Saturday, November 30, 2013

Nissim Ezekiel as a Poet

Ezekiel is a dedicated person to the rhyme, the extremes and pitfalls. No other Indian-English poet has today shown the ability to organise his experience into words as competently as Ezekiel. The remarkable aspect of his poetry is his sincerity and individuality. His poems generalise his own felt experience. It is neither repetitive nor shocking, but 'simple, introspective and analytical. He treats poetry as a first-hand record of the growth of his mind. He loves simplicity. His love of the genuine is explicit in the following: Life in the city, sexuality, the problems of marriage, the need to overcome alienation and to create integration among the various aspects of his character are Ezekiel's early and continuing themes There is a distinct personality expressed in the voice, themes and style. Life is seen as a quest for 4wholeness, for intellectual and spiritual satisfaction, for maturity.

Ezekiel showed that it was possible to write about oneself without-being self-consciously Indian and that an Indian poetry could express the experiences of the educated and urbanized and need not be obsessed with mythology, peasants and nationalist slogans with him a post-colonial poetry started which reflects the lives and identities that an increasing number of educated Indians knew or would seek.

Ezekiel is a poet of many a theme and one finds wider range of subjects and variety in his poetry. His poetry is not born out of dogma and he does not confine himself to a particular type, theme or technique in his poetry. He has an open mind and therefore he changes the subject matter of his poetry from time to time. He makes this clear in his poem ‘Theological’:  Ezekiel's poetry is marked by both a natural sense of Indianness. and an even.level of language and craft the real source of creative tension in his poetry is between his pervasive philosophic preoccupation and an insistent awareness of the ties stemming from the surrounding milieu. Ezekiel never postulates a truth but works out, in terms of irony, an answer which is purely tentative. In effect, even in regard to ostensibly philosophic issues, the residue of significance lies not in the validity of the speculation but in the ironic stance of the contemplation.

The new poetry (i.e., Indian English poetry after Independence) demanded a new use of language and called for the use of everyday speech rhythm in poetry. Thus there is a demand as it were, for the creation of an Indian English idiom, to give an identity to modern Indian English Poetry independent of and different from the world literatures written in English including Anglo-American literatures. Ezekiel has succeeded in creating a new Indian English idiom to a great extent.

Nizzim Ezekiel accepts the established linguistic framework but his art lies in so changing a unit of expression as to make it expressive of a state of mind. He is capable of turning words into a metaphor, image or symbols as the situation demands. It is only rarely that we come across poetic counters of expression but there is a strong undercurrent of poetry in the seemingly prosiac words. This is his characteristic mode which demonstrates his command over language and saves his poetry from degenerating into bare statement. Ezekiel is fond of using’ paradoxical language in his poetry for greater poetic effect. Ezekiel is a conscious poet ‘looking before and after’. To him poetry is not a gift to be adorned but a craft to be studied seriously. He believes in the revision of a poem and works hard on it, till it achieves a kind of perfection. A poet like a woman ‘must labour to be beautiful’. Ezekiel’s clarity of thought, clinical precision of words and phrases and employment of imagery make his poetry distinctly Indian.

The poet in Nissim Ezekiel is too self-conscious of artistic excellence while the man in him strives to explore the real meaning of existence through art. The poet, as a result, does not cither get prolix or make poetry the text of his aesthetic vision.  Metaphorically speaking, every doctrine, dream or ideal, whether realised or not, is analogous to the invention of a right poem or the writing of a real poem amounts to the discovery of a metaphysical truth. Poetry does not merely extenuate the pains of living in the poet but much more than that, his search for the real idiom as expressed therein. Ezekiel brought a sense of discipline, selfcriticism and mastery to Indian English poetry. He was the first Indian poet to have such a professional attitude.

Ezekiel's poetry is centred on a study of his conscious craftsmanship, his mastery of rhythm and diction and his treatment of modern urban life and the existential questions it generates .

These I have dwelt upon, listening to rain,
And turning in, resoled
That I must wait and train myself
To recognise the real thing,
And in the verse or friends I make
To have no trunk with what is fake.

Ezekiel's greatness lies in his effort to avoid the mistakes, which his fellow poets committed. He is a serious poet. His originality lies in his typical  poems, which are firmly rooted in Indian soil. Ezekiel's impersonalize i s
another landmark. Indeed David McCutchion's observation is a tribute to this great Indian poet: "Ezekiel belongs with Thom Gunn, R.S. Thomas, Elizabeth Jennings, Anthony Thwaite, and others like them. He has their cautious, discriminating style, precise and analytical, with its conscious rejection of the heroic and passionate as also of the sentimental and cosy. The technique is immaculate: rhymes, and carefully varied yet regular rhythms, lines that run over with a poised deliberateness. But behind the casual assurance one senses
the clenched first, the wounded tenderness."

Ezekiel's concept is that writing poetry is not just a matter of inspiration but studying the skill of writing carefully. This study demands a lot of patience from the poet. Only when unskilled poets try their hands in poetry, poetry turns out to be self-advertisement. Many of Ezekiel's poems express his view that poetry can be built in resolving the tension between two opposite forces and trying to maintain an equipoise. About this aspect Linda Hess remarks, Every mature poet finds his art demanding again and again that he synthesises certain powerful and apparently opposite forces within himself.

C.D.Narasimhaiah compliments him in the following words “But to the extent he has availed himself of the composite culture of India to which he belongs he must be said to be an important poet not merely in the Indian context, but in a consideration of those that are writing poertry anywhere in English”. What makes a poet belong to a particular country necessarily involves nationality, and his identity is to be found in being rooted in the soil. Ezekiel is deeply rooted in the Indian soil In him one discerns a certainty of touch that seems to reflect a confidence in the direction and purpose of his writing as well as an integrity of image of India, style and subject-matter.