The Poetic Art and Vision: An Appraisal of Bijender Singh’s Confusing Poetry

Dr. S. Chelliah, (M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt.),
Professor, Head & Chairperson,
School of English & Foreign Languages,
                                     Department of English & Comparative Literature,
Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai,
Tamil Nadu, India.


            It is commonly understood that poetry, like life, is something indefinable. No doubt, it is something vague and airy but really thrilling. To describe it in words is to attempt the impossible. One can at best point out some of its important elements and those essentials are none other than emotion, imagination and music. There is no denying the fact that poetry is nothing but the language of human heart coupled with love and hatred, joy and sorrow, jealousy and anger, hope and despair-all being the emotions that do beautifully inspire poetry. The poet is one who expresses an emotional and imaginative view of life and things and this expression generally takes the form of musical language. He obviously weaves his thoughts and feelings into words and phrases which have a music and harmony of their own. So poetry is as old as humanity. Present paper is an attempt to analyze poetic vision and art in poet-cum-critic, Bijender Singh’s divine blessed poetic gift Confusing Poetry.


Indian Poetry in English, Poetic Art and Vision, Bijender Singh, Confusing Poetry.

            Even the earliest utterances of man were in verse and all ancient religious and philosophical books got couched in poetry. The Vedas, the Bhagwat Gita, the Holy Bible, the Quran are, no doubt, poetical compositions. The most famous stories of the exploits of great heroes have been told in poetry. The Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Shah Namah Virgil’s Aeneid and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey do relate in verse the brave deeds of popular national heroes. In a word, poetry has a universal and permanent appeal appealing equally to the savage and the civilized, the young and the old, the soldier and the statesman, the philosopher and the common man. A person with an average understanding can enjoy poetry for it does not require any special training. Science, history or economics will not necessarily interest everybody but a good poem, like a good song, touches the heart of every normal human being. The appeal of poetry is not limited to one class of people, nation or country. If one knows the language, one can appreciate the poetry of any country. This explains why Indians who know the English language get enamoured of English poets like Wordsworth, Shelley or Keats or Byron or even Shakespeare. Likewise, one can enjoy Urdu, Malayalam, Bengali or Marathi poetry one knows these languages, for poetry, like a thing of beauty, is a joy for ever and its interest and appeal are abiding by all means possible.
Good old poetry is immortal. The verses of Kalidas, Tulsidas or Surdas in Hindi, or Ghalib, Mir or Iqbal in Urdu, of Firdausi or Saadi in Persian, of Tagore in Bengali, of Shelley, Tennyson or Shakespeare in English will always be both read and enjoyed as long as these languages continue to be spoken and understood in the world. It does not mean that modern poetry cannot be enjoyed and modern poets cannot cherish and nourish recognition in the reading public. English poetry, especially Indian English poetry has rooted itself in the Indian soil ever since Henry Derazio, Toru Dutt, Aurobindo Ghosh and Sarojini Naidu started expressing themselves in this alien language pacing the way for poets like Kolatkar, A.K. Ramanujan and Nissim Ezekiel. The language and diction used by them is more contemporary as is the imagery leading to the “chutnification” or “biryanization” of the language so as to identify with the Indian culture and ethos. Modern Indian poetry in English has, indeed, come into its own making an appreciable contribution to the English language in ways that the British, the Americans, the Australians and the Canadians cannot, so as to bring the language alive and rich in strange ways with its syntax. The tongue is no longer in “English Chains”, thereby establishing an indigenous tradition of Indian English verse. One such poetic creation is Confusing Poetry by Dr. Bijender Singh, one of the budding original voices in Indian English poetry. He has written and edited many books and he edits an journal ‘The Expression’ also. He has received Dr. B.R. Ambedkar National Award, Editorial Excellence Award and Ambedkar Sahitya Ratna Award also. Aditi Bhola observes about this poet, “Singh’s poetry overall has almost all the seasonings that reflect Indian modern culture and presents a very fair picture (Bhola 495)”.
            The most versatile emerging poet Bijender Singh is a living poet being fired with an ambition to write modern poems or verses, creating a poetic realm in which excess of passion, emotion, imagination and poetic ornament would be found as the order of the day and his poetry is remarkable for its restraint, moderation and the absence of that ‘fine frenzy’ which the Elizabethans associated with poetry and the ‘conceits’ which the metaphysical poets associated with. Bijender Singh is a multifaceted personality. He is a poet, essayist, lyricist, gajal-writer, novelist, short-story writer, educationist, English lecturer, good researcher and avid reader of English literature with a special flair for creative thinking and writing. He stands out for his rebellious note against traditions, taboos and patriarchal domination. He may be part of a confessional poet in the sense that his poetry is intensely personal but at the same time, it is the expression of some universal perspective or sensibility. Even his very first poem namely ‘glory to Indian Wife’ attests to the fact that poets are usually highly observant to see what others fail to notice having an eye for the hidden aspects of life. Bijender is no exception and he deals with the various aspects of everyday life in his poems. His poems like ‘Glory to Indian Wife’, ‘’Half of My Life’, ‘Strange World’, ‘Rules of Life’, ‘Parental Love’, ‘Husband-Wife Love’ are rich epitomes of striking observations of things around him. Even though they are the routine rituals of life, those every day scenes and observations achieve new significance through the alchemy of his poetic vision bringing new revelations of life. In the poem, ‘Glory of Indian Wife’, one can easily notice and feel a routine Indian scene with a deep-rooted feeling of touch and sensation from the lines that follow:
