Ananya S Guha
Vihang A Naik’s City Times and Other Poems uses a minimalist style of poetry, with imagistic uses crystallising into direct turn of phrases. The interesting aspect of Indian Poetry in English today is the fusion of styles ranging from the narrative descriptive, the lyric, epic to minimalist use of language and imagery. Naik’s collection under review uses stark images which capture moments in a familiar city, the scapes which the poet captures in moments of poetic revelation.
The urban landscape and its usage are not new in poetry; nor are they new in poetry in English written in India. Naik forges ahead with a new vocabulary, the idiom of living in a city, the idiom of ennui and a modernist angst if one may call it. The significant thing here is a kind of monotony and boredom repeated throughout – no moral castigation, no irony or satire. Naik pounds image after image to give continuity to flux, to give thematic unity through the cleverly wrought sections of the book: a city unknown, unnamed. Which is this city?
Vihang Naik is a known voice in English poetry in India. But his sense of detachment from his subject matter is a striking feature of his poetry. He is the poet of emptiness not of celebration; he does not voice anguish, but voices a kind of listless acceptance. Such acceptance is the acceptance of a kind of ‘death’ in living.
If you look for lyricism in such poetry you may not get it. If you look for the narrative experience you may not get it. But if you look for a vast expanse of light, colour and shades you may get it. Through minimalist use of language and words, Naik suspends belief or disbelief and keeps reader’s guessing about an innermost world seen through the eyes of a city, at once luminous and dark.It is the poetry of self expression, the poetry of modernist blunders, modernist living: the poetry of urban landscapes seen through an unpretentious un-pontificating mindscape.