Rajan Prasad Pokharel
Santosh Kumar Pokharel is closely familiar with me as a friend, as a brother and as a member of the same pedigree of Pokharel’s linear generations. He came with me with a collection of his poems and asked me to write my reflections on them. I found that his poetic sensibilities and perceptions are sharp, exact and powerful. He published them in a volume of Modesty Poems. Through the news and social media, his poems brought him fame and recognition. Surprisingly so soon, he brought another manuscript of his new poems. When I read through them, I found him perfectly a mature poet. I wrote my perceptions with some envy in my mind about his amazing development as a vibrant poet.
He has different themes and subject matters where he hits on the ideas brilliantly from various sides and corners, and at time appears like a dimensional poet. I believe that he wins the readers’ heart through his wonderful imaginations. In The Stream of Love, he imagines himself to be a brook, and flows to become a waterfall to touch the bottom of the stream. He hears the melodious rhymes in the depth of the stream of love to the level of ecstatic feeling. He writes in a very unusual combination of images, symbols and metaphors, so as to mesmerize the readers.
In his war poems, the poet presents the truth about the tragedy of life. He expresses his deep dissatisfaction over the wars, impositions and despotic rules that have taken place all around. He is very compassionate about people’s sufferings, troubles and deaths. Dumb, deprived, dead, slain are some of the words which he employs in his poems. Quite often they are traumatic, and he cannot describe them properly. He becomes short of words and expressions, and moves round and away from the real descriptions.
Majority of his anti-war poems published in many languages of the world so far including Spanish and Chinese, occupy the front part of this book. The poet is against every sort of wars and human killings. War is not the solution to human ego and that halts continuation of life and civilization. War is a break, a stoppage, and a discontinuity. The poet presents a dark and dreadful picture of the war between Russia and Ukraine. ‘There were bodies on the road sides/ Scattered, unattended and unhid’. This shows the horrible picture of the Russian and Ukrainian soldiers that die and lie on the grounds, which is the common picture in all wars.
Santosh has seen the borders and brotherhood of Russia and Ukraine. But their intimacy is being ravaged, and their brotherhood being cleft apart. The poet asks them to stop it and continue their brethren’s beauty. ‘Creation upsurges from their womb/ If she’s not here/ Things will cease to the tombs’ and Women are pure by all rate/ They hold this world and foul of them, how can you state? (Of Women) is the most painful lines to read. The faces of the dead bodies sneer to their love, riches and discoveries which end in nothingness. The civilization collapses at the ego and arrogance from the crazy power struggles.
‘Putin play a Russian Piano, Zelensky sing a khokol song’ is the central poem of this collection. From the title of the poem and the exacerbating situation between Russia and Ukraine, one can guess that this is a big satire to Putin and Zelensky, but when one reads the poem, the message is dramatically different. The poet wants the Russians and Ukrainians to reconciliate and put an end to war. The poet wants them to resume their intimacy and happiness, and revive their age-old Slav cultural stronghold in east Europe.
War is full of cries, tears, pains, traumas, and deaths. Poet Santosh strikes on the delicate sensibilities of the readers. From his poems, Santosh is an anti-war campaigner, a champion of peace, a human rights activist and a proponent of world’s federation and fraternity, and a hero of the solidarity against wars and terrors.
In his poems ‘To the New Afghan Government’, he says ‘Don’t kill innocent citizens, don’t destroy statues, don’t compel women for the burqas, don’t suppress the consciousness of the twentieth century, don’t wipe out others’ culture, religion and philosophy, and don’t loot others’ riches.’ This is the poet’s plea to turn the history to the bright direction and to re-establish the glory of Afghanistan. Even if the new government of Afghanistan does not listen to the poet now, the message will remain for ages for many more governments of the world.
Poet Santosh has strange ideas to express through his poetic creations. It seems that his own life is a large symposium of poetry. Every time he keeps reciting them in his mind, no matter whether he is awake or in his sleep. A true poet is always in contemplation of poetic thoughts and musical compositions. In this sense like a true musician, he hums the words in his mind and plays them in his favourite tune.
In ‘A New Poem’ the poet introduces a new structure in English poetry. It has some suggestive or imperative or exclamatory notes in the last line of the stanza which is half of the foregoing line. He himself admits that he has made a debut of new structured poems. He defamiliarises the familiar structures and invents some unique types of his own. He leaves some gaps between the lines. These gaps naturally create multiple meanings through the words and silences.
Most of the themes the poet writes on are world Peace, Human Hunger, Poverty and his subjects are Children, Women and Deprived. The poet is a worshipper of nature. He praises the nature’s beauty with his open heart and mind. He uses both impressionistic and expressionistic techniques. He is too meditative. He evokes heart and humanity, and art and magnanimity through his poems.
Some of his poems are allegorical. On the one hand, he influences the readers by the extraordinary pictures and presentations, and on the other, he satirizes the insensitive people about life and civilization.
During the pandemic, the poet appeared as prayer to invoke for the wellbeing of the human kind. More so, in ‘The Australia Wildfire’ which continued for months was a serious threat to the Australian people and to the visitors, immigrants and travellers. The forests and wild lives of the southern hemisphere were burnt into ashes, and an emptiness pervaded. Over those five months of two thousand nineteen, the poet saw, ‘Deaf and mute does remain/ To animals, birds and their cries/ See the humanity is slain.’ The same year the corona virus broke out, and took the whole world in its grip and terror. The poet presents the formidable and deadly situation of human life of the period of Pandemic in his poems compiled in a separate chapter in this book.
On the whole, the style, choice of words and messages of his poems touch the readers’ sensibilities deeply with a natural flow. I realize that Poet Santosh has inculcated an impression in the readers’ mind that he has become an established poet with his powerful poetic sensibilities and imaginations.
[Rajan Prasad Pokharel (PhD) is Professor or English and teaches at Patan Multiple Campus, TU]