Reading in Jyotirmaya Thakur’s Poem “Hearts of Darkness”
“The bald language puts rhetoric on its head
a wig and in the courts of Kings,
it wears figures of speech a garment,
in the space era – cosmic ships – revolutions,
Kiddia poets, the eunuchs, were in the East capitals,
crawling on their stomachs in cages,
lice-moss grow in their poems,
and the poets of hired dream in the towers with make-up
and cream conceal the pallor of the aging Muse,
on the “Olympia peak”,
They were stealing its laurel withered in museums – dumps – texts,
They were gathering autumn leaves from the cemeteries
of ruined poetic schools,
the eunuchs praised servants – kings in the cages”
*This is an excerpt from the late innovative Iraqi poet “Abdul Wahab Al-Bayati entitled “Biography of the Stealer of Fire” “Prometheus”
*Kiddia poets: begging poets.
Jyotirmaya Thakur is an outstanding Indian poetess, literary critic, peace activist and multi-prize winner. Her literary works are characterized with a high degree of creativity and authenticity. By the virtue of her intelligence, skill and imagination, she infiltrated the human psychology and arrested the most evasive and invisible states of mind; moments of joy, sorrow, tedium, frustration and jubilation in very magically fascinating imagery. Yet, she is not confined to states of mind, she has rather exceeded them to nature beauties brought forth by the changing seasons and their impact on the human soul because she is fully infatuated with nature. however, she does not theorize or intellectualize about nature as some of the romantic poets did. Being social activist, she is a true defender of many social issues like women’s emancipation, peace promotion, religion endurance. She is also a true fighter against racial discrimination as regard color, race, sex and religion and the like. Yet, she has not made of her poetry a domain for propagating her ideologies. She rather lays much emphasis on the issue of developing of her artistic craftsmanship. Therefore, she excelled all types of poetry old and new. Her poetry prosperously appeal to her readers’ senses and thoughts because it entertains a higher level of sensuousness; in that the reader can feel, touch, taste, see, smell and hear all the ideas she expresses as intimately, and freshly as if they were already baked.
Jyotirmaya Thakur in her poem (Hearts of Darkness) presents a fascinating reading of the poetic setting in India, where there has been, as it seems, a neck-to-neck battling between young poets and older ones over poetic superiority. In the first stanza, she personifies the “ darkness” giving it human qualities. It has assumed a heart and actions like the verbs “mock and attack” and the like. Let’s see, first of all, what the expression “heart of darkness” imply. If it is taken denotatively, it may mean no more than what is versus light, that usurps everything its shape by covering it with its gloomy garment, but if it is connotatively taken, it signifies more. It directly refers us back to two famous literary works; Joseph Conrad’s novel which carries the same title “Heart of Darkness and T. S. Eliot’s poetic masterpiece the “Waste Land” and another poem the “Hollow Men”. Joseph Conrad, in his novel “Heart of Darkness” concentrated on the relationship of the symbolic aspects of the two poles of the binary opposition; light and darkness, where he made of light as a symbol for the white man for being civilized enough to perform a charity mission of spreading light in the dark continent, Africa to bring its man from darkness into light, and he used the concept of darkness as a symbol for the African man, who was accused of being savage and primitive. Yet, Conrad during his God-graced mission in Congo arrived at a shocking realization that the white man, who was fully engaged in the process of spreading light in Africa, turned to be a spreader of more darkness there because he carried deep rooted evils in his heart as embodied by his vicious exercises against the black man; torture, racial discrimination, sexual seduction and murder, he squeezed him to the very bone by putting the heaviest yoke around his neck, depriving him of all his material and spiritual properties; land, wealth, identity and will. Therefore, the shining civilization of the white man is, in fact, a “representation of the West infamy and hardly as an affirmation of its spiritual grace”, a civilization of darkness that only generates “horror, horror” as embodied by the last words uttered by the central character of the novel “Kurtz”, who was a western making because he was half English and half French.
T. S. Eliot used Kurkz’s last words “horror, horror” as an “epigraph for his epoch-defining poem the “Waste Land” ((How Conrad’s imperial horror story Heart of Darkness resonates with our globalised times
May 23, 2018 5.39am AEST))
and also used Marlow’s words, the hero of the novel, “Mistah Kurtz-he dead” and “Hollow to the bone” in his prominent poem “Hollow Men” for he considered “Heart of Darkness” as “one of the essential works of modernism , a new kind of art in which the radically disjunctive experiences of the age would find expression in ever more complex aesthetic forms.”(( David Denby’s article in New Yorker October 30, 1995 entitled The Trouble with “Heart of Darkness” Is Joseph Conrad’s Novel a critique of colonialism, or an example of it?)
Both poems present a poetic vision that parallel Joseph Conrad’s vision in “heart of darkness” concentrating on the material and spiritual failure of the modern man as a result of his gluttony, selfishness and loss of faith.
