is the kind of imagery
which he supplies in connection with the exposition or elaboration of an idea.
Imagery is an indispensable ingredient of poetry because it is imagery which lends
solidity to an idea. Sometimes no doubt the imagery itself is very abstract and, in that
case, it does not impart any concreteness to an idea though it may still serve as a
clarification of the idea in philosophical language. Kolatkars imagery is perfectly
concrete except here and there.
Imagery in The Boatride
The Boatride is a wholly visual poem. It contains a series of pictures, beginning from the
very opening passage in which we are told about the long-hooked poles which know
the nooks and crannies, which find flaws in stone-work or, grappling with granite, cause
a batch of pigeons to fly away unexpectedly. The boat is then jockeyed away from
the landing-place. Every stanza in this poem presents a picture and in fact, several
pictures. In one of the stanzas, for instance, we first have the picture of a mousy
patriarch (or a very timid old man) who is accompanied by a large group of grandchildren to whom he delivers a discourse, urging them to be careful and not to fall into
the water. This elaborate picture is followed by another which depicts the youngest child
meditating over what the grandfather has said, while the eyes of the other children are

20

riveted proudly to the Portuguese ship which, they have been told, was captured by the
Indians (when they drove the Portuguese away from the small territories which the
Portuguese had continued to occupy even after the British had departed).From the
point of view of imagery, The Hag is also a noteworthy poem . It depicts an old,
tottering woman eating, not eating but devouring, oranges of
which
she
is
extraordinary fond. This sketch of a hag, this vignette of a gluttonous woman, is simply
unforgettable. Similarly the poem entitled Irani Restaurant Bombay contains plenty of
imagery though it is otherwise a tough poem.
The Appropriateness of Kolatkars Diction: Neither Erudite Nor Plain
The most important consideration, so far as poetic technique is concerned, is the
diction. After all, poetry is expression; poetry is statement; poetry is an unfolding and a
revelation. And expression, statement etc., are possible only through the use of words. To
what extent has a poet succeeded in expressing himself? What kind of words has he used
to express his ideas, to depict a scene, to describe an incident, and so on? These are the
questions to be asked. Words may be simple or words may be difficult. Words may be
ordinary and words may be scholarly. And then there is the arrangement of words on
which depends the syntax or the inter-relationships between the words as arranged by the
writer. Now, in all these contexts, Arun Kolatkar rises to the occasion. Like every major
Indo-Anglian poet, he has a thorough understanding of the meanings of English words
and an unerring instinct for choosing the right words for his purpose. The diction in his
poems is not erudite (as is that of N.K. Daruwalla, for instance). Nor is his diction ornate
or ostentatious. At the same time the diction is not too ordinary or prosaic. His diction is
perfectly appropriate, and frequently elicits our admiration. Very often his choice of
words shows an exquisite taste and he arranges those words skillfully. A few lines from
The Boatride may be taken as an example of how beautifully sometimes Kolatkar handles
the English language. In these lines Kolatkar speaks of a two-year old child who
renounces his mothers ear (that is, quits his proximity or closeness to his mother), and
begins to cascade down her person, rejecting her tattooed arm, denying her thighs,
undaunted by her knees, and further down her shanks in order to go to his father nearby
and get balloons from him.
Examples of the Aptness of Diction from the Poems in Jejuri
Then there are the poems of Jejuri. In the very first poem here we come across the
following lines which are remarkable because of the use of effective and appropriate
words. Here we are told that a cold wind keeps whipping and slapping a corner of the
tarpaulin. In the next poem we read that, with a thud and a bump, the bus passes over a
pot-hole and rattles past the priest, painting his eyeballs blue. Here again the words
employed are most appropriate, and bring before us the picture of the bus most vividly.
The same picture could have been depicted by the use of different words; but the words

English

21

actually used by Kolatkar strike us at the most satisfactory. In another poem we have the
following lines in which, again, the words are perfectly appropriate and highly
satisfactory:
One by one the gods come to light.
Amused bronze. Smiling stone. Unsurprised.
Heart of Ruin is also written in an excellent style even though some critics have objected
to the repetition of the line may be he (or she or they) like a temple better this way.
Here, apart from this repetition, we have some very well-written lines such as the
following:
(1)
(2)
(3)

The bitch looks out at you guardedly


The pariah puppies tumble over her
Its enough to strike terror in the heart of a dung beetle

The poem entitled The Butterfly is even better worded, with its metaphorical language.
Here we read such lines as the following :
(1)
(2)

It (the butterfly) is split like a second.


It hinges around itself
It has not future
It is pinned down to no past.
Its a pun on the present.

The alliteration in the third quotation above is noteworthy. The P sound occurs four
times in two lines.
Alliteration is noteworthy elsewhere also. In the boatride we come across the following
alliterative phrases: the briny brunt; hurl its hulk; a gull hitched on hump; the long
trail toils on.
Lucidity :- Another merit of Kolatkars style of writing is lucidity. We hardly come
across any obscurity in his poems except, to some extent, in Irani Restaurant Bombay.
The meaning in all the poems of Jejuri is almost transparent; and we really enjoy the
irony and the mockery. There are no complications of syntax in Kolatkars poems,
although the boatride certainly irritates us because of a complete absence of punctuation
and the resulting intricacy of syntax.
The Colloquial Style Much of Kolatkars poetry is written in a colloquial style. Almost
every poem in Jejuri is written in the colloquial or conversational style. Obvious
examples of the use of this style are The Priests Son; A Scratch; Yeshwant Rao; and
Makarand, The last named poem is actually written in the style of a dialogue so that we
imagine ourselves to be the persons whom the speaker is addressing here.

22

Brevity, the Soul of Wit in Kolatkars Case


We generally speak of a poets capacity to eondense or compress his material in case he
possesses that capacity. Kolatkar does not need that capacity because his natural manner
is not one ofprolixity or profusion but reserve and economy. He does not have to
condense his material because he naturally writes in an economical style. Brevity is the
soul of wit in his case.

English

23

Kamala Das
Q.1

In what way is Kamala Dass poetry different from the poetry of other Indo-Anglian
women poets? What are her distinctive qualities as a poet?

