Journal of South Asian Literature. v 11, V. 11 ( 1976) p. 3.


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INTRODUCTION

Nissim Ezekiel -- poet, playwright, and art critic -- ranks foremost in contemporary Indo-Anglian poetry1 and among the very best in post-Independence Indo-Anglian literature. His output has been quite significant and of almost consistently high quality from the point of view of craftsmanship as well as subject matter. He knows that "the best poets wait for words,"2 and handles the language with utmost care and competence. He believes that "poetry is essentially a method of organizing oneself through words,"3 and this he pursues with rare dedication. In the title poem of his first volume of verse, A Time To Change (1952), Ezekiel writes:

The pure invention or the perfect poem, Precise communication of a thought, Love reciprocated to a quiver, Flawless doctrines, certainty of God, These are merely dreams; but I am human And must testify to what they mean.

In the process of testifying the meaning of dreams, the dreams become realitieSo These dreams have haunted Ezekiel for almost quarter of a century now. He has deliberately sought them, because they represent the imaginative structures of human reality, which alone can improve the quality of life, and which alone can rescue man and woman from fear and anxiety of their ultimate destiny. Sustained by these dreams, Ezekiel has found his metaphors of true love and harmony in a world filled with degenerative sexuality and hollow noises, in his creative vision, the "woman-beast of sex" becomes "myth and dream.llzr And it is through the instrumentality of these dreams that Ezekiel discovers "the why / The how, the what, the flow / From which a poem comes,"5 learns how to be precisely obscure "about the luminous / the pure musical / phases of living,"0 and prays to God to grant him "certainty / In kinships with the sky / Air, earth, fire, sea / And the fresh inward eye."^

In their monograph on Ezekiel's poetry, Rajeev Taranath and Meena Belliappa point out that the "urban theme forms an important strain in Mr. Ezekiel"s verse."8 In a much more perceptive and comprehensive manner, Linda Hess informs us: "He [Ezekiel] is a poet of the city, Bombay; a poet of the body;

and an endless explorer of the labyrinths of the mind, the devious delving and twisting of the ego, and the ceaseless attempt of man and poet to define himself, and to find through all 'the myth and maze' a way to honesty and love,"9 But we will do well to remember that Ezekiel's poetry dramatizes the tension between the urban and the primal; there is no compromise with the city on its purely mundane terms. It is only through the syncretic vision that he succeeds in reconciling the opposites; in this metamorphic process the city develops its own primordial roots from within. And it is in this city that the urban artist finds the primeval law of all life and makes "its spirit sing



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