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Book Review 
Poet with Amoral and Humanistic Imagination 
--V.V.B. Rama Rao 
Ram Krishna Singh. I Am No Jesus and Other Se...
I write to seek a release from myself as much as from others; to feel free by unburdening 
myself in verses; to experience...
today is not different. The speaker of the poem today suffers from the same third-rate 
villains. New sins, new horrors an...
“I am no Jesus 
but I can feel the pains 
of crucifixion 
as a common man 
suffer all what he suffered – 
play the same re...
The poet’s vision has come to full maturation of the kind of ripening attained by mystics 
after a strenuous effort at und...
the bodies don’t shine 
all the time nor passion 
wildly overflows” 
It does us good to remember that ‘parts arouse dead f...
common man. The poem opens with the speaker revealing his bent of mind. He is 
just human, with no strength drawn from any...
poems need to be studied slowly, fathoming the depths delved by the poet and shown 
vividly in illustrations. 
-0- 
8
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Review of I AM NO JESUS AND OTHER SELECTED POEMS TANKA AND HAIKU

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The essay reviews the latest poetry collection of R.K.Singh

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Review of I AM NO JESUS AND OTHER SELECTED POEMS TANKA AND HAIKU

  1. 1. Book Review Poet with Amoral and Humanistic Imagination --V.V.B. Rama Rao Ram Krishna Singh. I Am No Jesus and Other Selected Poems, Tanka, and Haiku. Edited and translated into Crimean Tatar by Taner Murat, illustrated by Alsou Shikhova Ildrona. Iasi: Editura StudIs, 2014. ISBN 978-606-624-562-3 There’s more to view in a dew drop than what lies in my backyard -- years of muck and mucking about – burial too difficult in sunlight images shine like crystal ball reveal my mind in poetic disturbance leaking lust and blood on dried grass (p.14) The latest collection of poems, tanka and haiku by R.K.Singh has a rare distinction. By 2006, R K Singh (hereinafter referred to as RK) has carved a niche for himself in the Parthenon of Indian English poetry with the publication of five collections: My Silence and Other Selected Poems (1996), Above the Earth’s Green (1997), Every Stone Drop Pebble (1999), Cover to Cover: A Collection of Poems (2002), Pacem in Terris (2003), and The River Returns (2006). He also published three more books, Sexless Solitude and Other Poems (2009), Sense and Silence: Collected Poems (2010), and New and Selected Poems Tanka and Haiku (2012). In Dec. 2006, in an interview to Arbind Kumar Choudhury, RK gave his first ars poetica. Here are a few of his averments: 1
  2. 2. I write to seek a release from myself as much as from others; to feel free by unburdening myself in verses; to experience an inner balance, feeling, probing, sensing, recalling, or whatever. A good poem generates some physical, emotional or psychosexual sensation, stimulates some sensuous, spiritual or exalted pleasure, or provokes some ideas. I have no taste for didacticism in poetry. I love brevity, rhythm, and “colouring of human passion”; personal, lyrical, honest and free expression, with seriousness in reflection and interpretation. Poetry lies in creating the image (like the painter who celebrates sensuality), and in capturing momentness of a moment, which stirs the mind. …But here [in the body of the poet’s total work till 2006] one may discover my formal taste, personal vision, and sexual orientation rooted in Purush-Prakriti union. It is significant for open eroticism, seriousness, candor, and exaltation of Rati. I believe in unity of mankind and equality of sexes, and am secular and non-moral in my attitude and values. In 2014 this poet acquired yet another feather in his cap. I AM NO JESUS, a collection of selected poems, tanka and haiku translated into Crimean Tatar by Romanian Taner Murat and illustrated by Shikhova Ildarovna. This book has twenty-nine selected poems, thirty one numbered tanka and eighty-nine unnumbered haiku. In this book poet RK, after proven prowess, enlarges his prolegomena of his poetic composition: “Genuine poetry happens as an event to be truthful, clear, courageous, and honest to oneself; to be open about things one often tries to conceal. Poetry provides an opportunity for expressing one’s intimate moments with the same passion while talking about the interwoven outer realities. I also view it (poetry) as the expression of cosmic, organic, erotic life, creating its own forms, expressing itself and, in being expressed, finds its voice. My experience convinces me that we are not limited by what we are, but we are limited by what we are not. Poetry becomes a means to overcome this limitation, and thus, allows us not only to know ourselves but also to expand on what we are. This means we should remain open to healthy revisions that we can make to our way of thinking, and incorporate new perspectives into our outlook. In other words, we should not let our rigidity destroy our potential, but rather we should evince forward-looking, tolerant, and open mindset if we wish to create future.” (p.7) RK being an academic has professionally shifted himself into his lecture mood. The up and coming poet, learning the craft of writing out his imagination and mind, would benefit by ruminating on these ideas and profit himself in his own way. At the end, in all humility - humility is endless – in peroration he says: “I don’t know if my poetry fits in what I think at the moment, but poetry does help us to traverse the boundaries of hesitation to see the joy of fulfilment.” The first poem is not easy to understand for all if one goes alone by the title. ‘Merkaba’ is the Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot. Once understood it sets the tone of the poems to follow. The poem takes us back to the Hebrew prophet and we feel that the state of reality 2