Ans

A Confessional Poet
Kamala Das has been described as a confessional poet on the ground that she has
revealed what strikes the readers as the secrets of her life and as her secret thoughts and
feelings. She believes in stripteasing her mind and exuding autobiography. She
dissects her mind and her psyche, freely dwelling upon matters which are strictly
personal and private. Her confessional mode of writing poetry is probably derived from
the American poet, Robert Lowell. Furthermore, she is essentially a poet of sexual
relationship, of marriage, sex, and lust. In all her three collections of poems Summer in
Calcutta, The Descendants and The Old Playhouse and Other Poems- she
concentrates on the themes of love, the failure of love or the absence of love, and the
frustration experienced by her in her conjugal life.
The Most Distinguished of Thirty Odd Women Poets Writing in English
Kamala Das is the most distinguished of all the Indo-Anglian women poets. That is not so
because there is any dearth of Indo-Anglian poets belonging to the fair sex. As the
eminent literary historian, M.K. Naik, points out, there are at present more than thirty
women (not counting those of the previous generations) with more than one collection of
poems each to their credit. But, as the same literary historian also points out, the work of
only a few of them possesses the individuality and power of Kamala Dass verse. One of
these other women is Monika Verma who published as many as six volumes of poems
between the years 1962 and 1676. The chief of these volumes were Dragon-files,
Draw Flame, Past Imperative, and Alakananda. Her poems often reveal an acute
responsiveness to Nature; but her sense of diction is not very sound or sure. She is
capable of writing such a line as bivouac or bulrushes bordering the brackish pool.
Gauri Deshpande
Another Indo-Anglian female poet deserving mention is Gauri Deshpande. Her three
volumes of poems, namely Between Births, Lost Love, and Beyond the
Slaughter-house, also show a sensitiveness to the changing moods of Nature, while
some of her love-poems recreate the drama of man-woman relationship as
suggestively and concretely as the poems of Kamala Das do, though on a much more

24

limited scale and in a less daring manner. And, some of Gauri Deshpandes lyrics are
marred by over-sentimentality.
Mamta Kalia
Mamta Kalia is another Indo-Anglian female poet deserving attention. Her poems in the
two
volumes- Tribute to Papa and Poems have a refreshingly astringent quality.
Mamta Kalia can talk about love, marriage, family life, and society with irony and wit.
For instance she can write:
Give up all hope
Ye that enter the kingdom of Government service.
But she has not been able to continue writing in this mode.
Suniti Namjoshi
Suniti Namjoshi has an almost similar talent. Her volumes of poetry includes Poems,
Cyclone in Pakistan, and The Jackass and the Lady. Her poem entitled Benefits
echoes some of Sarojini Naidus lines. Suniti here writes:
If you call me I will come
Together well make
Many bastards.
Meena Alexander and Some Others
Then there are other women Indo-Anglian poets who have published more than one
volume of
poetry each. There is Meena Alexander, the author of The Birds Bright
Wing and Without Place. There is Roshen Alkazi, the author of Seventeen Poems
and Seventeen More Poems.
Margaret Chatterjee has published The
Sandalwood Tree and Toward the Sun. Other names
worth mentioning are Mary
Ann Dasgupta, Leela Dharmaraj, Lakshmi Kannan, and Anna Sujatha
Modayil. This
does not exhaust the list. Indeed, it is highly gratifying to note the increasing
number of women who are writing poetry through the medium of the English language,
each having something distinctive about her work.
Kamala Dass Candour in Dealing with the Subject of Her Marriage
But Kamala Das towers above them all, as much by virtue of her themes as by virtue of
her
command over the English language and some of her stylistic qualities and
craftsmanship. We have already noted the principal themes of her poetry but what is
even more important is the fact that she deals with those themes in a most uninhibited
manner. Kamala Das deals with the subject of her marriage, the failure of her
marriage, and her extra marital sexual relationships with a candour which is
shocking to orthodox Indians. In the poems entitled The Old Playhouse, she
censures her husband with a brutal frankness. Pointing an accusing finger at him, she says
that he had trained her to carry out her duties as his wife in a subservient manner so that,

English

25

cowering beneath his monstrous ego, she had become a swarf, losing all her will-power
and her capacity for independent thinking. In this poem she also describes his crude
manner of making love to her, his only object being to satisfy his lust and give nothing
to her in terms of love or affection. In other words, she depicts him as a brute seeking
the gratification of his lust and, of course, satisfying her sexual desire also in the
process, and yet leaving her sorely dissatisfied and frustrated because of the complete
absence of any emotion from his manner of performing the sexual act.
Her Poems About Adulterous Love
What is distinctive about Kamala Dass poetry of marriage and sex is the boldness and
the daring which she exhibits in her treatment of these themes. She even admits, without
the least hesitation or reluctance, the many sexual relationships into which she entered
with other men because of her dissatisfaction with her husband and the sordid kind of
conjugal life that she had to lead. And she does so in poem after poem. The LookingGlass, The Freaks, and Substitute are only a few such poems. In Substitute she goes to the
extent of writing that, after a time, she became reckless and indiscriminate in her choice
of men as her bed-fellows. In lines which are often quoted, she has written :
After that, love became a swivel-door,
When one went out, another came in
These lines depict the anarchic sex-life which she had begun to lead after her rift with her
husband . In writing poetry of this kind, Kamala differs from all other Indo-Anglian
women poets because her experiences are different from theirs and because she has
greater courage than they have.
Her Poetry Not Cheap Stuff by a Nymphomania
Turning to M.K. Naik once again, we find that he singles out this uninhibited
treatment of sexual love as the most striking feature of her poetry. At the same time, this
critic expresses the view that this perfect frankness in speaking about sex and using such
expressions as the musk of sweat between the breasts the warm shock of menstrual
blood, and pubis is not just a cheqp exercise or a wanton display of thighs and sighs,
nor merely a case of from bed to verse. Kamala Dass persona, according to this critic,
is no nymphomaniac. The persona, who may be Kamala Das herself, is simply every
woman who seeks-love; she is the beloved and the betrayed, expressing her endless
female hungers, and the muted whisper at the core of womanhood. Kamala Das may
flaunt a Grand, flamboyant lust, but in her heart of hearts she remains the eternal Eve
proudly celebrating her essential femininity. The personas experience evidently to run
from one gossamer love to another. The result is confessional poetry obsessively treating
of love, sex and marriage.

26

The Poetry of Protest


Thus Kamala Das is not to be distinguished from other Indo-Anglian women
poets merely by the choice of her themes, and by her frank treatment of those themes.
Her poetry exihibits the several faces of Eve- woman as sweetheart, as filirt, as wife, as
woman of the world, as mother, as middle aged matron and, above all, woman as
anuntiring seeker of the nature of the psychological processes behind both femininity and
masculinity. Love too in her poetry appears in several roles such as a skincommunicated thing, an overpowering force, an escape, a longing, and a hunger
resulting in satiety. Her generally sex-dominated poetry has unfortunately pushed into the
background her few but sensitive poems which evoke childhood memories of her
ancestral home in Kerala. At the same time her poetry may be regarded as the poetry of
protest. Her protest is directed against the injustices and the persecution to which women
in India have always been subjected. In a poem entitled The Conflagration, she scolds the
Indian women for thinking that their only function is to lie beneath a man in order to
satisfy his lust. Here she tells the women that the world extends a lot beyond the six-foot
frame of a husband. Thus her poetry serves a social purpose and a reformative function
too. In this respect too her poetry differs from the poetry of most other women poets
writing in English.
The Exceptional Artistry or Craftsmanship
As already hinted, Kamala Dass choice of words and her skill in combining
words into phrases, clauses, and sentences also distinguish her from other women poets
writing in the English language. Even when writing in a hurry, she reveals a mastery of
phrase and a control over rhythm. She often employs words in such a way as to express
the vehemence of her emotion and the intensity of her resentment. Here are a couple of
examples of the forceful use of words and phrases :
Cowering
Beneath your monstrous ego I ate a magic loaf and
Became a dwarf.
The heart
An empty cistern, waiting
Through long hours, fills itself
With coiling snakes of silence
It must, however, be admitted that Kamala Das is not a perfect artist in the use of the
English language or in her craftmanship. Her use of words sometimes descends to
the banal (meaning unpoetic and clumsy).

