Poetic Style in Syed Ameeruddin’s Poetry
Rajeev Ranjan, M. Phil;
R. K. Singh, Professor;
M. Mojibur Rahman, Associate Professor;
Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad
Syed Ameeruddin has a considerable poetic output but he has not been academically explored by researchers and critics. Even various anthologies published in the last three decades have not given him the place he deserves. The study has been an attempt to reverse the trend by examining Ameeruddin’s structural and textural characteristics.
Ameeruddin is a poet who reflects Indian sensibility in the choice of his themes, symbols and imagery, and use of the English language. He effectively Indianizes the medium at lexical and syntactical levels according to his thematic requirements and needs of communication. He coins new words by blending or collocating them with words of other languages such as Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu or Arabic. His innovations in the form of local borrowings, calques, translations and code mixing or mixing of elements of Hindi/Urdu/Tamil language makes him distinctly Indian. In fact the way he uses the English Language for communicative purpose is indicative of his attempt to acculturate English language.
His semantic or syntactical attitude is at best pragmatic in the sense that his rhetoric is guided by his native literary and cultural context which values stylistic embellishment. It is perhaps for this reason that Ameeruddin tends to borrow words and phrases of Sanskrit, Arabic and Hindi and indulges in phrase mongering with polite diction and moralistic tone. He is on the whole readable and communicable and his poems echo deeper meaning and broader vision even as his metaphoric expressions make him complex, thoughtful and serious. His sincerity of purpose, that is, a spiritual self discovery through the discovery of the country’s spiritual past, however, is unquestionable.
Syed Ameeruddin is rich in his expression of Indian spiritual influences, Indian myths, legends and culture, and the socio political condition prevailing in the country. The poet himself believes in expression of Indian rich tradition and culture.
Syed Ameeruddin writes with a social and moral purpose with a view to changing the fabric of the society where man recognizes man, religion recognizes religion, and people abide by the concept of oneness of humankind. His poetry supports values of humanity, peace, love and harmony, just as the poet insists on respect and preservation of nature and ecological balance.
Ameeruddin’s poetry revels with rebounded thought rather than spontaneous thoughts. He deliberately gives a twist–spiritual or metaphysical–to the various aspects of his vision. His adjectives tend to overload the texture of his poems. A poem like ‘Eloquent serenade’ echoes Walt Whitman with the Waste Landish awareness. He mixes up so many things in a single poem that it appears more a padding than a genuine poetic feeling. His poetic flights cross over a wide spectrum, cycling and recycling with linguistic liberty and verbal profundity.
The present study seeks to explore Ameeruddin’s poetic style. Style is the linguistic expression or literary manner in which the poet couches his views, ideas, thoughts, messages and visions. It includes discourse features of the poem as gleaned from the form, symbol, imagery, versification, mood, attitude, tone, diction, language, etcetera. As Vinayak Krishna Gokak says, “Style is really the exploitation, by the writer or poet, of a few of the possibilities selected out of many, under each of the following heads, to give a faithful and sensitive expression of his vision : language; rhythm; thought; imagery; mood; and attitude.”1
With his predilection for complexities of ideas and thought, and a tendency to turn inward, Syed Ameeruddin tends to be complex and evocative in his use of language. Sometimes he leaves his sentences incomplete, piling phrases upon phrases, or using sentence fragments in his attempt to construct impressive epithets or metaphors that mix with his narrative, descriptive or interrogative explorations. For example:
“Life, a criss-cross crisis
Amidst dwindling destinies
And diabolic disillusions.
World, a frenzied humdrum existence
of banality and triviality
of nauseating human experience
of cerebral jigsaw puzzles
of bated breath and
Reality, an elusive enigma
Between here and hereafter
A ravishing rainbow
Between life and death
A hazy horizon
Between material and metaphysical.
Deliverance, a dialectic
Of existence and evangelic
Poised on the horns of a dilemma,
The ambiguity and the ambivalence.
Then, what is Nirvana ?
Reflecting on the smoky layers
Of gloom and solace,
and seeing –
meaning in ambiguity.”2
Sometimes his sentences are very short and simple, but ideas gradually turn complex:
“I am a wanderer. I am a nowhere man.
Gypsy river runs through my bones.
I walk with the thunder,
And share its magnificent pride.
I am a wanderer. I have a goal. A purple purpose.
Long is the Journey. I must wander.
Dark are the woods. Its time for me to go …
I have long buried the memories
Of fractured sunsets
And long forgotten lovetimes.
My search stormed my quest quaked.
