Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar has now, by his sheer brilliance command over poetic sensibilities and excellence in emotive content has acquired a distinct place among the Indian English Poets. His journey of poetry commences from Hindi poetry to translated English poetry and now he has written a number of fine poems in English. Being essentially a poet of thought than that of idea and a poet of the down-trodden and the downcast, he has shown his merits of Romantics and Realist also. His poems are the living pictures of his poetic sojourn which at times soars into the sky of imagination and at times stops a while on the ground of reality and looks at the predicament of the underprivileged and the sufferers of free India even after glorious 60 years of independence.
The present book Poet Mahendra Bhatnagar-His Mind and Art is a collection of critical essays and book reviews on the poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar. It carries 36 essays on different aspects of poet’s poetry, essays in French and a few book reviews in the section of Appendix.
Going through the various articles on the poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poetry is no less interesting. For, the scholars like Anita Myles, Purnima Ray, Kedar Nath Sharma, H.C.Gupta, Narendra Sharma Kusum, Laxmi Shankar Sharma, P. Jayaraman, Dr. Ram Sharma, Kalpna Rajput, D. C. Chambial and Aju Mukhopadhya are themselves deeply touched with poetry of Bhatnagar but their penetrating pen how scribbled itself in different direction so each article of the book is unique in its own way.
For example we may take the first article of the book entitled- ‘Mahendra Bhatnagar- a Prosilient Poet of Optimism and Certitude’ by Anita Myles which establishes the poet as an icon of optimistic poetry as well as a poet of future generations. In the very beginning of the article Anita Myles observes the poem with critic mind as well as heart:
The poems of Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar an eminent poet of Hindi have been so adroitly translated by various scholars that there lies a thin line between them and the original composition by the poet.(1)
The observation of Anita Myles are for evaluating the translated works of the poet in a manner which would highlight the poetic qualities of the particularly his theme and style; basing on his seven compiled volumes- Forty Poems, After The Forty Poems, Exuberance and Other Poems, Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s Poetry and Death Perception-Life Perception. Besides judging the poetry of Bhatnagar in terms of optimism, Myles narrates the importance of Bhatnagar’s poetry in the current time of darkness and Hubble Bubble:
The optimism and the message of reconstructive idealism found in Dr. Bhatnagar’s poetry is the real need of the hour. (4)
In the editorial note of the book Dr. Dwivedi tries to hover all the articles jotted dawn in the book and sums up the sum and substance of the work of Bhatnagar by comparing and contrasting the poems of Bhatnagar with the poetic element of Muktibodh, Kedar Nath Agarwal, Kazuyosi Ikeda, Auden, Bretcht, Donne, Agyaya and Shamsher Bahadur Singh but the editor is more prone to Bhatnagar’s poetry than to articles on Bhatnagar, which are the main contents of the book.
The second important article of the book by Mrs. Poornima Roy is an in-depth scrutiny of the poems of Bhatnagar. Mrs.Poornima Ray is well versed in the work of Bhatnagar and has penned a penetrating and critical observation of Bhatnagar’s poetry. Previously Mrs. Ray has edited a French volume on Dr. Bhatnagar which is widely read and analysed. Her justification about Bhatnagar as ‘A Avant Garde Poet’ is based on his evolution of the poetry of Bhatnagar analysing the richness of thought, simplicity of style and lucidity of language. She disagrees with the critics who find Bhatnagar too difficult to translate- she says:
But as a translator I cannot agree with those critics who say that his poems are difficult. For poet Bhatnagar expresses his deep thoughts in a very simple manner, so the form automatically becomes simple and the language is close to our heart.(12)
Dr. Ray has focused her attention on the jobs of translators who has commendably done their best. The article of Dr. Ray is based on about hundred remarkable poems of Bhatnagar and she has succeeded lastly to prove her assertion in the end.
The third important critical article of the anthology is written by Dr. Kedar Nath Sahrma which can also be seen in the collection The Poems for A Better World as the Appendix-1, where in the findings of the poet are classified into various titles like simple and straight forward, feels for the downtrodden, human life, life and death, a realist, love, wishful thinker, spontaneous, nature, youth, his style, rhyme, metaphors, extended metaphors, similes, malady of his poetry and conclusion. For a better understanding of the readers the scholar Dr. Sharma has given both the Hindi and English versions of Dr. Bhatnagar which add the glamour of the article more and more. His ‘going through the five volumes’ of original and translated poetry has been a time consuming but satisfying job. According to Dr. Sharma, Bhatnagar is a consummate artist, sometimes flamboyant, mostly frugal of words, direct, sweet, sometimes pessimistic and often optimistic. In this way Dr Sharma has also performed his best in the article.
Another article by H.C. Gupta about the poet and his poetry is critical point of view based on his personal observation and comparisons that were beyond the control of the temptation to record his impressions in some detail-‘Since quite a number of poems- as many as fifty, fifteen more than he had taken up to translate- have received his close perusal.’ No major element of his poetry has escaped from ‘his antenna of poetic probe’ and his comment is worth quoting here:
His poetry, to be sure, bears and carried the stamp of sincerity and authenticity. Parading scholarship and learning at times, his verse is stiff like brocade embroidered in gold. More a work of craftsmanship than inspiration…By all account, progressive or not Dr. Bhatnagar is sure-footed in his poetical pursuit. Hieratic and messianic, he has obeisant devotion to his creations. (53)
The scholar has skilfully observed the poetry of Bhatnagar as a whole as well as expressed his personal narrations and notions and in an emotional manner also. The short article of Dr. Mahashweta Chaturvedi though simple and direct assertions yet it lacks substance and critical eye. It is more a personal outlook than an article. Unlike her preceding scholars, Dr. Mahashweta, a bilingual poet of Hindi and English could not justify her title in toto.