English

27

Her Shortcomings and Her Strength


As M.K. Naik has pointed out, many of Kamala Dass love poems have a Browningesque
dramatic quality. Like Brownings women, her persona too sees herself in different
situations against a concrete background, reacting to incidents in the development of the
soul. The intensity of her utterance sometimes results in a lack of verbal discipline and
her constant harping upon sex cannot escape the law of diminishing aesthetic returns. She
has her moments of romantic claptrap and sentimentality also (for instance, in such lines
as O Krishna, I am melting, melting, melting). But the total impression which Kamala
Dass poetry produces is one of a bold, ruthless
honesty tearing passionately at
conventional attitudes to reveal the quintessential woman within.
Trend Setter
We can with confidence affirm at the end that Kamala Das is a solutionary poet who
started the
trend towards frankness and candour in the treatment of a subject which
was almost taboo and which women poets particularly hesitated to deal with. She was
thus a trend-setter; and the trend
started by her has now become almost the vogue.
Every female author, who wishes to be regarded
as modern and sophiissticated, would
like her poems with a similar, If not an equivalent, frankness.
Q.15 Write a critical appreciation of A Hot Noon in Malabar.
Or
What is the subject of the poem entitled A Hot Noon in Malabar, and how has
Kamals Das dealt with this subject ?
Ans. An Autobiographical Poem Expressing a Feeling of Home sickness
A Hot Noon in Malabar is an autobiographical poem in which Kamala Das recalls some
of her experiences in her Malabar home at noon-time in the course of her life there.
Kamala Das looks
back at those experiences fondly and longingly. Thus it is a
nostalgic poem or a poem in which she has expressed her feeling of home-sickness. In
respect of its theme or subject matter, therefore,
this poem strongly resembles the
poem entitled my Grandmothers House.
Realistic Imagery in the Poem
Kamala Das has successfully created the atmosphere of her Malabar home through the
imagery depicting the men and women who passed that house or visited it. Those men
and women included beggars, fortune tellers, Kurava girls offering to red palms,
bangle sellers carrying their wares (namely the red and green and blue bangles), and
strangers who sought shelter or aid of some other kind. The imagery is perfectly
realistic and, therefore, imparts the quality of authenticity to the poem. There is
absolutely nothing fanciful or remote or far-fetched about any of the pictures
presented here to our minds. The realism of the imagery is enhanced by such details as
the bangle sellers being covered with the dust of the roads and the cracks on their heel)

28

and also by a reference to the brickledged well (meaning the town well having a lw,
protective wall, made of
bricks, around it. Another such detail is the grating sound
produced by the bangle sellers when they climbed up the porch of the house to offer their
bangles for sale.
Verbal Felicities in the Poem; and the Heightening of Nostalgia at the End
Some of the phrases including a couple of similes show the verbal felicities which
Kamala Das is
capable of devising in her poetry. The bangle sellers feet
devouring rough miles, the hot eyes of
the bangle-sellers brimming with the sun,
and the strangers who rarely spoke so that when they
dis speak, their voices ran
wild like jungle voices are among the verbal felicities here. The feeling of home
sickness has effectively been expressed in the words: to be here, far away, is
torture. And the effect is further enhanced by the lines which follow :
Wild feet
Stirring up the dust, this hot noon, at my
Home in Malabar, and I so far away.
In these closing lines we are again reminded of the travellers with their dust-covered feet
arriving at the house, and then once again told of the poetesss feeling of nostalgia.
A Compact Poem Showing the Poetesss Talent for Condensation
We have here a short, compact poem with nothing irrelevant in it. Kamala Das, among
other things, possesses the skill to condense her material and thus to produce an effect
of concentratio and compression. Her style of writing is not prolix. Kamala Das is
not a garrulous writer; and she
does not believe in wasting words. This poem is
characterized by the maximum possible economy in the use of words.
Rhythmic Lines; and the Quality of Clarity
This poem also shows Kamala Dass Capacity to write rhythmic lines, though not using
any rhyme. Of course, her poetry does not have much of music in it and cannot boast
of any melodic quality; and even this poem resembles prose more than it resembles
poetry. However, this poem, unlike many others by her, does possess the quality of
clarity and lucidity. The use of commas, wherever they are needed in this poem,
certainly contributes to its clarity because in most of her poems she does away
with
such marks of punctuation as the comma and the semi-colon, thus creating
difficulties for the reader.
Q.2

Write a critical appreciation of the poem My Grandmothers House.


Or
Discuss My Grandmothers House as a poem expressing the authors sense of
deprivation and despair.

English

Ans

29

A Dramatic Monologue or a Dramatic Lyric


My Grandmothers House is a reminiscent poem, written in the form of a dramatic
monologue. The speaker here is Kamala Das herself, and she seems to be talking to her
husband who, however, says nothing in the poem. Thus, in form this poem resembles
the dramatic monologues
written by Robert Browning. The poem may also be
classified as a dramatic lyric.
Kamala Dass Feeling of Loss and of Deprivation Verging on Despair
This poem offers a striking contrast between Kamala Dass childhood days and her
present life as a grown up woman. As a little girl, too young to read, she enjoyed her
grandmothers love, while
now she gets no love from anybody and therefore feels as if
she had lost her way in life. Her sense
of loss is intense; and her feeling of
deprivation is so great that she seeks love from strangers like a
beggar asking for
alms at the houses of people whom she does not even know. Thus we have here a poem
expressing the authors sense of deprivation and her feeling of utter hopelessness.
Kamala Das has written many other poemss of the same kind.
The Keynote of this Poem
Pathos is the keynote of this poem. There is no doubt that the poetess arouses in us a deep
sympathy for her plight. Anybodys life would seem to be meaningless if there is no love
in it. The sense of the futility of life has most effectively been conveyed to us by this
poem. There are some key phrases in this poem to convey to us the sense of
disappointment and, consequently, the
feeling of futility. Here are the most
significant lines or phrases in this context:
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
(5)
(6)

The house withdrew into silence.


And my blood turned cold like the moon.
Just listen to the frozen air.
Pick an armful of darkness.
And beg now at strangers doors.
At least in small change.