            “ . . . . . Indian wife
            Who sacrifices her whole life
            For the one she may not know
            In life’s heat or the snow.
            Whose voice is sweet as flute
            Never knows how to refute” (‘Glory of Indian Wife’ 9)
Here by describing the spirit of sacrifice, that too, rather silently to one who does not understand her feminine sensibility, Bijender uses the everyday motif or the common routine family scene so as to evoke Indian picture vividly. Indian women are shown to be sweet in voice but voiceless in argument or going against the ones to whom they are attached or wedded or sacrificed. Bijender’s confessional note lays bare the heart of a woman almost undergoing a disturbing journey of mind as he experiences the evils of patriarchal system which lays emphasis nowadays on the surrendering of the independence and individuality of woman.
            Truly speaking, a poem is fair like a flower, but unlike a flower, it does not fade in a day. Poets create flowers, but their beauty and fragrance last forever. Paintings and pictures, architectural feats, sculptural productions – all fade and decay in course of time. Music and dances are always enjoyments of the hour and it is difficult if not impossible to preserve them. But poetry does not fade or decay. It defines the ravages of time and remains as bright and lovely as the eternal moon. The most common way of enjoying poetry is to read it aloud and thus appreciate not only its meaning but also the poet’s poetic skill and sensibility for which his poem ‘Strange World’ may be cited as an example to bring home the point that he is a poet of commonalities in life like men, matters, money, flood, wealth, health, beauty, sufferings, fit enough to be called a poet of the body, an endless explorer of the labyrinths of the mind, the devious delving and twisting of the ego making a way of honesty and love in his poetry. What distinguishes his poetry is the note of informality and frankness, the authenticity of expression and flawless craftsmanship, which all get reflected in these lines of his poem ‘Strange World’:
            “One has plenty of money, other penniless.
            one side flood, other famine.
            one is thin, nothing to eat
            one has mother, nor cared
            other feeds the idol.
            one has beauty but not wealth
            other has wealth, not beauty,
            words fall short, allusions numerous
            .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
            Sapless, turbid and strange world
            where tales of woes very beautifully
            Narrated to others
            Empty in goals, high in aspirations”
                                                            (‘Strange World’11)
As a sensitive poet, Dr. Bijender Singh does not mince words to expose the dirt, ugliness, inhumanity, unspeakable woes of those living in this strange world where one sees everything in quite different rootless and abnormal way. The major recurrent themes of his poetry are love, family, personal integration, Indian contemporary scene, human values, human relationships, male-female issues, corruption, poverty and misunderstanding among humans. Like Mulk Raj Anand, he has proved himself to be an adept in airing his views in favour of the neglected or the poor. This gets beautifully expressed in the poem namely ‘What is Curse: Poverty or Aristocracy?’:
            “Poverty is a curse not only on the poor
            But the descendents, contemporaries and opening clans.
            . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . .
            People only curse the poverty but nobody hears the silence
            . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
            Money is not a sole solution
            Where there is no life and relations
            Money brings power
            Power makes a dirty mind
            Double life starts here
            Outward as clean as a white paper
            But heart is black
            Where good is done less and bad more in real life
            Women become tools …” (‘What is Curse: Poverty or Aristocracy?’ 55)
No doubt, he is the champion of the poor and as a true realist with immeasurable social feelings; his heart is full of “milk of kindness and pathos”. His poetic output covers a wide panorama of themes ranging from injustice, poverty, environmental issues, corruption and lack of understanding, when one reads a new poem or a volume of poetry of Bijender, his mind automatically reverberates around this kind of elation: form and length are not matters to him. The windows through which his fertile poetic mind encounters the environment – pleasant and unpleasant, known and unknown, and far and near – are matters; they are of cascading nature – when he opens one, he sees many in line ahead. What one can observe in Bijender after delving deep into his poetic cosmos is a good part of Shelley and a good part of Ezekiel and Kamala Das for which the poem ‘Love is Always Not Expressed’ may be taken as an example:
            “Love not convertible by loss
            Not jubilance seen anywhere
            What is seen here
            Another loss, a bigger one
            The loss of another life
            But what fault of parents
            And family who only weep
            Repent without fault” (‘Love is Always Not Expressed’ 22)
This poem is characterized by frankness and subtle touch of realism and a synthesis of philosophical depth and social agony. His poem ‘Modern Families’ is a poignant portrayal of modern families drifted by the flux of money and loss of prestige as stated in these lines:
