On his hundredth birthday that falls on May 25, 2012, Meera Ji’s experimental poetic expression can be evaluated more objectively
Meera Ji died young, not fully appreciated for a poetic expression that was very experimental and hounded for his unconventional lifestyle.
Given the current situation where the ideological divide between the right and left is no longer the decisive criteria in assessing a work of literature, some newer critical canon is waiting to be established. Since the erstwhile divide imposed with rigidity posited literature as front for an ideological battle, it was not always assessed on the basis that was its very own.
Meera Ji’s life was difficult because he decided to swim against the current of the mainstream Progressive Writers Association. His was a distinct voice, very individual, extremely subjective and sensitive to the smaller issues and feelings which otherwise get swarmed by overwhelming questions.
He wrote nazms (poems)and was obviously inspired by much that was happening in the West in literature and other disciplines like psychology. Initially the nazm was a revolt against the highly stylised dominant form of the ghazal (rhyming verse). It was considered to be less well-wrought, less dependent on associated references and loaded metaphors. It was closer to being a statement and this objectivity was a much cherished aim in the 19th century but, by the time nazm came within the creative grasp of Meera Ji, it became the poetic manifestation of an inner voice.
Meera Ji’s inner voice was of suppressed instincts that did not find an outlet in poetry directly but only in the well-wrought framework of an inherited tradition. The instincts were given a form that was artistically closer to the chaos and anarchy of the instinctual aspects of a human being and its expression too had to be reflective of the turmoil that makes up the essential self of man.
Before Meera Ji, Noon Meem Rashed had written the nazm inspired by the late Romantics and the Imagists. Rashed really worked on his poems, and at times the hardwork showed. But where Rashed’s effort was contrived, Meera Ji wrote with an effortless ease. This is not to say that he did not work on his poems and wrote in a fit of inspiration, only that his effort did not become obvious and his craft was more honed than some of his contemporaries.
Meera Ji’s work was seen by some as directly flowing out of sexual energy and was libidinal, as if what he wrote was actually an expression of the lack of an outlet for sexual expression as well. But this was only a selective reading of his works. He was less concerned with repression and its lack of outlet and more with the mysteries of the sex drive, the basic instincts that filled human life with the force and the energy to think beyond the precision of the event. It was fully comprehended without wrapping it in an elaborate system of thought. Meera Ji had the spontaneity of a super craftsman.
In his earlier phase, Meera Ji wrote nazms that were formalistic and structured. In the later phase, under the influence of the geet (song), he wrote poetry that was extremely lyrical but did not follow any formalistic design. The geet does not, as a genre, follow a formal structure and is quite accommodating in its pattern and rhyme scheme; the only criteria being that it should retain its lyrical quality. This criterion was fulfilled with great promise by Meera Ji. His geets were extremely lyrical and did not follow the form of a nazm. He was in the process of discovering an inner structure for the unity of the poem as compared to a more formal one. The association of meaning, the references and the allusions, all knitted his nazm to give it a sharpened edge that possibly could not have been achieved if the dictates of a formal structure had been lurking in the background during the act of creation.
As the inner structure was not apparent, Meera Ji was criticised for being ambiguous. The subject that Meera Ji found to be potent was ambiguity itself and the initial reaction of the reader to be lost in the maze of an experience, though overwhelming, was shrouded in mystery and questioned by many. The subject itself was not cut and dried and laid down in any order. This ambiguity was the consequence of the magical environment that Meera Ji was able to weave in his poems, the atmosphere that he created, full of indirections with no direct linkages.
Meera Ji was a very well-read man and extremely educated about the poetic forms of the past and the age that he was living in. The greatest proof of that are his extensive prose writings on various poets and literary movements. As a critic, Meera Ji was a critical observer looking very closely at the writings and poems, developing arguments backed by historical references and contemporary instances. His critical pieces had no ambiguity, no magical maze — instead, only clarity of thought and a forcefulness of reasoning.
His understating of contemporary poetry and the reasons that gave birth to such a poetic expression was quite astonishing. The poetry closer to his own was ruthlessly scrutinised and he found these either truly inspirational, or at least the words resonating his own poetic experience.
Meera Ji was not alone in that ambiguous mysterious, haunting world; it was the sensibility of an age that he was only sharing. The European poets of the late nineteenth and twentieth century had moved away from the formal structures to explore an area of experience that could not be grasped by rationality and scientific explanation. New doubts had arisen and questions were being raised also by poets, some directly and some not so directly. As in those poets, in Meera Ji too, childhood played a critical part. For authenticity, he could relate to that primal experience and then to its sublimation, mythology, which gave an artistic cover to the hopes, aspirations and foibles of human existence.
The personality of Meera Ji too was put under the microscopic lens and many moral issues were raised regarding his conduct in society. But he was essentially a poet in rebellion against the mainstream culture of his times. For him truth lay beyond social norms and manners, even if it involved sacrificing mundane living. His love for poetic truth was just as sincere as his love for Meera Sen. He lost in love but succeeded in immortalising the supremacy of love through his poems.
Recommended by Ijaz Syed
A poem by Meera Ji
Piyaare lamhe aayen ge aur majboori miT jaye gi
Hum dono mil jayen ge aur sab doori miT jaye gi
Har dam Behne wali aankhon ki mala bhi TooTay gi
Teri meri hasti iss bairi bandhan se chooTay gi
Lekin yeh sab baatein hain apne jee ke behlaanay ki
Dukh ki raat main dheere dheere dil ka dard miTaanay ki
Rotay rotay hanstay hanstay ruktay ruktay gaanay ki
Sukh ka sapna sookha hai aur sookha hi reh jaye ga
Sooni saij pe prem kahani premi yoon keh jaye ga
Hote hote sara jeewan aankhon se beh jaye ga
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