The Similes and Metaphors in the Poem


Cold like the moon is quite an appropriate simile. An armful of darkness is
quite a satisfactory metaphor. Like a brooding dog is a clumsy simile. In small
change is a perfectly appropriate metaphor.
Condensation of Material; and a Compact Structure
The poem is remarkable for its compression and for the condensation of its
material. A powerful emotional effect has been achieved by the author by a use of athe
minimum posssible number of words. Kamals Das has shown a remarkable capacity to

30

avoid garrulity and copiousness. The poem is compact and well knit so far as its structure
is concerned. There is nothing relevant in the poem, and no digression at all. The style of
writing here is terse. The poem is justly famous as one of Kamals Dass poetic
achievements.
Q.3

Ans.

What evidence do you find in the poetry of Kamals Das to support the view that
she is a champion of the easuse of the Indian women ?
Or
Write a critical note on the femininity of Kamala Dass poetry.
Or
Show that Kamala Dass poetry is pervaded by her feminine sensibility.
Or
What evidence do you find in Kamala Dass poetry to show that her feminine
sensibility is the force behind her writing of poetry?
Her Feminine Sensibility, the Motivating Force Behind Her Poetry
Kamala Dass poetry is essentially the poetry of a woman. This poetry centres round
Kamala Das as a woman As a wife, as a sexual partner for many men besides her
husband, and as a mother. Her feminine sensibility is the motivating and governing
force behind her poems; and it is this sensibility which has given to her poetry a
distinctive character. Other women too have written poems showing their feminine
sensibilities; but Kamala Das is one of the pioneers in this respect and one of the
innovators.
Four of the Many Poems Inspired by Her Feminine Sensibility
Kamala Dass feminine sensibility appears most emphatically and forcefully in poems in
which she has described the temperament and disposition of her husband. The Old
Playhouse is one of the poems which are permeated by her feminine sensibility. Her
feminine sensibility revolted against her husbands manner of making love to her. His
love making involved only lust and showed no love at all. Only a bold woman would
thus express her disgust with a husband who seeks only the gratification of his
lust,
neither giving any love to, nor expecting any love from, her. The man who had
allowed his saliva to flow into her mouth and had penetrated every nook and cranny of
her body did not feel the least love or affection for her. This is feminine sensibility
voicing its protest against a man who performs the sexual act in a mechanical and
unemotional way just to satisfy his lust. In the poem entitled The Freaks, Kamals Das
Complains that her husbands finger tips can do nothing more than awaken her skins
lazy hungers, and that, though
she has lived with him so long, love has evaded
them, and her heart is therefore like an empty
cistern. She then calls herself a freak,
adding that it is only to save her face that she flaunts, at
times, a grand, flamboyant
lust. In The Sunshine Cat it is Kamala Dass feminine sensibility which compels her to

English

31

describe her husband as a selfish and cowardly man who neither loved her nor used
her properly. Her husband, she says, had been treating her as a prisoner with only a
yellow cat (or a streak of sunshine) to keep her company. His treatment of her had
reduced her to a cold and half-dead woman no longer of any use to a man needing
sexual satisfaction.
Two Poems About Maternity and Motherhood
Kamala Dass feminine sensibility shows itself also in the two poems which she has
written about the birth of a son to her. The poem entitled Jaisurya is an expression of a
womans most precious feelings when she is about to give birth to a child and
subsequently when she has actually given birth to the expected child. This poem has
maternity or motherhood as its subject; and only a feminine sensibility could have done
justice to this theme. This poem, and the other poem too, celebrate the glory of childbirth and the joy of motherhood. The other poem is entitled The White
Flowers.
Feminine Sensibility Behind The Looking Glass
It is only by virtue of her feminine sensibility that Kamala Das could have written the
poem entitled The Looking-Glass. Here she has some valuable suggestions to make to a
woman who wishes to please a lover. Let the woman stand nude before a mirror, with
her lover also standing nude by her side. Let a woman also give to a lover whatever she
is capable of giving him. Let a woman tell her lover all herendless female
hunger, meaning her deepest longings so far as the sexual act is concerned.
Fierce Female Protest and Charming Feminine Sentiments in Her Poetry
As a critic* says, typical feminine themes, and even the images and symbols chosen by
Kamala Das, make her poems distinctly feminine. She can boldly record the warm shock
of menstrual blood, and also the jerky way a lover urinates. She regards the human body,
both male and female, as a rare possession, and a gift from God. Her poems are feminine
in theme and feminine in tone. She is sensitive, sensuous, and sentimental. She is
intensely emotional, sometimes emotional without restraint. For instance, her forgiving
attitude in her poem entitled Composition is typical of the Indian feminine sensibility. In
that poem she says that she has reached an age at which one forgives all and that she is
ready to forgive friends and to forgive those who ruined friendships. Indeed, she has
successfully blended fierce female protest and charming feminine sentiments in her
poems.

Q3

Write an essay on Kamala Dass concept of love as revealed in her poems.

32

Ans

Or
What opinion have you formed about Kamala Dass concept of love on the basis of
the poems which you have read; and what is your reaction to that concept?
The Sexual Relationship and Emotional Attachment
The word love, as it is generally used in relation to cinema-films, and in relation to
novels and short stories, means an emotional attachment between a man and a woman,
the kind of attachment which makes a man and a woman feel that their separation from
each other would be the greatest catastrophe or misfortune in their lives and would ruin
their happiness in life for ever. And it is only by implication that the word love conveys
also the desire for a sexual relationship between a man and a woman. The thought of a
sexual relationship is certainly there in the minds of both the man and the woman; but it
exists only at the back of their minds and not in the forefront of their thinking. The sexual
relationship is undoubtedly an essential ingredient of love but both the man and the
woman treat it as something secondary, at least in theory. Now, Kamala Das too regards
love as an emotional attachment, and a deep one, between a man and a woman; and she
too regards the sexual relationship between them as something essential but secondary.
The difference between the general view of love and Kamala Dass view of it is that,
while people in general do not speak openly and freely about the essentiality of the sexual
relationship, Kamala Das not only speaks about it openly and freely in her poetry but puts
a great deal of enphasis on it. Kamala Das does not think it indecent or vulgar or
indelicate even undignified to speak about the need of the sexual relationship in plicit and
specific terms. She even goes to the extent of using such words pubis, public hair,
womb, and menstrual blood in this connection, she does not shrink from suggesting
to women how they should extract the maximum possible pleasure from the sexual act.
Kamala Das confronts a womans sexuality, treating it as a very important part of her
physical and mental make-up.
Kamala Dass Sexual Fulfilment and Emotional Frustration
Kamala Dass poetry has rightly been described as confessional poetry because it reveals
to us those facts and those experiences of hers which women ordinarily do not disclose to
anyone and which they would shrink from confessing even to themselves. Kamala Dass
sexual experiences with her husband and with many other men have most candidly been
described in her poetry; and she has stated in specific terms her feeling of disappointment
and frustration in all these experiences. Her frustration arose from the want of love
(meaning the sentiment or the emotion of love as distinct from sexual ratification) in the
hearts of the various men with whom she had those sexual experiences. She has frankly
admitted, in poem after poem, that the hands of her sexuality had fully been met both in
the case of her extra-marital relationships. But at the core of her poetry is the
disappointing and pressing thought that she never received love in its proper sense from
any her sexual partners. At the core of her poetry is the painful, almost gonizing, thought

