Friday, March 23, 2018
ANDREA CECON ON POETRY OF MANU KANT
Manu Kant was born in Patiala, in Indian Punjab, but grew up in Chandigarh, India. He also used to live in the former Soviet Union where he achieved his specialization in television journalism at the Lomonosov University of Moscow in the early nineties. He is a freelance journalist and his articles have appeared on several Indian newspapers. Manu Kant, as far as I know, is the only communist poet in the world, declaring himself as such, who is writing haiku. His political faith is an aspect difficult to disregard when one is dealing with his poetry.
When I was asked to write an introduction for a new book of such a particular author, I felt a bit confused, thinking about it for several days. Then I began an internet search of news related to Manu Kant and his poetry, read his manuscript several times, and discovering soon that he is an unparalleled author in the current poetic scene, a haijin with a great ability to master different compositional styles of haiku poetics. His being socially engaged is an integral part of his poetic production.
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 at 13:29
road workers at work
before the night is out
a road stretches in front of the world
In this case, his attention for the less considered and respected in society goes to the road workers, a category absolutely not considered in India those who struggle hard exclusively for survival. Yet already here it is possible to see the poetic power of which this author is capable. The road stretching before the world can easily be interpreted as a sign of hope and redemption for these workers. It is interesting to note the trait-of-union between the first and the third verses, in that "before the night is out" that shows us how hard they worked all night long to make the road: this is definitely one of my favourite poems in this collection.
It is also interesting to note how the descriptive capacity of Manu Kant focuses on moments of absolute intimacy and confidentiality of the subjects examined. An aspect to which we will return again in this analysis.
In the following two poems, the public catering workers are protagonists:
Tuesday, 1 October 2013 at 13:38
the backside of the market
where the crows congregate
& the restaurant workers gossip
Saturday, 5 October 2013 at 13:54
as if just out from a prison
a line of coffee house waiters
ogling at a girl in short skirt & high heels
This is another category of the underclass in the vast Indian megalopolises. Both poems are worth of attention. In the first poem, the backside of a market seems to be congenial for the restaurant workers' chatter as for a crows' gathering. The combination of these two images is interesting. In the second composition, however, the observations become more detailed and go to a deeper level. Waiters in a cafeteria observe the movements of a girl in a short skirt and high heels without concealing their repressed desire, as if they were just released convicts after a long detention. Manu Kant gives us again what his eye registers through the streets, the daily life of the Indian subcontinent, doing it with an amazing lyricism, as in the following haiku:
Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 20:32
cold, dark night
a Sikh gentleman’s clothes & shoes
all in matching colours
His being politically engaged transforms him into a meticulous observer of the humanity that surrounds him. The children seem to occupy a privileged position in his poetry and in his observations. Street children, exploited workers surprised in moments of astounding intimacy:
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 at 18:32
a rag picker kid
I wonder just one thing:
is his mom there at night
to massage his tired legs and feet?
Sunday, 4 December 2011 at 20:14
a small rag picker’s long stare at the toys
through the window of a shop
In the first poem, the author wonders humanly if the little protagonist of his verses after an allegedly difficult day, will find comfort this night in his mother's arms. In the second poem we have another small rag-picker which remains immobile looking at the toys in a shop window: a dream of a different life that he cannot even imagine. Similar reflections arise from the following haiku:
Tuesday, 8 April 2014 at 11:32
instead of a brush & paints
in the hands of a small shoeshine boy
shoe brush & shoe polish
Why is there just a brush and shoe polish instead of a brush and paints in the hands of the little shoeshine?
In this brief analysis I wanted to underline only some features and several of my observations, avoiding to focus on purely technical aspects. There would be many other elements in Manu Kant's poetry that deserve to be investigated.
Looking at the international scene, it seems that many poets born in the middle class of our post-modern society are not pointing out the difficult situation of the masses on a global level. The true poetry born in places and realities distant from our western world is considered little more than an exotic curiosity. If people do not react on poetry, it means that the poetry itself offers little hope. Considering this point of view, Manu Kant's poetry can certainly be considered as a new and strong voice for the future.
former vice president IHA and Haijin