Rehman Rahi: A poet in destitute times

Like his precursor Dina Nath Nadim, Rahi is a product of a progressive movement
Prof. Rehman Rahi (L) with the the author (R)
Prof. Rehman Rahi (L) with the the author (R) Author

Prof. Rehman Rahi is a poet of multiple-shades, and multiple thoughts with varied expressions. For many, he is a westernized poet and for few, he was anti-tradition who ‘revolutionized’ the poetic thought of an agonized nation during the hard times.

Many say he was playing with words and for some, he used to play with thoughts but for all he was a poet, a critic and an academician caught in destitute times and only some realize that his inner man was fixed in the brouhaha used to goes off against every conscious voice in the background of destitute times, still, he proved himself as a compos mentis and expressed his thought and emotions artistically using almost all poetic devices to beautify his art of poetry.

Like his precursor Dina Nath Nadim, Rahi is a product of a progressive movement, he accepted the revolutionary influence of Marxist literary thought evident from his poetic collection Nawroz-e-saba but his power of imagination, evolving thought process, the art of assimilation, aesthetics, ironies, ambiguities, symbolism, and imagery painted his poems with shades of modernism, existentialism, and surrealism which evolved as a unique artistic format.

He didn’t beautify his art with one shade only, Rahi is not a poet of a single style, and one can catch different shades, styles, and dictions from Rahi’s art. If one associates him with westernized poetic art by citing his resembling poetic themes with western poets, if the theme of his poems like “Sooun Gaam” resembles Eliot’s “The Love Song of Prufrock”, if Rahi’s Nawroz-e-saba portrays progressive literary thought, then one can also feel the shades of Abhinavgupta’s “Anubhava-nivedana-stotra,” when he expresses his experiences in a poem like in Thoni Russ Sadaa. There are stances of bhairava mudrâ like in the poem Sona Lank. Sometimes Rahi abides by the descriptive technique as used in Abhinava’s sâmbhavî mudrâ.

Rahi has not laid off from his tradition, besides using all new styles to beautify his art. His art, if resembles the western modern diction is rooted in the tradition of Mehjoor and Dina Nath Nadim. The shades of Abdul Ahad Azad too are visible.

As a well-read and conscious poet, he has tried to fit and find a place for his art beyond the boundaries of his nation, so to appropriate his poetry Rahi has aesthetically decorated his poetry with trends of the time like Modernism, Nationalism, Progressivism, or Existentialism.

The proper hermeneutics of Rahi’s poetry can reveal new philosophies and philosophical elements writhing the verses he has crafted. His poetry has scope for phenomenological and ontological appraisal.

Rahi was a proponent of change and evolution. He always yearns for uniqueness and in this longing, he lost his circle and strives for the reality he dreamed of during his literary life. He says probably in the introduction Nawroz-e-saba that new thought gives budding to new ideas, new reality awakens new dreams and new dreams give new directions to the new reality.

So to achieve new dreams, Rahi moved a step forward from his tradition. He didn’t keep himself fixed. Even, in his literary journey, he at times didn’t feel it important to fence himself in the elements of prosody-Ourooz o Ahang- though considered as poetic essentials.

He has always tried to craft the lexis differently to achieve different structures and meaning in resonance with the spectacle and melody. Referring to Aristotelian mimesis, Paul Ricoeur one of the world’s major philosophical thinkers says that spectacle, melody, and lexis together play an instrumental role. Rahi has appropriated all the Ricoeurian elements beautifully in both his Nazms and Ghazals thus crafting striking pieces of literature.

Poet always talks, sometimes with nature or with himself or with the words, pain or beauty. Poetic dialogue is continuous without voice. Sometimes a poet talks about people’s suffering or pain, and sometimes about the nation’s agony or triumph.

Like other poets, Rahi continued his conversation with Zabarwan Ball or Sonlank discussing the ‘Being’. Rahi was never silent as many say that he is a “poet of silence”; perhaps for being indifferent or maintaining silence over people’s agony. He gives voice to people’s agony in his poetic collection “On the Pier of Bridge-Kadla Thatis Peth”.

One should read Rahi’s acceptance speech written in the year 2000 in response to Fellowship conferred to him by Sahitya Akademi. The speech is enough to prove that Rahi was never a poet of silence vis-à-vis people’s agony.

Rahi arrived into this world when the global knowledge system was thriving with varied political, philosophical, and social slogans, realism, romanticism, modernism, Marxism, and other -isms were spreading but Rahi’s homeland was struggling in an abysmal crisis that continued till his last breath and Rahi always found himself in destitute times.

He was a conscious poet aware of the surrounding hard times, so to live with his art and reach the audience during the destitute times he opted for poetic language. People always look at poets or leaders during hard times and seek the poet’s role.

Friedrich Hölderlin a famous German poet and philosopher, himself posed the same question in an elegy Brod and Wein or “Bread and Wine” what are poets for in a destitute time or time of need? The elegy was written in 1801. Martin Heidegger poses the same question what are poets for? And comes up with the answer too.

Heidegger says that a poet should reach the Abgrund (abyss) and sing Dasein (existence) in the destitute times. Rahi seems to be aware of his times of destitution when he feels that fugitive gods were departed. He calls his inner poet to sing the Heideggerian Dasein in his poem Shaiy’r (poet) with an artistic expression.

Rahi not only provides an answer to Holdrein and Heidegger but reaches out to other poets of destitute times like Baudelaire who speaks of the condition of a poet in the modern destitute age, Stephane Mallarme, WB Yeats, and Rainer Maria Rilke.

Rahi says that a poet is a: A dewdrop walks to soothe burning petals, A cascade flows to cut the mountains, A breeze runs to create waves in oceans, A gaze of love to blossom a lotus, A bulbul who dreams spring in winters………….

Rahi feeling the agony of the times aesthetically reaches the audience sometimes, he satisfies himself by saying that Shaiyrus asaan chi zakhman zev anyen : Eng; Poet makes wounds to speak (Nowroz-e-saba), many times he found solace and solution at the symbolic peak of Zabarwan.He says kiya soonchyeth meyt zev dyech taals, zar chu zabarvun baalus peyth (Kadla Thetus Peyth).

Tailpiece: Prof. Rehman Rahi is a multifaceted poet, critic, and writer who left a treasure of poetry and critical writings.

He is not a poet of modernism and progressivism but a poet thinker and poet of philosophies who needs to be explored along with his contemporaries like Prof Rashid Nazki and Amin Kamil in conformity with the modern parameters of knowledge and scholasticism. His writing demands deep research and interpretation.

We need to come out of the mere rhetoric to establish concrete poetic and literary thought based on the treasure of writings our poets have left behind.

Mir Tariq Rasool, former secretary and  executive member of AMKJ&K

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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