English

33

that her love has remained unfulfilled; and it is this thought which has ruined all her
happiness and rendered her poetry pessimistic.
Sexual Experience Without Love from a Sexual Partner, Not Welcome
In the poem entitled The Freaks, Kamala Das says that, although she and her
husband had lived together for a very long time, they had failed in love, and that her
heart had become
an empty cistern. In the poem My Grandmothers House, she says
that she received much
love from her grandmother but that now she has lost her
way and stands at strangers doors to beg for love, at least in small change. In The
Sunshine Cat, she bluntly says that her husband, being a selfish and cowardly man, had
neither loved her nor used her properly and that, in the long run, the streak of sunshine,
which had looked like a yellow cat, was reduced to a hair-thin line and that she herself
was reduced to a half-dead woman, no longer of any use to any wanting sexual
pleasure. And in the same poem, she has also given pression to her disappointment with
her other sexual partners who never offered her their love on the ground that they were
incapable of loving her. As a consequence of her disappointment she used to lie in bed
weeping and trying to build walls with tears. In the poem entitled The Invitation, she
admits that she experienced perfect sexual pleasure in bed with a man who, however,
gave her no real love and showed no real emotion in his relationship with her. The bed, in
which she used to sleep with him, seemed to be a paradise to her if judged only by the
extent of her sexual pleasure; but his unemotional or mechanical manner of performing
the sexual act and his subsequent desertion of her gave rise to thoughts of suicide in her
mind.
The Emptiness of Sexual Act Without Love
In all these poems, the fact of her sexuality amounting to lust has candidly been admitted
by Kamala Das; and the absence of love on the part of her sexual partners in all these
cases has also been candidly stated. It is clear, then, that she believes the sensual or the
sexual experience to be hollow if it is not accompanied by a feeling of love on the part of
a sexual partner. Her failure to receive love from any of her sexual partners led her to say
in the poem entitled Substitute that a stage came when she no longer thought mere
sensual gratification to be of any importance whatsoever; love became a swivel- door:
when one went out, another came in. The sexual experience had become for her a purely
mechanical act, fulfilling a bodily need but affording no pleasure or satisfaction to her.
Kamala Dass Definition of Love, According to a Critic
According to a critic* Kamala Dass definition of love is entirely different from that of
other poets as she thinks that the basis of ideal love is in its experience through sex. In the
poem entitled Ghanashyam, Kamala Das speaks about a husk-game** which she and her
lover had played because his body needed hers and because his ageing body in its pride

34

needed her body to gratify his lust. Kamala Das has always sought sexual-spiritual
fulfillment in her extra-marital relationships. She is never ashamed of admitting that her
husband allowed her to toss her youth like coins into various hands, that he allowed her
to sleep with other men, and that he wanted her to seek ecstasy in other mens arms. This
confession she makes in the poem entitled A Man is a Season. And she makes a similar
confession in the poem entitled The Sunshine Cat in which she says that her husband was
a ruthless watcher of her sexual acts with other men.
Love, a Spiritual Experience, Possible Only Through a Sexual Relationship
The same critic goes on to say that the love-theme in Kamala Dass poetry is a multidimensional phenomenon. On the one hand, she realizes love as the mechanical act of
bodily union and says that, like a convict studying his persons geography, she used to
study her lovers limbs and organs. On the other hand, she seeks emotional and spiritual
sustenance and food from a lover. She yearns for a kind of love which is a spiritual
experience, and she seeks that love through a sexual relationship. She feels that getting a
man to love is easy but that living without him afterwards is unbearable. It is like living
without life (The Looking-Glass).
Kamala Das, the Victim of a Sado-Masochistic Malady
According to another critic*, Kamala Dass poetry, from her earliest poem to her latest
(till the year 1973) is one long, endless stream of misery and sexual humiliation, an
endless tale of a woman too wronged by the male world around her. Within the walls
built by her with her tears, she projects herself as a person suffering from an incurable
malady of sado-masochistic kind.
3A HOT NOON IN MALABAR
A SUMMARY OF THE POEM
The poetess recalls some of her experiences in her home in Malabar. She of the hot noontime when all sorts of persons used to pass her home pause and to stop there in order to
sell the wares which they carried place to place. She first thinks of the beggars who used
to come to her to beg alms in their characteristic voices expressive of their discontent life
and their need for charity. Then she thinks of the men who came the hills with parrots in a
cage and fortune-cards, all stained because of long time during which those cards had
been used again and again. She of the brown-complexioned girls who belonged to the
class of basket-makers and manufactures of bird-catching traps. These girls were
palmanders who offered, in their monotonous voices, to read the palms of those who
wanted their fortunes told on the basis of the lines on their palms. The poetess then recalls
the bangle-sellers who had walked miles and miles of the roads in order to sell their
bangles of various colors (red, green, and ). Next she thinks of the strangers who used to
come and peep into her through the window-curtains but were unable to see anything
because rooms of the house were dark while their eyes carried the heat and the of sunlight
in them. The strangers were suspicious about how they be received and what treatment