Besides the article of Dr. P. Jairaman, Prof. Laxmi Shankar Sharma, Dr. Vidhya Nivas Mishra are all short, precise and to the point in which the scholars have voiced their own notions about the poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar and the other articles by N.P.Singh, R.S.Sharma, Dr. Gupteshwar Prasad, Mrs. Poornima Ray, Miss Jayalaxmi Rao V, Shaleen Kumar Singh Are not the research papers but book reviews. Here it is important to note that the article of D.C. Chambial ‘The Motif of Death in The Poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar’ has aptly justified the death motif in Bhatnagar’s poetry, especially in his book Death Perception; Life Perception .actually the same collection is meticulously translated by the poet Dr. D.C. Chambial who is himself a philosophical poet and who has drank deep at the fountain head of Dr. Bhatnagar’s philosophy of Life and Death. Drawing significant references from Aurobindo, Bhagvad Gita and Emily Dickinson, Chambial has explored new vistas od death in Bhatnagar’s poems and has come to summarize his observation as:
Mahendra Bhatnagar, the poet and philosopher, has very deeply studied and experienced, in his imagination, the concept of death and has made some very radical observations that make him stand all alone as a sedate thinker in the contemporary poetry. (102)
There are two other articles on the death motif in the book- one by Mrs. Jaya Laxmi Rao V and the other by D. Murli Manohar entitled ‘Death in The Poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar’- in which the later is very captious and reflective wherein the researcher has evaluated the element of ‘Death’ in vivid, clear and temperate way. The scholar D. Manohar has, like Dr. Chambial has reflected the poetry of Bhatnagar in a wide and profound manner, for example- the two extremities of Bhatnagar –(Life and Death) are deeply pondered by the scholar who gives the following table from his poems-
One end The other extreme end
A shore An opposite bank
Why a jubilation? Pain why?
Well shaped Completely visible
Initiation An earthly end!
Yes a being Ah! A non being
A new dawn A horrendous night (120)
On the book Life Perception: Death Perception the review cum article by senior critic Atma Ram is well written and the critical observations on the book- Passion and Compassion by Dr. Anita Myles, O. P. Mathur, Mrs. Poornima Ray, Dr. Shaleen Kumar Singh, B. C. Dwivedi and Dr. Narendra Sharma Kusum are full of analysis and critical insight. The reviewers have remained objective and free in their observance and the examination of the book.
The other book-reviews on Poems for a Better World by Dr. Atma Ram, Aju Mukhopadhyay and Dr. Kalpna Rajput are critical but the book-review of Ashok Khanna is hastily written and has become simply an enumeration of titles of poems of the collection.
Dr. Ram Sharma and Dr. A. K. Chaturvedi the two budding critics have also succeeded in their evaluation of the oeuvres of Bhatnagar by touching both the surface and the content. Dr. Ram Sharma seems objective when he remarks:
Dr. Bhatnagar is a poet of the state of mind. However negative there may be a situation, he will perceive the end in a positive way- always a journey towards life not death, towards happy ending not catastrophe. (185)
And Dr. A. K. Chaturvedi’s critique on his later poems has research mettle when he observes the Bhatnagar’s later poems and says:
These poems are a treasure of poet’s sublime and revolutionary thoughts, sharp reactions and fresh view points. They touch upon a variety of topics covering a wide spectrum of issues relating to language, society, humanity, religion, castism, terrorism, corruption, poverty, philosophy, politics and so on and so forth. An undercurrent of poet’s deep concern for the betterment of the prevailing condition of the native country as well as the entire world runs throughout these poems. (188)
Dr. Moh Dutt Sathi’s foreword on Lyric Lute is no less critical and surcharged with emotional and motivated current. The co-editor Dr. Shubha Dwivedi has justified her critical article commendably well and has established Dr. Bhatnagar as the glorious progressive poet of Hindi poetry and as a sympathizer with the heart of a socialist. Her consideration on Bhatnagar’s Books as the ‘Criticism of Social, Political and Democratic life of India’ appears aright. The book carries seven contributors in the French section of the book and at last in the appendix I, II and III the reviews by Rajeev Saxena, the reflections of Prof. P. C. Gupta and Vishnoo Swaroop, the book-reviews of Dr. Shaleen Kumar Singh, Dr. Ram Sharma and Dr. Kalpna Rajput are comprehensive as well as compact. In the appendix IV the bio data of Dr. Bhatnagar, the poet reveals his long and successive career and provides a chance to look into poet’s literary life also.
On the whole, the critics of the collection have remained keen, penetrating and accurate and their observations are elaborate, institutive, laborious and perceptive. The relevant references punctuated by the critics in their observations have made the article and offered a wealth of more new ideas to search and to explore in the realm of Bhatnagar’s poetry.