Kumar, Shiv K.;
Losing My Way: Poems
Peacock Books, 2008, 64 pages
ISBN 8124801797, 9788124801796
topics: | poetry | indian-english
This is a recent volume from the veteran Indian English poet Shiv K. Kumar (b. 1921).
Kumar is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, London (1978) and Padma Bhushan (2001). He grew up in Lahore, and moved to Delhi after partition (subject of a 2013 novel, Train to Delhi).
Kumar did his Ph.D in English Lit at Cambridge on "Bergson and the Stream of Consciousness novel" (1950). He lives in Hyderabad, where he has been with the English dept at the University of Hyderabad and at Osmania, and has worked on european fiction, and on British romantic poets / Victorian literature. He has also visited Yale (1962), Marshall (1968) and the U. Northern Iowa (1969).
His first collection of poems Articulate Silences was published from PC Lal's Writer's Workshop in 1970. In 1977, five of his poems were included in Pritish Nandy's passionate anthology, Strangertime. Other volumes of poetry include Cobwebs in the Sun (1974), Subterfuges (OUP, 1975), Woodpeckers (London, 1979), Broken Columns (an autobiographical poem publ. 1984, but appearing in Strangertime in 1977) and Trapfalls in the Sky (1987). The last volume won him the Sahitya Academy Prize for English in 1987.
In the anthology, Gathered Grace (1991), K.R. Ramachandran Nair describes Shiv Kumar's poetry:
The major themes in Kumar's poetry are love, sex and companionship, birth and death and the sense of boredom and horror arising out of the anguish of urban life experiences. He adopts the ironic mode of a confessional poet especially in poems in which he explores the self through interaction with others. Like Robert Frost, he often selects a simple and unpretentious fact or incident and develops it into a meditative experience. Indian Women, A Mango Vendor and Rickshaw- Wallah illustrate this aspect of Kumar's poetry. ... With a rare insight into the ridiculous aspect of a situation, experience or fact Kumar digs at follies and pretensions as seen in poems like Poet Laureate and Epitaph on an Indian Politician. As an example of his ironic attitude to sex and companionship, consider A mango vendor, where the emphasis is on her other attractions: Through the slits of her patched blouse one bare shoulder two white moons pull all horses off the track. The old man's eyes -- Idle birds peeking at the mango-nipples. In New York, he does not find the atmosphere very congenial: The white of the negro maid's eyeballs is the only clean thing here. You can read his work at book excerptise: * Contemporary Indian poetry ed. Kaiser Haq (1990) * Modern Indian Poetry in English ed. Ayyappa K Paniker (1991) * excerpts of his translations of Faiz in The true subject: selected poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz by Naomi Lazard (tr.) (1988) * Ten 20th Century Indian Poets ed. R. Parthasarathy (1976) * Strangertime, ed. Pritish Nandy (1977) * Contemporary Indian Short Stories in English ed. Shiv K. Kumar (1991)
Losing my way is Shiv K Kumar's seventh volme of poetry. The poems here are on more prosaic themes, but many of them develop a simple act into a broader meditation. Thus, in Feeding the pigeons, Gingerly they come, hopping toward my palmful of temptations. ... A white-feathered creature has already hopped onto my palm for crumbs. Emboldened, I caress the nape of its neck, the rondure of its bosom. Sly are the ways of temptation. Birds with grains, children with peppermints, and brunettes with bracelets. Peacocks mating also has a subtle emotional connect. However, some other poems seem overly direct ("vultures whose spiked / beaks gobble down dead bodies"). On the whole, craftsmanship and succinctness carry most of the pieces.
Long, thin and brittle. Like the strands in an old infidel's beard. They stand under the waters of a lake -- stagnant and muddy, like an obsolete ritual. But they seize by the leg anyone who dares transgress into their domain. Or, one may see them hooked out of a lawn as parasites. As pustules on a fair skin. But nature doesn't disown even vultures whose spiked beaks gobble down dead bodies... Purity of blood-- the thin line that divides Bermuda grass from weeds -- is a myth created by those whose vision is impaired by jaundice.
Even if he offers to bring the constellation down to the rubies in her eyes, it doesn't work. A cold, blank stare. Like Cleopatra, her desire transcends the skyline. But as he places his crown at her feet and breaks into a serenade, unfolding his feathers to all the tints of the coral sea, she stirs. Sways her body to the wind's rhythm. All the eyes in her spangled plumes now awaken to the body's rapture. Two flames swing round each other, seven times. Two prisms converge on the same point on paper to set it ablaze. But no commitment. Next spring another mate, another dance. Pain is born when the honey- bee returns to the belly-button of the same sunflower, again and again.
They lie dormant in a shark's pouch till it is harpooned by a poet's quill. Relaxed, cleansed and baptized, they're now ready to be strung into verse. A solitary word is a foetus that floats rudderless on the womb's sea. It's an arc sliced off a tangerine that looks like the lip of a Nigerian woman. A poem is born when words wing down from the sky, chorusing like nightingales with holes in their throats. Don't cough out words. Just let them out softly, like seals rubbing their backs on a beach off the Mediterranean coast.
A flock of visitors on my lawn -- freedom of the air on their wings, the earth's greenery under their feet. Gingerly they come, hopping toward my palmful of temptations. Assured of trust, they're now within my reach. Do they move in pairs, I wonder. A white-feathered creature has already hopped onto my palm for crumbs. Emboldened, I caress the nape of its neck, the rondure of its bosom. It's drinking it all in. Has it abandoned its partner for a stranger? Sly are the ways of temptation. Birds with grains, children with peppermints, and brunettes with bracelets. The way to catch a star is to keep your palm open.
Sunday Morning, Shimla Stones Hamlet Weeds Ruins at Agra Adam to God The Sun's Eye Losing My Way Vandana Weds Ramesh Wall clock In the muffled light of my bed- lamp, I hear a heart-throb on the mantelpiece -- tick-tock. Time's footfalls down a dark hallway. The Garden Déjà Vu A Nightmare Walking in the Rain Two Strangers on a Train Whisperings of Immortality Listening to Shiv Sharma's Santoor Siesta As He Lay Dying Casino at Las Vegas Triveni At the Circus Birth of a Poem The Snail The Coconut Tree Peacocks mating Bhishampitamah to Yudhishter Dharamaraj The Moving Finger Window-shopping Learning to Walk Brooding The Survivors Lying Low Street Children On Reading Dostoevsky's 'Notes from Underground' A Tiger Skin at the Country Club In memory of Begum Akhtar A circuitous road I'll never come this way again. Harding road, round Summerhill, circuitous like an argument, never unwinding -- a rattle-snake that coils around its own tail. Paper Boats Lightning Riding a Horse Telling Beads Crossing the Street A Love Letter to My Wife An Anonymous Letter I'm still waiting for you It was a child's love for you. I stared at you with a teddy bear's button eyes... Words The Mist All other tints muffled except steel grey that has shrouded the earth, this winter morning. Each tree a cloaked assassin, each branch a dagger raised against some phantom, and each wall a hangman's scaffolding. A Poets' Meet A Letter to Kabir I'm Afraid of Tomorrow A Cock-fight Feeding the pigeons Finale