A Cathartic Tumble: ‘Songs of Light’ by Ayaz Rasool Nazki

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Book Name: Songs of Light
Genre: Poetry
Author: Ayaz Rasool Nazki
Year of Publication: 2017
Published by: Writers Workshop
ISBN: 97-93-5045-150-2
Pages: 104
Price: INR 200
Reviewer: Perveiz Ali

When one’s memories (of the past), circumstances of the present and, unfortunately, images of the future— all are diving aimlessly and endlessly within the contours of discordant happenings, what option remains there for a conscious being than to choke his breath or take little pauses amidst the life of struggle to paint the varying grades of multi-layered chaos through different aspects with a hope against the hope that the day isn’t too far when the nerves of his nation too shall soothe in the songs of light. An anthology of 68 poems, Songs of Light, by Ayaz Rasool Nazki, is an effort of such chaotic paintings of world famous ‘paradise on earth’, the current ambience of which is no less than that of ‘the valley of demons’.

When the clouds of callousness seem to be the permanent feature of the atmosphere we breathe in, one only sighs long enough, with squint eyes, to find oneself braving the buffets  of ‘what to do?’ and ‘how to move?’ in an hour of despair. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the opening poem (I wonder) of the anthology is much accurately placed as a birth of a man under the sky of chaos and callousness— left to beat the bush in wonder. The poet begins his anthology with;

I wonder
what has this ceiling fan
to do in this dark and cold night
day after day night after night
hanging still and waiting
never knowing the cycle of seasons…

In an ambience of wonder, the uncertain torrential rain augmenting the dense layers of darkness with dreadful fears seeping down ones spine to shatter the spirit of standing firm against the ephemeral springs of despondency is summed up by the poet in his poem ‘The Man with Lantern’. But on other hand, the man of an unflinching will in such circumstances as well gathering his courage to move ahead with a torch of hope in his hand is beautifully painted in the poem ‘I will Sing Light’. He writes;

the man with the lantern 
turned the corner
lantern dangling 
under his cloak 
that was the last 
anyone saw of him
in that dark night…   

And,

I will sing light
in this dark night
words of rays
will pierce the air
and sentences
will light up the sky
I will sing light
in this dark night…                

An American writer Jay Parini, in Why Poetry Matters, writes; “Poets peer into dark places and speak for those who have no voice. They wonder into the cities and forests, with eyes and ears open, and report on these experiences with astonishing candour and subtleness”. The traits of this character are displayed in bits and pieces, scattered here and there in this anthology— thus making it more relevant to a common reader to correlate his pain and anguish he shares with the poet for being the citizen of a conflict-torn land like Kashmir. He writes;

Come and sit beside me
on the cushion of soft sand
on the bank of this river,
the river of silence
the invisible tides
are fuming and fretting
with rage
tossing their heads on rocks
and crushing the hapless fish
between the rolling stones…

Or,

The village has lost its count 
of the sheep gone away
the wolf has befriended the shepherd
and the eagle is in love with the chick.

Unlike the most of the poetry (English) from the valley of Kashmir, a characteristic feature of Ayaz Rasool Nazki’s poetry is the representation of creatures from the world of nature along with their habitat, especially the representation of birds for their close association with life experiences in various situations and contexts, as if the poet follows the definition of poetry of Russian-Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko who says, “poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers”. Through the use of birds, the poet wilfully aims to comment on the current socio-political mayhem of the conflict-ridden valley of Kashmir. It is obvious that in a situation where the order of the day is against the drawing of parallels between the right and the wrong from the political point of view, it becomes easy to underscore the means of oppression and despotism through symbols and metaphors. He writes;

That bird will come back
I have been told
his nest is warm
his chicks are cold
he has to cross
the sky on fire…

Or,

Selfish Birds
birds are selfish,
they descend on to my lawn
when I offer them
crumbs of bread…

Griffin Poetry Prize (2017) winner Alice Oswald says “Poems, like dreams, have a visible subject and an invisible one. The invisible one is the one you can’t choose, the one that writes itself. Not a message that comes at the end of the poem, more like a pathological condition that deforms every word – a resonance, a manner of speaking, a nervous tic, a pressure. And this invisible subject only shows up when you’re speaking the language you speak when no one is there to correct or applaud you” , this invisible subject, not quite often, is felt by the reader at times in the odyssey of Songs of Light.

To sum it up, the quote of American poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes,There’s a reason poets often say, ‘Poetry saved my life’, for often the blank page is the only one listening to the soul’s suffering, the only one registering the story completely, the only one receiving all softly and without condemnation”, clearly befits the 104 pages voyage through the subconscious of Ayaz Rasool Nazki which is much disturbed and yearning for peace like his fellow countrymen. Nazki’s collection of poems, with all the wealth it offers to the reader, is a cathartic tumble for the one who does stumble upon it.

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