My secret grief of
Humanity and existence rigmaroled : …”3
In his earlier poem he uses a lot of ellipses and exclamations which suggest some kind of a tension which he seeks to resolve pursuing his thought structure in a context. In fact, through a complex of thought pattern, imagery and linguistic devices, Ameeruddin seeks to add depth and force to his poetry. He may appear simple at some stage but soon he becomes complicated, intentionally or unintentionally, as he manoeuvres his way through his struggle of the mind, body, and soul. There may be some flashes of insight here and there but in most of the poems one notices a sort of surrealistic rambling, nostalgic sentiments and subjective musings as noticed in several poems, including his ambitious collection Visioned Summits (1995) .
The poet’s style may remind one of the style of Krishna Srinivas on the one hand and T. S. Eliot and Walt Whitman on the other. Most of his metaphors, imagery and phrasal constructions have distinct influence of Krishna Srinivas just as when he uses Sanskrit, Arabic or Hindi words, he seems to be recreating the Waste Landish style in certain poems. One notices a lot of culture bound expressions such as Tandava, Nirvana, Moksha, Maqfirat, Dharma, Adharma, Iswar, Allah, Buddha Poornima, Bodhi tree, Mahaprasthan, Aham Brahman, daridranarayan, Anal Haq, Moksha, etcetera. These are typical Indian culture words for which synonyms are not available in English.
Ameeruddin also presents several mythical characters. He uses either the name of deities or other religious or legendary characters : Ram, Krishna, Shiva, Parvathi, Radha, Shakuntala, Urvasi, Menaka, Rambha, Guru Nanak, Mohammed, Kabirdas, Khawja Ajmeri, Ram Krishna, Vivekanand. Gandhiji, etcetera. All these are direct examples of Indianness rather than Indianization because these are the proper names in Indian context. The poet also uses proper name of places : Kurukushetra, Gurudwara, Masjids, Kailasanatha, Ayodhya, Bombay, Punjab, Kashmir, India, etcetera.
In his poetry we also find register bound lexical items based on Indian social culture such as shankh, mehandi, patni, pati-dev, ardhangini, dampatya, izzat, khandan, dulhan, rathyatra, padyatra, salam, Ameen, om shanti. etcetera.
Ameeruddin also uses typical Indian adjectives for some well known iconic figures : ‘Maryadapurushottam’ used for Lord Ram, or ‘Yugaprush’ used for Ghandhiji and epithets like Niskama Karma and serva jana.
He hybridizes English as in ‘Bhakti Singers in the poem ‘My India’ and makes plural of native nouns such as Yogis, munis, rishis, sufis, fakirs, masjids, avatars, etc.
The poet offers typical Indian collocations such as Ram and Rahim as in the poem ‘Carrion Carnage.’ He seems to translate typical Indian expressions as in “interior of my soul”, hidden dream”, “moon floors”, “bruised heart”, “hunting memory”, “hidden dream”, “purple moment”, “hissing hope”, “Dark savage sky”, “lilting lips”, “smithereen realities”, “Snaky arm”, “Fugitive moon”, “liquid moon”, “Moon-bathed”, “trembling moon”, “dreaming eyes”, “Opaque mind”, “hungry arm”, “Oncoming storm”, “empty river”, etcetera.
Sometimes Ameeruddin coins words like ‘halvesonned’, ‘whirly’, ‘wind’, ‘twillighty dawn’, twilighty tapestry, etcetera to express his unique thoughts.
Ameeruddin uses verbal sounds to create deeper impact through alliteration, euphony, and onomatopoeic often on the verge of mysticism:
“Again… Mysterious – Unheard–Unimaginable …
Innumerable sounds of Distraction … Broke out.
From that … a deadly thunder bolt flashed …
It roared … roared … roared … thrice …
Each uproar … conveying a Supreme sense …
Thrice it resounded … with significant Meaning …
BH… K… TI… YO… GA !!
…GNA… NA…YO …GA !!
…KA…R…MA… YO… GA!!4
Syed Ameeruddin also makes use ‘Hyperbole’ to show his emotional musing:
You are my poetic quest
You are my souls search
You are my hearts longing
You are my minds fancy
You are my dreams diana
You are my emotions Radha
You are my passions Parvathi
You are my spirits Shakuntala …”5
Ameeruddin writes poetry in free verse like other contemporary poets but for musical effect he creates internal rhyme, alliteration and assonance:
“A teacher, poet ; enjoyed the
Pleasures and pangs of being
A lover, husband, father, friend and foe.”6
Here the poet creates alliteration through the repetition of |p| , |f| and |r| sound:
“The night light burned, and we slept
Keeping the love we have we had stored inside.
We undressed in silent submission
Into the rippling force of the whirlwind.”7
Here the poet creates internal music through the repetition of |i|, |t| and |s| sound.