English

35

they might get from the inmates of the . These strangers remained silent most of the time
but, when they did so in voices which were wild like the sounds that are heard in a jungle.
The poetess then expresses the view that noon-time in Malabar was not only a time for
the visits of wild men but also for wild thoughts to enter her mind, and for a wild desire
for love-making to arise in her mind. The poetess laments the fact that she is now living
so far away from her Malabar home. She experiences an intense longing to go back there
and to look at all those men at whom she used to look during her life there. The feeling
that she is now so far away form that home is a torture to her.
NOTES AND EXPLANATIONS
Whining-complaining; grumbling.
Explanation. With parrots in a cage and fortune-cards (line 3)- This line depicts one of the
very common slights in our country. We often see a man sitting on the roadside with a
parrot in a cage and a number of cards lying before him in a row, with the faces of the
cards turned downwards. We then feel tempted to go to this man and sit in front of him to
let his parrot tell us our fortunes. The parrot is allowed to come out of the cage and pick
up one of the cards with its beak. The right side of this card is then shown to us because
there we can read our fortune or our future. (This is, of course, not a real or reliable guide
to our future destiny; but it is quite an intresting experience for us and a means of
livelihood to the owner of the parrot which has been well trained by him to perform its
task. The man with the parrot may be compared to the man with a pair of monkeys which
are well trained to perform a number of interesting tricks and antics at the behest of the
trainer. And both these men may be compared to the man with a bear which has been well
trained to perform certain interesting and amusing tricks).
All stained with time- The fortune-cards have been used by the man with the parrot so
many times that they all have stains on them. Kurava girls-girls belonging to the
community of basket-makers and makers of bird catching traps. These girls are a
common sight in Malabar.
With old eyes-with experienced eyes. Who read palms-These girls tell the fortune of their
customers or clients by reading their palms. The man with the parrot tells the fortunes of
his clients by the use of fortune-cards, while these girls are palm-readers who tell
fortunes by scrutinizing the lines on the palms of their clients.
In light singsong/Voices- in light-hearted and monotonous voices. The word singsong
implies a lack of variety in the tone of the voices. The same words are being repeated by
these girls in the same tone.
Explanation. Whose feet, devouring rough/Miles, grow cracks on the heels- The banglesellers have been trudging along the roads, from one village to another and from one
town to another. In the course of their journey their feet get covered thickly with dust, and
their heels become cracked on account of the toil and labor of the journey. The phrase
devouring rough miles is note worthy. The word devour has here been used
metaphorically to convey the idea of the travelers covering miles and miles of the dusty

36

road. The phrase devouring rough miles here may be cited as an example of a felicity in
the use of words or in phrase-making.
Clambered up-climbed up. Grafting-jarring.
The window-drapes-the window-curtains. Peer-peep
Brimming with the sun-filled with the sunlight. Here we have another original and
expressive phrase. The sun is very hot; and the eyes of the ravellers seem to have been
filled to the brim with the heat of the sun.
Yearningly-longingly. The longing refers to the possibility of the ravellers seeking
somebody who might receive them hospitably.
Like jungle voices-like the sounds which are heard in a jungle. Here we have a most
appropriate simile. The voices of the travelers are wild or fierce like the weird sounds
which are audible in a jungle or a forest.

English

37

A.K. Ramanujan
Q1

Ans

Write a short essay on Ramanujans contribution to Indo-Anglian poetry.


Or
What is distinctive about the experience recorded in A.K. Ramanujans poems
compared with other Indo-Anglian poets?
Or
Bring out the distinctive features of the poetry of A.K. Ramanujan.
Or
What is your assessment of Ramanujan as a poet? Give illustrations support your
views.
A Leading Indo-Anglian Poet
Ramanujan is one of the leading Indo-Anglian poets. Although his output is not as bulky
as that of many other Indo-Anglian poets, he stands above many of them as regards the
quality and the appeal of his work. Besides, he differs form most of them with regard to
the themes and motifs which form the substance of his poetry.
Family-Oriented Poetry
One distinctive feature of Rananujans poetry is that it is family-oriented. The family
figures most prominently in his poems. So abundant are he references to the members of
the family, his own or some other, that his yellow Tamilian poet, R. Parthasarathy, has
said that the family, for Ramanujun, is in fact one of the central metaphors with which he
thinks. The poem entitled Of Mothers, Among Other Things is about Ramanujans own
nother. Here Ramanujan recalls his mothers youth, middle age, and old age, and he has
the feeling that his tongue is licking bark in his mouth at his ecollection of her four still
sensible fingers slowly bending to pick a grain of rice from the kitchen floor. Love Poem
for a Wife I concerns the poets relationship with his wife, a relationship which has been
marked by much happiness. Small-Scale Reflections on a Great House is a poem in
which Ramanujan recalls the life in his ancestral house and some of his relatives.
Obituary relates to Ramunjans father who had left debts and daughters and a bedwetting grandson behind him. No Indo-Anglian poet has written so much about his
family, or so freely and uninhibitedly.
The Role of Ramanujans Hindu Heritage in His Poetry
Another distinctive feature of Ramanujans poetry is the Hindu outlook which permeates
it. His Hindu heritage is an important motif in this poetry. The most striking example of
Ramanunjans obsession with his Hindu heritage is the poem Conventions of Despair in

38

which there is a tension or conflict between the claims of western culture and those of the
Hindu heritage of Ramanujan. The poem entitled Snakes highlights one of the
superstitions of the Hindus. Ramanunjans mother used to feed the snakes with milk,
while the child Ramanunjan used to feel panicky at the sight. Then there are the several
Hindu poems. There is the one entitled The Hindoo who reads his Gita. A Hindoo is
supposed to be calm at all events but actually he is never calm at a time of crists. The
other Hindoo poems include The Hindoo: he doesnt hurt a fly or a spider either; and The
Hindoo: the Only Risk. The Hindoo poems attest that a mask (such as reading the Gita or
not hurting an insect) cannot provide a steady defence to the self because it can never
fully cope with eh variety and depth of inner life brought into an interplay through
ones encounter with the realities of this world.
Psychological Realism
Ramanujans poetry is characterized by psychological realism. Of course, the
poetry of many other Indo-Anglian poets also possesses this quality; but in the case of
Ramunjan this quality has a special significance. This quality is particularly in evidence
in such poems as Ecology, Love Poem For a Wife I, Self-Portrait, and Conventions of
Despair. In Ecology we have the paradox of the mother having an attack of migraine
during the rains when the champak tree bursts into flower but refusing to have the tree cut
down because she has reason to believe that the tree has also done a lot of good to the
family. In Self-Portrait he persona or the protagonist has lost his identity, and he speaks of
his helpless position in this respect. He says, ironically, that he resembles everyone
except himself. The speaker here appears as a representative of the modern man who has
lost his anchorage. The loss of his roots is reflected in the distorted reflection of himself
in the mirror. The mirror, instead of reflecting the speakers image, despite the wellknown laws of optics, reflects the portrait of a stranger; and this portrait of the stranger is
signed in the corner by the speakers father. The irony is that the very preservation in his
memory of his fathers image makes the speaker uneasy. The loss of traditional values in
the son is metaphorically represented by the distortion of the reflection in the mirror. The
signature of his father is a reminder to him that the traditional values cannot be easily and
entirely forsaken. In Love Poem for a Wife I we get, in an ironical vein, a penetrating
analysis by the speaker of his own mind, of his wifes mind, of the mind of his wifes
father, and of a couple of other relatives too. In the Conventions of Despair, we witness a
confrontation in the speakers mind between the modernity of American life and culture
on one hand, and on the other the orthodoxy of the Hindu faith with its superstitious
belief in the tortures to which a sinner is subjected in hell. In Looking for a Cousin on
Swing child-psychology as well as adult-psychology has been depicted in an ironic vein.
Of Mothers, Among Other Things reveals the working of the poets mind with regard to
his memories of his mother, and Obituary reveals his thoughts about his father.

