Book Review: And the Silence Whispered by Wani Nazir

Reviewed by Master Showkat Ali

… And the Silence Whispered
Genre: Poetry
Author: Wani Nazir
Year of Publication: 2017
Published by: Global Fraternity of Poets, Haryana.
ISBN: 978-93-83755-36-3
Pages: 148, Paperback
Price: INR. 340.00/ US$. 22.00

My business is not to remake myself, but to make the absolute best of what God made” as Robert Browning put it applies to Wani Nazir, in the absolute sense, as his first poetic collection “… And the Silence Whispered” stands preface to what Allah had actually conceived the best in the author of the book. After reading the blurbs by Prof Manoj Das and Prof G R Malik, it really blurred the ken of my pen to review such “a bunch of [around 103] creations” that is sure to blur the dividing line of calling English a foreign language in Kashmir. Joining with other writers writing over the years from Kashmir, Wani Nazir’s poetic musings will definitely usher a new dawn in global literatures by heralding Kashmiri English Literature. The poet prophecies somewhat the same in his poem “My Muse” when he breaks the silence:
                                                    Tarrying all agog was I,
                                                    For my muse to sit by my side
                                                    And whisper gently into my ears
                                                    Verses divine and pristine pure;
                                                    My pen would write songs sweet
                                                   Which will soothe the aching ears
                                                   And the frenzied souls all

Yeats in his poem ‘The Circus Animal’s Desertion’ describes how poetry may originate from a variety of unlikely and surprising sources such as ‘the sweepings of the street’, and transform them into ‘masterful images’:
                                           Those masterful images because complete
                                           Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
                                           A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
                                           Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
                                           Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
                                          Who keeps the till...’

Same is true of Wani Nazir. In his poetic smithy things change their usual course of existence and are moulded from being petty to pertinent, from profane to sacred, from small to stately and from the worthless to the worthwhile. His magical poetic touch transforms ordinary words into extraordinary ‘masterful images’ as I will quote some the titles of poems here: The Impasse, Frailty Eternal, Nostalgia, Good Mo(u)rning, A Lament, Vexation, The Bloodied Quill, Buffets of Time, Unholy Holy Man, Life in Mirage etc. Robert Frost writes “a poem begins as a lump in the throat, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It finds the thought and the thought finds the words.” The verses from his poem “Exorcism echo the same:
  Spectre of images flood the canvas
                                                  Of my thoughts, day in day out:
                                                  Images that heckle and speckle
                                                  All my nerves and spine;
                                                  Words tumble, at times fumble
                                                  To express the ineffable.
                                                  I grope for language, so pristine,
                                                  Like an old, blind man,
                                                 With his innate inward eye,
                                                 Looking for the stick to trudge along

Virginia Woolf wrote so beautifully in Orlando we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, and pierces the liver.” At occasions while writing a poem, Wani Nazir stands, to use the words of Emily Dickinson, with a “loaded gun” to create a unique “Song of an Autist” who utters differently:
                 Want to write a plaintive tale
                   About me and my ilk, O' Poet!
                 Stop filling your blank canvas
  With melancholic ink;
                   Hold your pen from painting me
                  The way I have been, till today;
   Further he goes on:

                                                               I am not a nincompoop
                                                               Like the ones amongst you;
                                                               Though "I can be destroyed
                                                               I can never be defeated";
                                                             I never shy away while struggling
                                                             The odds and buffets of life,
                                                             How harsh and hard they may be.
                                                             Just leaf through the pages of history,
                                                            How many autistic persons have given up
                                                            Their struggle for existence,
                                                            And how many have committed suicide,
                                                            Scarcely any!
                                                            So, hang on, O' Poet, hang on!
                                                            And change your perception
                                                            before you set to write
                                                            a poem on me and my ilk.
It is really the poetic genius where in the words of Seamus Heaney, “words themselves are doors” opening to create a new macrocosm as the poet hints at while calling it “My Microcosm” paradoxically:
                                                      I contemplate and muse upon
                                                      The vastness of my microcosm

The reader can infer from the variety of his verse, beauty, sweetness and charm that his poetic oeuvre is umbeset with. What D E Thackery writes about Emily Dickinson fits well to the poetry of Wani Nazir “that each word is a veritable dynamo of implications and associations” clandestinely expanding and augmenting the consciousness of its readers. His poems, which shall always stay poems, are very powerful and appealing and we get within a single collection the taste and feel of Classical, Romantic, Modern and Postmodern versification. While writing, his natural wisdom involuntarily addresses both the material and the spiritual make up of humans. If despair, mourning and melancholia are seen walking there, then presence of hope, happiness and blessing fraught with glad tidings come out as dancing. To taste the feel, lines from some poems are as under:

                                               A pin drop silence plummeted again,
                                              No whispers, not a stir
                                              Just those sighs and sobs
                                              Sprawled on the canvas!     (The Impasse)
                        Or,
                                              Ringing the melancholy bell every morning,
                                              The newspaper vendor smites the door
                                              Of my house to drop the morning news
                                              …
                                             With a heap of dead bodies,
                                             A volley of doleful shrieks,
                                             And a few bits of broken vows.         (Good Mo(u)rning)
                        Or,
                                              I woke up from my drowsy semi-sleep
                                             With my shoulders crumbling down
                                             Just by the mere thought
                                             Of my frailty, fallibility and incapacity
                                            To fulfill the left-over desires.           (Frailty Eternal)

                        And,
                                            Forget me not, forget me not!
                                            You are the only hope I have
                                            for my salvation on that day,
                                           O’ my adorable Saqi! O’ Mohammed(PBUH)!
                                                                                                     (Saqi-e-Kawthar (PBUH))
                        Or,
                                              Never suspend the odyssey
                                              Of reaching the light within the cracks
                                              Of your soul;
                                              And fill your darkness with a deluge of light
                                              Till the last dregs of your life!                     (In Search of Light)

Like true poets how can Wani Nazir neglect the environs he is living in? And in the words of Yeats when in his Vale, “the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned” he from the deeps of his soul cries out, with a complete lack of control as a kind of outpouring:

                                            What can a blood-drenched pen write
                                            Save pain, pangs, and elegies for the oppressed?
                                            How can he eulogize the spring
                                            When it too gushes out blood?                       (Poet: The Redeemer)
                        Or,

                                           Come all and sundry, come
                                           Let’s weep and let’s burst into tears
                                           To save our desires too
                                           From this devouring fire!                               (Smoldering City)

And very touchingly and sanguinely he aspires:

                                          O’ Divine Justice! I implore you
                                          With blood-soaked fragments of my soil,
                                          Break such dawn from the horizon of my vale
                                          That shall usher in freedom and peace!                 (Longing of the Vale)

Keeping in mind the above quoted excerpts, Dr Santosh Bakaya in the Foreword writes very aptly about Wani Nazir that, “his sensitive pen shrieks at the horror of Kafkaesque nightmares, dons the garb of a mystic, becomes one with nature, bleeds at the sight of ailing humanity, sheds tears for his beleaguered land, and pleads for an end to the insanity which has been unleashed on the world, especially in his beloved Kashmir.” And Lopamundra Banerjee in the Introduction adds that, “the sense of an undiluted pathos merges with his lyrical renderings which make his poetic voice rich and resonating in its inner depth and beauty.”

Critics will enjoy while describing the art of Wani Nazir’s poetry as he writes with full command whether it is lyric, pastoral, ode, elegy, haiku or tanka and the employment of poetic devices is dexterously superb. The words enjoy his poetic touch when it comes to their use as metaphor, symbol, simile, irony, pun, metonymy, apostrophe, synecdoche, allusion, hyperbole, oxymoron or paradox or when it comes to generate poetic effects like allegory, alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, and consonance it is simply marvelous. His imagery is always lively blessed with eternal life on every page of his collection. Here I would like to conclude by quoting one of his Roseate Sonnets “El Dorado Eternal” to give the readers a glimpse of his caliber as a poet:

                                             Meandering ’midst mazy microcosm
                                             Riot run rigorous raptures rhapsodies;
                                            Why will waltz wavy weird whiffs
                                            Of one’s odious obscure orbs?
                                            Serenaded senses sense silently
                                            Aroma all and ascending avid air;
                                            Filling fecundity fructifyinly
                                            Into inner intricate innate insanity.
                                            Naught, nay! Niceties nimble nicely
                                            Crawl creepingly capacious crevices.
                                            R – rising raucous robust
                                            O – organic oscillations
                                            S – snailing stingingly
                                            E – el dorado eternal.

Yes! Among the crowds of contemporary creations this book is worth finding a place top on the shelves of the lovers of literature.

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