Ameeruddin’s style is also in tune with poetic themes which widely stress the Indian thought and philosophy as enshrined in the Vedas, Upanishad, Gita, Quran, Buddhism, Sufism and Jainism.
The poet also uses several Indian mythical characters as well as symbol and imagery which reflects his serious outlook. The varieties of symbols and imagery he piles in various poems show his thought provoking concept and emotional and sentimental mindset.
Ameeruddin offers different moods in his poetry. Sometimes he looks as a philosopher to follow divine principles of ‘Bhakti Yoga,’ ‘Gnana Yoga’ and ‘Karma Yoga’; and sometimes he shows the mood of Nirvana. In love poems he depicts romantic and passionate mood and shows love and physical relationship to celebrate life as also to find the supreme bliss. In some other poems, Ameeruddin demonstrates a satiric and ironic mood to present his social consciousness. Thus, his different moods add variety to his poetry.
Syed Ameeruddin’s poetic attitude is comprehensive. He echoes the path of universal brotherhood, Universality of God and human values. Keki N. Daruwalla opines, “Art has an aesthetic function. It gives the soul and your heart a different dimension. Religion and poetry came through the same upsurge of the soul.”8 Syed Ameeruddin shows a similar attitude in his poetry giving to the soul and heart aesthetic pleasure. To quote R. K. Singh, Syed Ameeruddin’s intellectual and spiritual response to the “present social debris” invites exploration of the part for a “New scintillating saga.”9 The poet’s intellectual and spiritual attitude makes him a poet of the high order who thinks about world peace and welfare of mankind. He sounds sincere.
Ameeruddin uses simple diction and vocabulary in his poetry. He avoids using complex words. Even in his concept of universal religion and brotherhood and philosophical ideas, Ameeruddin tries to be simple. As M. Mujeeb says,” Mr Ameeruddin’s diction is simple and lucid and his style sincere and effective.”10 For example,
“Next morning we woke up
To the twilighty radiance of morning sun
Lilting, juvenile breeze of the dawn
Tickled us into fresh vistas of smiling grass
I held your dew-twinkling face
On my serene palms–
And saw you vibrant as new leaf
Fresh from the cosmic touch,
Newly plucked– and washed in rain.
Then, I planted a fresh kiss on your rosy cheek.”11
The poet enjoys experimenting with words and ideas, be it love, nature, family or philosophy. He is also form-conscious. Without a good and well constructed form to think about good poetry is impossible. Syed Ameeruddin mostly writes long and short descriptive poetry in the form of “Ode”12 Where he elevates and elaborates the theme of the poem in stanzaic structure. “Value of Timelessness”, “Dome of Gold”, “Peace in the age of Space”, “The Dreadfull Doom to Come”, “Where all this leads to …” “Despair of our Age, Life is a mysterious … mystery,” ‘A craze for supreme beauty,’ “Life is a Journey,’ ‘My India’, “Eloquent Serenade”, “Carrion Carnage”, ‘Blessings’ are some examples of his craftsmanship as an ‘Ode’ writer.
Thus, we find that Syed Ameeruddin’s style is simple and effective. He has an understanding about form and structure but sometimes length of certain poems make them thematically weak and loose vis-a-vis the compactness of his phrasal construction elsewhere. But his style is notable as far as Indianisation of English is concerned. The way he uses the English language clearly makes him sound a non-native speaker who makes poetry serious, philosophic, metaphysical, mystic, and thought provoking.
- Gokak, V. K. An Integral view of poetry : An Indian Perspective. New Delhi : Abhinav publication 1975 p. 158.
- Ameeruddin, Syed “Ambiguity” Visioned Summits. Madras : International Poets Academy 1995 p. 75-77.
- ………………………. “Eloquent serenade.” Ibid p. 35-36
- ………………………”What the Himalaya … said”. What the Himalaya Said … and Other Poems. Madras : Kalaivendhan Publications, 1972 p. 23.
- ……………………….. “My Enchantress … ” Petallic Love Times. Madras : Poets press India, 1988 p. 32-33.
- …………………………. “Lover & Wanderer” A Lover and A Wanderer. Madras : Poet press India, 1980. p. 25-26.
- Ibid p. 20.
- Quoted from The Quest (June, 2008) pp. 81-83
- Singh, R. K. Recent Indian English poets : Expressions and Beliefs. New Delhi: Bahri Publications, 1992. p. 18.
- Mujeeb, M. What the Himalaya … said and Other Poems. op. cit. p.9.
- ………………………. “Petallic love Times” Petallic Love Times Op. cit p. 23.
- Gokak, Vinayak Krishna “Introduction” The Dreadful Doom to Come and Other Poems. Madras : Poets press India, 1974 p. 4.