English

39

Predominance of Irony
Another striking feature of Ramanujans poetry is the predominance in it. Irony too is a
device which is employed by almost every Indo-Anglian poet; but Ramanujan makes use
of this device in almost every poem has written, with the exception of a very few such as
Breaded Fish is a serious and grave poem. Small-Scale Reflections on a Great House
helped in irony. There is irony in the very opening lines: Sometimes I that nothing/that
ever comes into this house/goes out. The speaker, Ramanujan himself, then goes on to
say, in an ironic tone, that things in everyday to lose themselves among other things/lost
long ago other things lost long ago. Obituary is another wholly ironic poem. The
speaker, again Ramanujan himself, has a good-humoured laugh at father who, at his
death, left behind debts and daughters, and more than one annual ritual for his family
to perform. Looking and Finding is another wholly ironic poem. One looks for something
but finds quite another; and the speaker gives several examples of this in an ironic vein.
Ramanjun uses irony not only for comic effects but also to aggravate the which he wishes
to express in his poems. For instance, in A River, he ironically about the Tamil poets who
find a flood in the river to be a fit for writing poems about, but who hardly take any
notice of the lines which the flood causes in human life, such as the wiping out of
villages, and the drowning of pregnant women. In the poem History many has been
employed not only to expose the greed of the relatives of great-aunt but also to heighten
the feeling of distress which the experiences and which he arouses in our hearts too. The
tragic effect by the use of irony in the poem entitled The Hindoo. Here the reads his Gita
and thinks that he can remain calm at all events when fact is that a thoughtful man cannot
remain calm even after reading regularly because a thoughtful man would see on a little
boys face of primeval malice and pre-historic evil.
Significant Role of Self in this Poetry
The self plays a significant role in Ramanujans poetry. The poem Self-not only illustrates
a modern concern with the self but dramatizes a those essential passivity allows it to
resemble others over an determinate stretch of time. This identification is important
because it the self the freedom to share different identities and attitudes, each of several
in feeling and mysterious in apprehension (mysterious because windows defy the laws
of optics to reveal a strangers face). The between the compulsion to be what one is and
to retain ones achieves an intense expression in the poem entitled Conventions of where
the passive self, conscious of its religious and cultural roots longing to define itself in
terms of their mythic particulars, rejects the fashionable postures of marginality,
alienation, toughness, and pessimism, and chooses to find my particular hell only in my
Hindu mind. In Ramanujans poetry passivity becomes an essential pre-condition for
suggesting the inexhaustible potential of the self. In Chicago Zen the magnification of
ordinary experience into surreal proportions is achieved within the negotiable frames of
mental space by dispensing with the formal connections of time and place.

40

The Distinctive Imagery in this Poetry


Then Ramanujans poetry contains imagery which is distinctive, and distinguishable from
the imagery of other Indo-Anglian poets. Ramanujans genius looks for the particular, the
precise, and the concrete as against the general, the vague, and the abstract. This is clear
even from the titles which he gives to his poems: The Striders, Snakes, Breaded Fish, A
River, A Poem on Particulars, and An Image For Politics. He has an eye for the particular
physiognomy of the object and an insight into the characteristic quality informing it.
Apart from this aspect of his imagery, is the richness and fullness of his imagery. In this
respect he is closer to Keats than to Shelley. He has used all catagories of images lending
his poetry the power to evoke the multi-dimensional experience of life. Often the images
are complex, An image may arouse visual and auditory sensations at the same time. For
instance, The twirls of their hisses/rise, like tiny dust cones on slow-noon roads/winding
through the farmers feet (in Snakes). Here the image of the slow-noon roads and the
farmers walking alone those roads is very vivid as well as realistic; and along with this
visual image we have the auditory image of the hissing of snakes. And this sort of thing is
frequent in Ramanujans poetry. Sometimes he also produces tableau-like effects as, for
example, in the poems Still Life and A River. In these poems we notice not only
Ramanujans eye for detail but also his ability to depict the detail with photographic
fidelity. We also have examples of such cameo-like pictures in the poems Poona Train
Window and Some Indian Uses of History on a Rainy Day.

(1)
(2)

The Outstanding Craftsmanship of Ramanujan


Ramanujan stands apart from most of the Indo-Anglian poets in respect of his
craftsmanship. In this respect he towers above most of them. As pointed out by a critic*,
Ramanujan has the surest touch, among all his contemporaries, so far as poetic technique
is concerned. Although he writes mostly in free verse, his verse is tightly constructed. He
can also surprise us with the aptness and the originality of his phrases as in the naked
parting of her hair. He can blend image and word-music perfectly as when he describes
the snakes as writing a sibilant alphabet of panic/on my floor. As another critic** has
pointed out, Ramunjan is one of the most significant poets in India by virtue of the
terseness of his diction, the consummate skill with which he introduces rhyme and
assonance into his verse, his sharply etched and crystallized images, and his disciplined
handling of the language. There often an intelligent play on words in his poems as, for
instance, in Snakes and in Looking for a Cousin on a Swing. He employs the trick of
repetition with telling effect as, for instance:
dwelling on the yellower vein
in the yellow amber
(Snakes)
City of temples and poets
who sing of cities and temples
(A River)

English

41

(3)

His first son, trainee


in telegraphy,
has telegraphed thrice already for money.
(The Last of the Princes)

Q2

Write a critical appreciation of Ramanujans poem entitled A


Or
What do you learn about Ramanujan as a poet from A River?
Or
What light does A River throw on the poetical characteristic of Ramamujan?
Annual Flood, and the Damage Caused by it
Never tells us of the annual flood in the river which flows through the Madurai. What
Ramanujan here really wants to tell us is that, although flood in the river inspires poetry,
it does not evoke any real from the authorities or even form the writers of poems
themselves. is done to protect human beings, animals, and houses against the which is
done by the flood-waters.
Poignant Poem; and the Weapon of Irony Used by Ramanujan in it
A River is a touching and poignant poem. But it is note worthy that Ramanujan simply
writes as an observer, maintaining an attitude of complete detachment and not making
any deliberate effort to touch or move his readers. Pathos is the key-note of this poem,
but Ramanujan does not employ any particular device to arouse the pity of his readers.
He merely communicates certain facts to the readers, letting the facts themselves produce
the desired effect on them. Far from using any particular device to arouse the feeling of
pity in the hearts of the readers, he employs the weapon of irony against the poets who
write poetry all right but who take no practical steps in the matter. Even so far as the
poets are concerned, only the older ones dealt with the floods in their poems while the
new poets have no room in their poetry to describe, or refer to, the havoc which the
annual flood works. The new poets merely quote the old poets but do not mention the
tragedies which occur during a flood. There is more irony in the closing passage in which
Ramanujan says that the river has water enough to urge a poet to write a poem about it,
only casually mentioning the damage which the flood-waters cause in the very first half
an hour.
Touches of Humour in the Poem: A Tragi-Comic Poem
Note worthy is the casual manner in which Ramanujan refers to the misfortunes which
are causeds by the annual flood in the river. A couple of cows and three village homes are
swept away by the flood-waters, and one life is lost. The person who is drowned in the
flood-waters is a woman. As the woman was pregnant, it means that actually two lives
have been lost. But the woman may have been having twins in her womb; and that means
that three lives have been lost. There is a touch of humour here also. Ramanujan says that
the woman, perhaps carrying twins in her womb, might even have felt the babies kicking

