BOOK REVIEW -LIGHT GREW LESS IN HIS EYES AND OTHER POEMS – Jagannath Rao Adukuri
The blurb on the back cover says “Poetry is product of an exquisite sensibility, the ability to respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences. Is there a sensibility unique to country or its people, directly flowing from their cultural conscious?” Well if you ask me I would definitely say yes. A poet who is rooted to the uniqueness of the milieu in which he has integrated himself will definitely be able to reflect on the sensibilities involved and therein lies his authenticity. A question can be raised whether it would not be more authentic if he wrote in the language of the land. Well it is true to a certain extent, the local flavor can be transmitted more truthfully in the local language. For those of us who think and write in English, though our native or mother tongue is something else, I shall fall back once again to the poet’s own words in his Introduction “An Indian poet writing in English will draw from his own cultural conscious and incorporate in his vision complex aesthetic influences working on him to produce poetry that relates to his people. Such work will still have some appeal to a global audience because the English that results is a unique creation of Western expression with Indian flavor.”
Well that’s the truth. For example I reproduce a few lines from the very first poem in the book ‘The Rope of Fire’
“Man has a coconut rope with fiery end
Tied to electric pole, burning slow like debt.
It’s fire enough to light white sticks all night.
No need to see faces by the light of match.”
Your mind races immediately to a small shop in a village where the passerby stops to buy a cigarette and lights it from the rope of fire. For a brief moment as he puffs at his cigarette his face is visible in the light emanating from the tip of the rope.
Or take for instance these four lines from the poem ‘My Mother’s Brocade’ –
“The rustle of the silk drowned
The wails of the boiling cocoons
They died so beauty would live
In death cries lay bridal hopes.”
I find it appropriate to say that Jagannath Rao Adukuri lives in poetry rather than that he writes poetry. This book is just a selection of 175 poems from out of the, I guess more than one thousand and odd poems he has written over the years. He writes about day to day events, of people long departed, of customs and practices, of movies, of Gods, religion and beliefs, of places. In fact in his own words he says that “this collection is rooted in Indian sensibility. The imagery used in them are reflective of the language patterns employed by the people of this country. The recurring myths are familiar to an average Indian and do not warrant scholastic efforts to relate them to their context.”
I should admit that I took a long time to go through the book; in fact it would need a second reading, even a third. The imagery is stark arising out of an acute sense of observation and identification. Rao belongs to that class of Imagists who rely on free verse to put forth their images in a clear language. Poetry is not only about Metre and Rhyme but also of discovering powerful images through an unbridled expression of one’s thought process as and when they occur. This is where the pleasure of poetry lies.
In his tribute to the Sitar Maestro Ravi Shankar in the poem “Light Grew Less In His Eyes” (the title of the book) Rao writes –
We hear a body’s fall steeped in a melody
With exquisite sound gone from its fingers,
The eyes fell of broken strings, their music
Lost in the winter of time, in its nightfall
The glass spread quickly in its stringing eyes.
The big black eyes werestrung to fine song,
The song of lifetime, the flow of generations.
The sound is now ashes, the eyes just beads.
But I found two lines most poignant in the poem “The Hand”
Death is not fragrant ashes of incense
Or mumbled prayers on trembling lips.
This book is a definite literary contribution to Indian writing in English. A must read for all poetry lovers.