After having referred the expression of the “heart of darkness” to a historical background, and what it implies, based on Conrad’s and Eliot’s perspectives, now, let’s return to Thakur’s poem. Thukar begins her poem as aforesaid, with a shocking personification of darkness as having heart that “mocks” and “attacks”. These two verbs have a variety of negative connotations in that they imply to some extent, violence, contempt, disappointment and defying and mimic. Young Indian poets, like Kurtz who forcibly enslaved the innocent people of Congo while working for the most brutal Belgian companies, appear to be violent, contemptuous, defying and mimicking in their critique of the old poets, who entertain a wide range of creativity and originality. Their ways of criticism are as much similar as to Kurtz’s disgraceful acts towards the black natives. Both are considered illegal and sardonic acts of violence that breach the civil rules and etiquettes as if rendered things into bestiality :
A heart of darkness mocks and attacks
Flouts the civil rules and etiquettes bounce
It also creates of puppets and sycophants as its knights,
((It tempts the puppets and sycophants))
precisely as Conrad in his making of Kurtz, who assumed a God-like position in Africa and Eliot in his “Hollow Men” who were
We are the hollow men,
We are the stuffed men”
Here, Eliot did not present a contrast between “hollow” and “stuffed”, as it seems for the first glance, he rather completed and enhanced the image of hollowness of his men, because their heads were not stuffed with knowledge and faith but with straw:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Then, the poet shifts to shed light on another aspect of the “heart of darkness”, as it:
(( robs the fools and orb of honest light))
Exactly as Conrad’s anti-hero, Kurtz, or the “flower of the European civilization” as “David Denby” described him in his above mentioned article, robbed the black man of Africa and say-“kills some people, has sex with others, steals all the ivory” (the novel)
After having mentioned some qualities of the “heart of darkness” as considered a symbol of the young poets of India who use harshly vulgar language in their criticism against the older poets, not because their literary works are defective and they need to be criticized so that they can be amended and this is acceptable as a constructive criticism, but they want just to devastate the older poets’ reputation and occupy their position as authentic representatives of the poetic setting in India, the poem adds another vice to their legacy as “duped souls” who have “sadist appetites” and who conceal their wickedness, banality and shallowness under the mask of flowery and vague words. In other words, they are evil-haunted exactly the same as Kurkz was:
((Duped souls that sate the sadist appetite
A mask of honeyed words in acrid spite.))
The young poets, as it is reflected in the poem, seek to be attaining such a widespread and quick fame and material profit for they and their operators consider literature as a commercial commodity and the more gains they attain, the more superior they become. The for that end, they are rewarded with by their operators with “appreciation of pearl and gold certificate” and an academy of false repute diploma” so that they can ascend to lights as required by consumerist inclination which necessitates the subjugation of literature to “market mechanism and the taste of a specific group of the public”, where pleasure, and entertainment become targets of their works. But, as a matter of fact, they are devoid of all the above mentioned privileges and their strength presides in a “yen of honeyed lies”:
Appreciation with pearls and gold certificates
An academy of false repute diploma rides
That fester at its core and feeds and fuels
A clandestine affair to win each fight
No credentials to show on his real site
A yen of honeyed lies is his might.
The donations of “heart of darkness” does not stop at this point; it promises its false riders of more posts and wealth, where the joy of jewels shines in their screen profiles, just to reduce the burdens of their ordeal and frustration, that slowly sucks the sunshine beams from their independent lights. The verb “sucks” in this context, reflects the fact that the young poets are mere “babies” who dwell on milk and this is a sardonic reinforcement of the first personified image of the false knights of the “heart of darkness”.
The grants which are poured on them by their operators are not priceless, they have turned them to be slaves, who should meet the demands of the market; their appearance as armored gleaming knights are just a show-off, but they are no more than “hollow men” whose heads are “stuffed with straw”, who have nothing expensive to offer except for their scares of “all independent schools of bold and heroic fighters”, the older poets, who are the real knights whose steeds are ahead of prodding mules. Here is a fascinating metaphor, which describes the old poets as heroes and their achievements as speeding horses, while the green poets as riders of slow mules. In addition, the poem as drawing to its end, adds new dimension to the young poets as being blind, submissive and useful tools from the perspectives of their operators.
A heart of darkness promises posts
A wealth the unworthy never dreamed
The joy of jewels on their profile screen
To out-glow their melancholy plight
That slowly sucks the sunshine beams
From their independent sight of light.
Those fools are now in a slavery grind
Posing as armored gleaming knights
Who shun all independent schools
Of bold and heroic who fought the uptight
Whose steed speeds ahead of prodding mules
Such blind and submissive are useful tools.
Finally, the poem outlines the nature of the young poets, who have got lost in the amaze of the dark hearts, they come out of hell to ridicule the great poets’ creativity. Here, there is a reference to Dr. Faustus’ tragedy, where Mephistopheles, who act as their counterparts are recruited to buy selves of such sycophants in return for false ephemeral pleasures and power, on one hand, and on the other to both Conrad’s and Eliot’s voyages in the heart of darkness to introspect the depths of the modern man of the western civilization after having been materially and spiritually destructed in Eliot’s poems the “Wate Land” and the “Hollow Men”, and the fully involvement of Kurtz in squalor of imperialism in Africa in Conrad’s case. The man of “heart of darkness” and the man of both the “Waste Land” and the “Hollow Men”, and of Thakur’s poem are all promoters of horror and only horror and three works almost have the same end in Thakur’s :
Gloating with godless ghouls without sight
Promoting the literature of psychopathy
Traditional ways of weaving hypocrisy,
In Eliot’s Hollow Men with:
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.
While the “Waste Land” ends with words that implies the presence of horror at the background:
Shantih Santih Shantih.
By: Henry Smith (Lateef Dhmayd)