  3. 3. today is not different. The speaker of the poem today suffers from the same third-rate villains. New sins, new horrors and new villainy have come up if that were to be any change. The celestials fume in the zoo of humans. There can be nothing promising. Heaven itself is a mirage. No water for the parched. Here is the poem itself: “They say my birth was a heavenly event: here I am suffering third-rate villains that erect walls to stop the chariots from Merkaba: the angles fume but who cares heaven is a mirage in human zoo” ‘New Year’ is about degenerating sex jeering and it is an itch. There can be no fresh petals with mantra and mirror for god is silent – never perturbed – for His the kingdom though it is not said so. The very brevity of the poems is their strong point making us think, think and think again. ‘Nude Delight’ talks of sensuous sweetness and the littleness of every moment. The divine is coiled – a beautiful trope - for the coiled serpent is torpid. Brevity is the soul of the poems. Many words convey less, the fewer the better would be an inspiration to fathom the deep. In the poem ‘Stranger’, the speaker is one and a half scores old and has no feeling of belonging. He lives between cold walls, candles put out, with no roof on the head. The more one thinks, the more one is perturbed, fuddled and dumbfounded. The illustration shows the man with no roof on his head, his chest /hear sullied. ‘Avalanche’ is what it would be. The land is trivialized. There is breathlessness at midnight. This is the state of the present. The tumbling mountain opens the wound. Man can only be the silent stranger with no hope, no succour and no light even at the end of the tunnel. ‘Return to Wholeness’ is the genuine effort to achieve the ultimate goal. Restlessness and negative vibrations make man look at the east only to protect his body, withstand the yelling jackals outside and read philosophy. Body is precious as our culture told us aeons ago. sharreramaadyam khalu dharma saadhanam. The speaker does what he could – went to Hsu Chicheng. One must return to wholeness. The speaker remembers Buddha. “I love its stillness beauty and sanctity here and now sink into its calm to hear the whispers in all its ebbs and flows erect, penetrate the edge of life and loss return to wholeness” From being a particle, an atom, one should get back into wholeness. Vishnu Sahasranama the myriad appellations of the Supreme Lord says the He is both ‘aNu’ and ‘brihat’. The ultimate objective is to get into the wholeness. With growth, fruition is still a long way ahead. The first step towards realization is the capacity to feel. There is realization in the poem, the title of which is title of the book, I Am No Jesus. 3
  4. 4. “I am no Jesus but I can feel the pains of crucifixion as a common man suffer all what he suffered – play the same refrains— at times cry and pray hope for better days ahead despite lack of love diminishing strength failures, ennui and blames for sins I didn’t author ... feel for humankind like carry the cross and relive my dreams” Capacity and willingness and sacrifice – feeling the pain of crucifixion are the ways to soar upward. ‘Valley of Self’ is about helplessness. The speaker doesn’t know psalms, does not know any goddess to worship or a mantra to chant to overcome fear. That is the valley of self: “I see no saviour come to rescue me when mired I seek freedom from myself my ordeals are mine alone in the valley of self I must learn to clear the clouds soaring high or low” This ennui which is suffering one experiences Earlier, for one of his collections, RK chose the title Sexless Solitude. The title poem, usually, is the one the poet considers his best to illustrate his point of view, his world vision and his own individual stamp, his signature-tune, if you will. The endeavour is to tune in into the reader’s mind to make sure that the complex web of feeling is put across. In this collection the poem is included as ‘Solitude’. The earlier sex is removed but solitude remains. Sexless Solitude is a coinage to signify a state of mind when solitude takes the main stage with sex driven into a no-loner-significant-part to play. This, paradoxically, makes existence significant. There are moments when the reader feels that the poet in RK is tossed on the tightrope of spirituality and the sexy but surely this volume bids goodbye to the tossing. The scabrous and the scatological, normally vulgar or loathsome cease to be so with a widening of the intellectual horizon. Sin becomes behovely, as that great Saint Juliana of Norwich convincingly declared: “Sin is behovely, all shall be well and all manner of things”. There is no more tight-rope-walking, and hence the pronouncement in the title composition: “I don’t seek the stone bowl Buddha used while here She dwells on moon beams” 4