Ans

42

against the walls of her womb; and there is another touch of humour when we are told
that the pregnant woman expected identical twins with no moles on their bodies to enable
anyone to differentiate between them after their birth. The mother herself would have
found it difficult to distinguish one child form the other, and would have made them wear
diapers of different colors to be able to distinguish the one from the other. There is also a
touch of humour in the naming of the two cows. It was not necessary for the author to
give us the name of the cows, but he has done so just to amuse us. The cows have the
names of Gopi and Brinda. Thus we may label A River as a tragi-comic poem.
Realistic Details; and a Couple of Similes in the Poem
Some of the details given to us in the opening lines about the river being reduced to a
mere trickle or a narrow stream, the straw and womens hair clogging the water-gates,
and the patches of repair upon the bridges add to the realism of the poem. The realistic
effect of the poem as a whole is, of course, one of its outstanding features; and these
details, though absolutely unnecessary so far as the real subject-matter of the poem is
concerned, do serve to enhance the realistic effect. Then there are a couple of original,
though not very convincing similes in the poem. The wet stones glisten like sleepy
crocodiles, while the dry stones look like shaven water-buffaloes roaming about in the
sun.
Irregular Form of the Poem; and the Absence of Rhyme
Like most poems by Indo-Anglian poets, A River is irregular in form, of lines of varying
length, and having no rhyme. Nor do the lines this poem (with the exception of the first
line of each passage) begin the capital letters. Like most Indo-Anglian poets, Ramanujan
too is conventional, and keen to produce an impression of novelty or innovation.
Critics Opinion
According to a critic*, this poem is a dig at the poets who will sing only the event that
tickets them most unmindful of what it means to others, to whose for whom poetry is no
more than a form of self-indulgence. The river in is just a trickle, too dry and uninspiring;
but a river in flood is an citing phenomenon:
The river has water enough
to be poetic
about only once a year.
the moment, which sends a poet into raptures, brings havoc and disaster a near by village
by carrying away in the first half hour three houses, a couple of cows, and one pregnant
woman. The conventional poet has no for all this. He would only sing and quote old poets
who had written about floods.
Another Critics Opinion
Another critic,** tells us that A River is a poem on the Vaikai which through Madurai, a
city that has for about two thousand years been the at of Tamil culture. And then he adds
that as an evocation of a river, the poem succeeds admirably. He further says that the
river becomes a point of parture for ironically contrasting the relative attitudes of the

English

43

old and new Tamil poets, both of whom are exposed for their callousness to the
suffering, which is
so obvious, caused by the floods.
Q11

Ans

Write a critical appreciation of the poem Of Mothers, Among Other Things.


Or
What opinion of Ramanujan as a poet would you form on the basis the poem Of
Mothers, Among Other Things?
Ramamnujans Interest in the Family and in the Different Members of the family.
The first thing, that strikes us about the poem entitled Of Mothers, among Other-Things,
is the speakers interest in a mother, his own or somebody elses. Ramanujan feels
particularly interested in the family. He has written a number of poems about the various
members of a family. He has written about fathers, about mothers, about husbands, about
wives, about a family living in a great house, and so on. He has written so much about the
family and the various members of a family that the poet-critic, R. Parthasarthy has
expressed the opinion that the family, for Ramanujan, is one of the central metaphors
with which he thinks.
Realistic and Vivid Imagery; Also Incoherent Imagery
Another striking feature of this poem is its imagery; and this imagery reveals to us one of
the foremost merits of Ramanujans poetry. Vivid and realistic imagery is surely
Ramanujans forte, even though his imagery has its weak points too. In this poem,
Ramanujan has depicted through graphic pictures, the youthfulness of a woman, her
maturity into a mother, and her subsequent flabbiness and her loose flesh. Thus we are
made to see the mother in our imagination almost exactly as Ramanujan has depicted her.
However, it must be pointed out that some of Ramamujans imagery, particularly in this
poem, is vague and even incoherent and confusing. We can certainly visualize the silk
and white petal of the mothers youth, with her three diamonds sparkling and radiating
light. But we cannot really understand what Ramanujan means when he says that the
rains sew and stitch, with broken thread, the rags of the tree-tasselled light. Then we can
certainly visualize a wet eagles twisted claws; but it is not clear whether it was the
eagles talon which was crippled in a garden-trap or it was one of the mothers fingers
which was badly hurt and rendered ineffective and unusable by having been caught in the
garden-trap. The three closing lines make it seem that it was the mothers finger which
was rendered ineffective and inoperational because in these lines the speaker sees her
four still sensible fingers picking up a grain of rice from the kitchen floor. This last
picture has the merit of being realistic and vivid. Clear and vivid also is the picture of the
mothers saris, no longer clinging to her flesh, but hanging loose because she is now an
old woman who no longer has firm flesh on her body.
A Poignant Poem with an Element of Joyousness

44

We have here a touching, poignant poem. There is certainly an element of joy and
jubilation in the opening lines with their reference to the silk and the white petal of the
womans youthful years, and also in the picture of her three diamonds throwing out rays
of bright light. But the rest of the poem is characterized by pathos because there we have
references to the crying babies, the crippling of a claw and a finger, and the mothers
flesh becoming loose.
A Critics View
A critic* reminds us that Ramanujans poetry is strewn with references to father, mother,
grandmother, sister, wife, cousin, and so on, and that this sort of thing has created an
impression that the family is Ramanunjans main concern. In reality, says this critic,
Ramanujan is obsessively copied with inner and physical violence, with derangement,
and with. His themes include fear, anxiety, and despair. Of course, familial in his poetry
show deep and moving attachments; but even in the domain, darkness does enter. And in
the poem Of Mother, Among Things too, we have images of pain.
Another Critics View
Another critic* points out that the images in the first four stanzas of this poem are labored
and incoherent, and that these stanzas are really difficult interpret and understand. Thus,
according to this critic, there is a lack of in this poem which is, in fact, marked by
obscurity. However, the in the last stanza is fairly coherent and even precise. According
to lines of this stanza emphasize the futility of the poets language to the rough, bitter
taste of the memory, and the concluding two lines of stanza provide an irresistible
objective correlative of the emotion. It is picture of the last two lines that makes the
previous imagery of the poem labored and incoherent, says this critic.

````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````
`````````````````````````````````````````````````````````

English

45

Centres d'intérêt liés