            “Just stop giving salaries at home
            Live in glasses, call their fate.
            Why these forget the old parents
            Brothers and sisters in cold days.
            Time is running for them
            To bring their old days.
            The drift and flux of money
            Leads them to alienation
            Their loss of prestige
            Mingling with low members
            In family or society” (‘Modern Families’ 23)
With all dynamics, Bijender Singh has picturized the loving conditions of the poor and the homeless and the penniless and thrown light on the social degradation and splitting of social values and norms due to the undue importance of money as honey and wealth as health of life. The poet is very much conscious of the rampant rueful degradation in societal life by releasing such poetic lines as:
            “If you are pauper
            Nobody cares.
            If you have money
            Everybody wants shares.
            If you have everything
            But no money
            You will get honour
            Like a bee, without honey” (‘Money is Honey’ 24)
The poet Bijender Singh can be called a poet-critic, for he criticizes all living social conditions. ‘Murder of Relationships’ is a good poem in which he vehemently criticizes the way in which human relationships are murdered in broad daylight to prove the point that what can be done ‘if justice is murdered in broad daylight, that too, before our eyes’:
            “Now we call ourselves modern
            But can see everywhere
            Murder the relationships.
            Brother – Sister, father – daughter,
            Neither shyness, nor grace.
            Only one thing is left
            Selfish carnal or materialistic pursuits” ((‘Money is Honey’ 36).
His poem “Demand is Demanded” shows how Bijender is a radical critic of this age:
            “We don’t value
            The one, we get easily
            A drop of water seems nectar
            For a thirsty
            . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
            The best saucer for the food is hunger” (‘Demand is Demanded’ 37).
Bijender’s style is simple but pregnant with meaning. His poems like ‘Parental love’, ‘Job Dealing’, ‘Further’, ‘A Girl’s Fear’, ‘Male-Female Issues’, ‘My Mother’s Love’ may be taken as examples for his simple but superb style drawing the readers to his uniqueness in treatment of themes and issues affecting the modern society in general and the Indian society in particular. He is almost a sooth-sayer like critic in one way when writes in the poem ‘Listen Doctors’:
            “Listen Doctors! You are another god on the earth
            As the real gods on the earth have a dearth.
            So don’t every sell your soul for money
            In the next birth if you desire for honey” (‘Listen Doctors’ 53).
His devotion and love towards life and relationship is noticeable in many such poems as ‘Half of My Life’, ‘Childhood’, ‘Rules of Life’, ‘Where to Live’, ‘Future’, ‘Temple offerings’, ‘Misunderstandings’, ‘An Orphan’. Such poetic lines of his are really thought-provoking to the core:
            “Life is to live, live in piece
            Rugged relations need Greece
            Forget the bad, remember the sweet
            Success in life, enjoy the treat” (‘Husband-Wife Love’, 20).
             . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
            “God is great and rules piquant
            And we relegate His decisions
            We repent for what not done
            But unavoidable sharp incisions” (‘Future’ 26).
            . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
            “Many go to temple daily not to pray
            Just to show, not to say” (‘Temple Offerings’, 30).
What is to be understood from reading of his poems is that it is purely his choice to write poems in English and English voices his joys, sorrows and longings. It is as natural as cawing is to the crow and roaring to the lions. It is a human speech which expresses his mind here and now. It is the language of his concentrated thought, feelings and awareness of men and matters always in all ways possible.
            To conclude, it may be said that Dr. Bijender Singh is an emerging scholar-poet using lucid and simple style in employing candid and uninhibited images, asserting the poet’s independent urge to express and reveal things rather openly with a critical bent of mind, presenting themes of love, parental and familial, and human relationship with authentic narration, giving vent to physical, emotional and personal experiences very openly in poetry, picturizing the plights of oppressed, neglected and the unwanted in clear-cut expression and explanation, and using English with native Indian flavor. A good literary work lives in its own time and speaks to all times. Bijender Singh’s unquiet mind unearths and expresses human experiences and endeavours in such literary/poetic pieces as collected in Confusing Poetry. He can be called a consistent voice in poetry continuously championing the cause of those who are neglected, uncared for and whose voices are left unheard and unnoticed in the name of men-women gender bias and poor-rich discrimination. As he is a modern poet with humanistic vein root and branch in his heart and mind, what Dr. Singh sees in the joys and sorrows of this world is nothing but his own face and nothing else. Dr. M.B. Gaijan opines about Bijender Singh’s poetry, “Fantasy or ostracism has no place in his work. His poems are free from traditional clutches, purely ration and realistic” (Gaijan 153)

Works Cited
Bhola, Aditi. “Study of Human Emotions and Psychology of Modern Man in Bijender Singh’s Late Night Poetry.” The Creative Launcher: An International, Open Access, Peer Reviewed, Refereed, E- Journal in English. 2.6 (Feb. 2018): 490-496.
Gaijan, M.B. “Vivid Images of Contemporary India in Bijender

Singh’s Poetry”. Langlit: An International Peer-Reviewed Open Access Journal. 4.1 (Aug. 2017): 148-153.

Singh, Bijender. Confusing Poetry. Allahabad:, 2013. Print.                          

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