  5. 5. The poet’s vision has come to full maturation of the kind of ripening attained by mystics after a strenuous effort at understanding the ultimate reality. All the poems display this maturation as seen below in the sampler from the slim collection of poems included in Sexless Solitude. In this new collection, there is one poem which is of delight and joy. ‘From the Window’ is relaxation both for the poet and the reader. What are seen from the car’s window are the very common ones to things very substantially joy giving and sublime. Tall houses, trees, people, birds and beasts are common. Suddenly there is a take off to the high, elevated region. The speaker “nervously worried watch the moving mass of clouds from the window eternal patterns nature’s wonder on the edge a streak of orange thousands twinkle in colour like stars – seat belt fastened” The last line is the landing from the heights of joy. The poem ‘Eyeless Jagannath’ is a frank admission of man’s helplessness to comprehend the mystical thrills and depths of existence. Headpiece filled with straw, standing on the precipice of physicality, man is Prometheus bound. The title could be construed differently, (I’m) Eyeless! Jagannath! or, one may prosaically attribute ‘eyelessness’ to Him. In the procession, the Supreme Lord of the Universe promenades in effulgence. The poet feels eyeless: this could be an explanation for the earthy actuality. There is a sense of bewilderment that, in spite of His Lordship, there should be so much gloom and emptiness both within and without. RK is rightly attracted by breathtaking splendour of the promenade – the rath yatra – the Lord seated in a fabulous chariot drawn by innumerable devotees. Man’s existence between physicality and the ‘eylessness’ are poignantly communicated like the pithy grand declarations in the Upanishads, the mahavakyas, RK’s admissions of frailty, bewilderment and cerebration. He impresses the reader with the genuineness of his feeling: “I stand on the edge of earth’s physicality waiting on the brink” On the brink of what, if it is not on the edge of sanity and saintly insight! ‘Body – A Bliss’ is a feeling of complacent physicality. Lorca rises up from the physical to the metaphysical in a sudden flash in the line quoted ‘To see you naked is to recall the earth.’ Body shines momentarily and passion does not last long. This is a truism no doubt but the understanding is valuable. Erotic love is valuable. “it’s no sin to love strip naked in bed, kitchen or prayer room 5
  6. 6. the bodies don’t shine all the time nor passion wildly overflows” It does us good to remember that ‘parts arouse dead flesh’. Three things are signified in the brief flash: movement, journey and evolution. Man must play seasons: “the thirst is ever new and blissful too to recreate the body, a temple and a prayer” The supreme realization is the function of the body. shareeramaadyam khalu dharma sadhanam. The body is the primary requisite for dharmasadhanam, achievement and fulfilment of dharma – in one word, prayer. The speaker’s love and affection for the young one in the poem is a blessing and really a benediction. I want the best of life for you but you must understand what I can’t do you must be patient and do what you can – I can’t create the fruits I may create space for you to stand but I can’t become the legs you must run the race on your own and be what you dream the redness of mars and the whiteness of moon merge in you you have worlds to conquer and miles to go, my dear you must rear the goose and have the gold each day” There is frank admission with no scheming inept hiding, in the poem ‘I Can’t Hide Tears’. The speaker is conscious of his limitations – he is no Jesus. He is the 6
  7. 7. common man. The poem opens with the speaker revealing his bent of mind. He is just human, with no strength drawn from any divine source. “I could not make my bedroom church reading psalms and Lord’s prayers the light of my lamp and the potion of my cup couldn’t lift my soul mired in passions and silence of the morning ... in verses I can’t hide fears my face I despise, can’t find freedom from the chemicals sprayed in the air and the smog ... the terrors of death are real the traps overwhelm, I can’t escape my own creations the bed, the flesh, the serpents that seize the house of God I can’t redeem, can’t save the soul in battle with me in bed I can’t sing and praise” This is human condition. The concluding poem ‘Rainbow’ is about the fallacy and fecklessness of make-up, and using things like hair dye. Finding the colours to match the rainbow is impossible. This is practicality nothing to do with faith or faithlessness. Tanka and haiku, both are Japanese verse forms from the very distant past. Tanka is a three line poem and haiku of five. Nowadays many Indian English poets are giving expression to their observations in these forms. As ‘snap shots’ or flashes of lightning expressing a mood, an observation or feeling these are unique. I think that the review cannot be complete without a brief note on the illustrator too. There are illustrations for ten poems with the titles placed overhead. These the handiwork of Alsou Shikhova Ildarnova aid the assimilation of the feeling of the poems, give inspiration to think deeply and help looking up at wider horizons. The abstractions are a treasure trove in and by themselves when carefully viewed. These 7
  8. 8. poems need to be studied slowly, fathoming the depths delved by the poet and shown vividly in illustrations. -0- 8

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