Verdict: CITY TIMES appears to be only a short book but there are worlds of images and feeling inside, created by a gifted poet with a deft turn of phrase.
A poet takes a new look at cities, love, wisdom and other aspects of human existence.
Vihang Naik is an established and widely published English-language poet in India, and this collection of poems clearly shows why. He addresses love affairs, the sound of a city at night, the search for wisdom, human nature and wild nature in 36 short but lively poems. He writes in freeform style, and most of the poems are no more than one page long, but each poem is connected to all of the others within its chapter, and follows a common theme.
Naik’s writing is simple, clear and concise, but his imagery is packed with both sensual impressions and deeper meaning. The nearly haiku-like length and deceptive simplicity of these poems gives plenty of room for hidden depths, some of which must inevitably be drawn from the reader’s own consciousness. With a few simple brushstrokes, the setting – the seashore, perhaps, or a grandfather’s dusty attic, or a lover’s glance, comes to life in vivid if unspoken detail. These are poems to be chewed on, thought about, read again in a different perspective or mood, experienced – not simply read through and forgotten. The images fade in and out of view, changing tone from stanza to stanza, daring the reader to keep up.
Naik has a talent for catching a feeling, a moment, or a picture, as in his embodiment of desire as an octopus, or pleasure as a snake with a beautiful skin, the evocation of the poverty and misery of beggars in the description of the lines on their palms, lovers parting ways in “a difference/of tea and coffee” or perhaps the “words of cream and butter” in a deceptive man’s mouth. A wry sense of humor occasionally shines through, as when he says, “You must not ask/God His name–/you may end up/you see, in public/religion.”
CITY TIMES appears to be only a short book but there are worlds of images and feeling inside, created by a gifted poet with a deft turn of phrase.