Two great Romantic English poets, William Wordsworth and John Keats, have defined poetry almost in the same manner, though both had different views about Nature. Wordsworth defines poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity". John Keats says, "If poetry comes not as naturally as leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all." As is clear, both the poets lay emphasis on spontaneity in poetry which implies an effortless expression of emotions which to Wordsworth are "recollected in tranquillity." Keats, however, uses a simile to tell us how poetry is not created but sprouts out like "leaves to a tree". Where does the poet's effort lie then? The poet uses language and shapes words in such a manner which is unique to him/her and which eventually becomes his/her style. So, Wordsworth's and Keats' styles are their peculiar way of using language and exploiting it musically so that what they produce through poetry has an impact on the reader. Therefore, when we read Wordsworth's 'The Solitary Reaper', we come to know that she was singing in an unknown but musical language—"Will no one tell me what she sings?—Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow…"—and after reading Keats' poems, say 'Ode to Nightingale', we feel ecstatic with the poet who tells the bird:
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
In canonical tradition, we would naturally look for devices—called figures of speech—that the poets used to decorate their poems with. Simile, metaphor, alliteration, assonance and so on tell us how the poets use words to shape their ideas and bring home to us how they looked at the world they lived in.
However, poetry has been written beyond the realms of canon and those who have tried their hands have a name in literature. Shiv K Kumar wrote 'Border Guards' to talk about our issues and Jayata Mahapatra's 'Dawn at Puri' and 'Freedom' speak our familiar themes. In 'Dawn at Puri', Mahapatra hears:
Endless crow noises
A skull in the holy sands
tilts its empty country towards hunger.
And, in 'Freedom', he feels:
At times, as I watch,
it seems as though my country's body
floats down somewhere on the river.
Kashmir too has produced many poets who have/are written/writing in English. Professor Majrooh Rashid, a renowned scholar in Kashmiri, is a social media buzz. Saba Ahad writes too as do many other young and older poets. Aamina Hamid is another young budding poet who has come up with THE MASQUERADE, a collection of 107 very short and short poems. Aamina has taken the lid off her soul stirring emotions that have been masquerading for long without taking any definitive shape. She has therefore attempted to give her raw emotions an outlet and unmasked her inner self, giving the reader a feel of how one can fill up the otherwise arduous and difficult life with colours of joy and happiness. In order to fully appreciate her endeavour, the reader will have to move beyond the canonical obligations of looking for rhyme and/or adhering to any particular form. The poems in the collection flow as "leaves to a tree" and make us wonderstruck at her command over English which this tender poet has exploited to the fullest.
Aamina is still a student, but her poetry takes her beyond her age into a world where she is yearning for what she hasn't thus far got in her life. One finds her talking all the time with her mind trying to figure out the meaning to what her heart feels:
Wading through the water of pain,
Catching feelings on the way. [Poem 104]
This conversation between her mind and heart helps her delve deep into her own self:
I found hope in your eyes when they look deep into my soul.
I found myself when I found you. [Poem 105]
Hence her advice:
Don't mess with the shards of a broken heart,
it'll leave yours in shreds.
Interacting constantly with her inner self has helped her to find answers to many a question that she otherwise would fail to get:
You were crying when
you asked me.
I was crying when
you answered me. [Poem 38]
Love is what matters. It could be love between the body and the soul ("We've been in union when/a piece of flesh was made into a heart by the tenderness of love." [Poem 39]). Love gives her hope that this life has better things to offer. Unlike Matthew Arnold who found that this world "Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light/Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain ('Dover Beach'), Aamina, says, "At the end of the tunnel, light awaits" because "Darkness and light is [sic] not working the beauty,/inner sight surely is,/it's a walking stick that won't break/no matter how blind you feel" ['There you are' Poem 47]. This realisation enables her to look for positives in life and not to get boggled by any adversity. She says (in Poem 84):
I always seem to forget
the variety of ways you wronged me in,
maybe I'm just obsessed with
There is a strain of mysticism in Aamina's poetry. Maybe like many Asian writers, she too is influenced by Rumi and/or Lal Ded. It enables her to look beyond this world into what lies hidden. In 'Poem 90', she is too philosophical. While lost "in the sadness engulfed waters", she tried to save her but failed. In Poem 33, she is too much like Lal Ded:
Made love to him in my words, my worlds,
Felt him in my poetry, my body.
Infused him in my sensuality, my spirituality,
Made him mine, we were his.
What form of poetry does THE MASQUERADE give you? In order to answer this question, you will have to move beyond the canonical literature and/or the established forms like sonnet, rhyming couplets and so on. At best, these poems can be called poetic prose which have flowed from the heart in a natural way, one that we normally associated with 'stream of consciousness' technique. For instance, Poem 101 is just a single sentence broken into two clauses: "Don't mess with the shards of a broken heart,/it'll leave yours in shred."
THE MASQUERADE is an unorthodox-printed-book. It doesn't mention any publisher or place of publishing, and no publishing date, though it does mention where it has been printed. There is no 'Preface' and just a brief bio of the poet and 'Dedication'. Out of 107 poems, not even half have been named; they are numbered. Strangely, in 'Contents' only numbers are given and no titles. Unorthodoxy notwithstanding, THE MASQUERADE is a great read.
Professor (Dr) Mohammad Aslam, IS Ex- HoD, English, KU.