The Poetry of Loss and Grief

A Review of Wani Nazir’s Chill in the Bones
"Your cold words melt In my warm mouth, Dissolve Like the sacramental bread And their chill never wanes away. An affair eternal.
"Your cold words melt In my warm mouth, Dissolve Like the sacramental bread And their chill never wanes away. An affair eternal.Special arrangement

Poetry is what registers its impact on us and gets assimilated in the blood and nerves and one sees the world differently after encountering it. Wani Nazir is a poet who leaves indelible imprints on readers and as such he succeeds as a poet.

Unlike most of poets of newer generation, he is immersed in the Tradition to stamp his individual talent and we hope to get more and more gems in future from him if he succeeds in distancing himself from experience, and approaches it as an artist who sees or contemplates and doesn’t react – who appreciates the value of what has been called “stasis” and “recollection in tranquillity.”

An artist has no self as Keats said and as such doesn’t judge life or events but mirrors it and in the process transfuses its meaning by immersing himself/herself in its midst to appreciate its glory and beauty beyond the binaries of pleasure and pain.

A great poet who teaches generations doesn’t get hooked by good or bad memory or this or that experience, or personal unconscious but gives voice to collective unconscious and even beyond that to the Sacred founts of Spirit underlying all myths and folklore as he enters into the heart of higher world – Imaginal World.

Poetry as partaking of revelation and wisdom in traditional cultures is trusted with the great task of helping us in salvation/felicity/enlightenment and as such it can’t afford to restrict itself to the accidents of psyche only.

Poetry is the art of finding higher order in the disorderly world and we live and rise higher by contemplating that order. This is why it is said the rhyme and rhythm have descended from Heavens and constitute a discipline and package that filters and magnifies the vivifying light of words.

Poetry is defiance against what we can’t force conscience or Spirit to accept. It is resistance. It is affirmation; the very attempt to write is to affirm; even if one writes only of overwhelming oppression. Our poet’s dedication of his work is worth noting in this connection:

To my parents whose syllables and syntax

I pound to give order to disorder

And the poem “Cosmos” make this clear.

Other poems reiterate the conviction about art’s power to endure:

He is “looking for a poem

Under the debris of words

Where none can erase us”

Poem is a corpse of my bosom

Paper – a graveyard

And, you carve light out

Of its darkness (“Guns and Poems”)

The power of community, of Spirit, of hope and resistance is thus stated,

Together

We are a clan of eyes

Lingering for an earthly miracle

That needs no human mediation (“Loss”)

Even if his verses are ill fitting “jigsaw puzzle of scratch and scar” and his poems are rearrangement of alphabets of blood drops, he sticks to his art of weaving poems. He seeks to engage “the quagmire of meaninglessness” and braving ruins “carve a temple of dreams.” For him there is no spring or summer in Kashmir. There is only extended winter or autumn. There are seasons of grief only. Taking full look at the worst, as Hardy would require, our poet broods over our failures in the face of our eternal rendezvous with evil – he calls it eternal affair ancient grief.

Your cold words melt

In my warm mouth,

Dissolve

Like the sacramental bread

And their chill never wanes away.

An affair eternal.

The poet is at a loss to say anything and has turned into “a graveyard of emptiness.” Both his daybreak and dusk are marked by agony. He talks of sins and demons. He fights memories. There are all kinds of stinking, gruesome harrowing metaphors and images – “dead decaying bones” gravedigger, shrouds, yawns, blurred dreams, torrid noon and many more.

He complains of poems as shrieks of silence. But what is to be noted in the midst of all these ruins is the will to write poetry, the will to register his complaint as protest, the will to be communicate and be heard, the will to get appreciated.

Even if sounds like mourning mostly, there is an inward morning, to recall the title of Bugbee’s great work, that sustains him to write, to publish and love his reviews. A poet is someone who sells curses and tears by packing them in words that console.

Indeed the world is justified as a work of art. Despite getting strangulated by the discipline of prosody, he gives us expansive poetry that shocks and uplifts.

Indeed poetry is a pickle made from all kinds of weird unwholesome stuffs. Poetry is in fact a sweet recipe made from bitter tasting flowers.

The descent into hell is described at many places. Note some verses from Ghazal 5, as an instance,

Why do moon beams sear my dream? Ask me not!

Why do panting flames of love scream? Ask me not

Drenching the summer, the sun plunged into my eyes,

Why won’t the moon too shun her esteem? Ask me not!

Our poet seems to have given up and describes his dismemberment. One may comprehend these macabre operations on the soul as constituting a sort of fana, a descent into hell of which postmodern theologian Altizer talks about.

There are scattered but ample signs that he finds grace – grace to lift the pen and compose poetry, grace to affirm and record his signature against the sand dunes of suffering.

Some of his poems present sheer exhaustion of loss and horror. For instance read “Lament of an Old Man” “Journey” and “Silence and Me.”

Silence is the other me

Entangled in my throat

Memory-

The vestiges of past

Aborted in my chest.

In the tussle

between silence and memory

a joy dies everyday

The poet does smell resurrection at times though he is diving deep in the sea of doubts that scarify the soul. “Resurrection.”

Beauty resurrects every time

It is buried

Under the thick layer of oblivion

“In the insides of my mind” and many such expressions show laxity in the vigil of the poet for form.

There are many poems dealing with the question of poetry itself. Self reflexive poetry compels attention on other grounds. The poet explains ”why do my poems carry pain from head to toe” or ooze blood or smell of it.” And in the concluding verses gives his verdict:” how can my poetry be about my beloved’s beautiful sable locks/Who too has to prove her fidelity in the court docks.”

While drawing our attention to the pain he lives amidst, the poet can’t be allowed to forget that the task of art is to ennoble, to sanctify, to redeem, to reconcile us to life.

One needs to note why Arnold chose to edit out his poem “Empedocles at Etna” that talked about suffering. We write poetry to celebrate life and life is the last court or testing lab for poetry to stamp its claim.

At times our poet seems to give up before life’s tragic play and despairs. “The delights of life, now, to me futility seem/The harvest of sorrows brings in the morning beam”

Some poems/verses are destined to stay. For instance, “Grief is Ancient”

Grief is ancient-

A bundle of black tufts

Of the Abyssinian maid

Girdled by threads

Spun by history.

It often lisps through ink

Of a graveyard poet.

One recalls chilling lines from likes of al-Maari, Hardy and Cioran upon encountering such poems as” Pain and Memory.” Although peeping into the inside of a temple “where a god/sitting cross legged/plays with the prayers/and the fate” and writhing with “the pain of loss” the readers do indeed make “gold out of it.”

However what redeems otherwise strangulating and chilling encounter with the horror of life here captured in powerful images and metaphors of Wani Nazir is affirmation of order and art. One may conclude with his following verses to take home the message of fellowship of spirit and poetry as prayer and catharsis.

Is poetry a religion? No. It is something more

It is breath that religion breathes. What is your view?

‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Fumed that Cain

I too reject the age-old trinity – ‘me, we and you.’

One wishes, in the face of horrendous and seemingly overwhelming evil around, recall Camus who affirms invincible summer and sunshine that reflect his deep faith in Spirit despite its secular framing.

One also wishes to recall the likes of Brecht who take on the system head on and don’t lose heart and will.

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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