Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Juxtaposition Device in Joy’s short

G. D. Barche, Dhule



Among the Indian poets in English of the 1980s P. K. Joy is one of those very few poets who have attracted a large number of readers. So far he has published three collections of his poems, viz., The Final Goal (1987), For A More Beautiful World (1988), and Forced Smiles (1988). The first two collections were reprinted in 1988. These collections have in all 101 poems. Of these the short poems are 50 of 4 to 15 lines and the long poems 51 of 16 to 323 lines. Here the poems upto 15 lines alone are considered as short poems because further as the length increases, the briskness and the bullet like quality, that originate from the use of juxtaposition device, are greatly diluted. Of course, there are even some short pomes like ‘For The Common Good’, ‘Jealous Cat’, ‘Ideal Place of Worship’, ‘Without Poetry’, etc, where either there is no use of juxtaposition, or if it is there, it does not have the bullet like force and direction.

There has come up a little subdued controversy regarding the nature and the quality of the short and long poems of Joy. Sreekumaran Thambi, the Malayalam Poet and novelist, has adjudged Joy’s short poems as ‘tablets of insight’. Similarly D. Anjaneyulu in his ‘Foreword’ to The Final Goal instances the qualities like ‘serenity’ and ‘concreteness’ through the short poems. But Norman Simms, from the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand, in his review shows the short poems to be ‘tendentious and vague’, while the longer ones as more successful having ‘Peculiarities of Voice which give character to the speakers’ and generate ‘a sense of the complex social forces impinging on a psychological moment of poetic expression.’

Keeping the forementioned issue aside, it would be proper to first see what P. K. Joy, the poet himself, thinks and says about his poetry. In one of his speeches delivered at Dainik Asha Sahitya Ashara, Behrampur and later published in Sym­phony Humane (Vol. I, No.2, May 1989), he calls himself ‘a humanist’ with a ‘serious social commitment’. He disapproves the idea of ‘sitting in ivory tower’ and writing ‘mystic poetry’ for one’s own ‘ecstacy’ in a language which is ‘beyond com­prehension of average reader’. According to him, poetry should reflect ‘the feeling of fellowmen’ both far and near, in a language as spoken and understood by them. Generally poetry is written for ‘Scholarly population’ in equally scholarly and sophisticated manner, keeping the average population away like the untoucha­bles. Joy pleads for democratization of poetry. That is, Poetry should be of the people, for the people and by the poets who feel one with the average people. Poetry books in Russia and China are printed and sold in laksh because they plainly reflect daily life, and the language and imagery used are direct, simple and down to earth. Consequently, the readers there don’t need ‘interpreters’, ‘repeated looking up dictionaries’ or undergo any course of study into poetry appreciation. P. K. Joy sincerely wants exactly this to happen in India. And he himself has taken the lead in this new direction.

A close survey of Joy’s Poetry makes one see that its content consists of the facts that have been weakening and spoiling the spirit and beauty of human life. And this content is communicated in a language which is highly simple, straight­forward but soul stirring. His concept of poetry mentioned earlier is verbatim put into practice. Further it is also noticed that he has not blindly followed any school or form of writing poetry. About his poetry one can only say that he saw, he felt, he wrote. And perhaps this must have made D. Anjaneyulu say that Joy is not a ‘trained poet’. That is, his way of writing poetry is not influenced or shaped by any existing theories or practices of writing poetry. And therefore, it is very difficult to agree with Dr. Krishna Shrinivas’ remark that Joy’s Poetry is ‘Audenesque in his visioned sweeps, Beaudelarian in Facualities, Popean in his tirades on society and joy like in simplicity’. Of these only the last observation may be quite acceptable. Joy’s poetry infallibly unfolds his vision of human life, viz., ‘Sarveyapi sukhina Santu/Survey Santu niramaya’. That is, all should be happy and healthy. And that is why the factualities and tirades are also Joy’s Own. In brief Joy’s poetry is Joy’s poetry both in content andform.

Now instead of entering into the controversy regarding the nature of short and long poems, it would be quite proper to examine one of the basic techniques, viz. the juxtaposition device, which is used by P. K. Joy, particularly, in his short poems. The study reveals that it is this technique that makes Joy’s short poems insightful, concrete, humorous, ‘hand hitting’ (I. K. Sharma), ‘telling and beautiful’ (Dr. A. Padmanabhan) and ‘distinctive in approach and voice’ (Dr. Norman Simms). T. S. Eliot has used this device very consistently and effectively in very serious contexts. For instance, you (body) and I (Soul) ‘Guido – Prufrock’, ‘Prufrock – Michael Angeio’ etc., in ‘Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock.’ Joy has used this device in lighter contexts and in a lighter vein. To be precise Joy has used this device in Joyean manner. As regards the device itself, it will suffice to say that it juxtaposes words, lines, sentences, etc., representing, contrasting, complementary or identical thoughts, feelings, actions, qualities etc, in order to highlight or reinforce the desired facts or effects. Now let us take up the short poems of varying lengths to verify the validity of the forementioned observations. The first poem of four lines is as follows: (Pg.53)

(From For A more Beautiful World).

The Poem with some modifications can be presented thus:

(The words in the brackets are mine)

It Ate Me Up Like Termite

I harboured hatred
for you in my heart.
You didn’t care.
But it ate me up like termite.

The poem is divided into two parts. The first part juxtaposes the first person Pronoun ‘I’ & Second Person Pronoun ‘you’; and their contrasting actions, viz., the negative action of ‘I’, i.e., keeping oneself oblivious of the presence of that hatred; presence of that Adjunct, and their absence. The second part juxtaposes two identico – unidentical destructive subjects, viz., ‘hatred’ and ‘termite’ operating on their respective con­trasting objects, viz, ‘me’ & ‘wood’. The juxtaposition of ‘hatred’ and termite, consolidates and concretises the process of suf­fering in ‘I’.

Here one is also reminded of Mrs. Shelley’s Story, viz, ‘Frankenstein’ in which a scientist creates a monster. But the monster being ugly, nobody turns to him. Consequently he turns to the creator and kills him. In the present poem ‘I’ creates the monster– ‘hatred’; ‘you’ for whom it is created doesn’t show any interest in this monster. As a result of this, it turns to the creator ‘I’ and eats him up in the same way as termite eat up wood or hard soil. Thus the poem makes one conclude two things; First a negative action boomerangs, if there is no reaction. Second, the guilt oriented inner suffering though not seen, from without, but more disastrous and devastative from within as indicated through the termite image.

It is seen what happens when there is a negative action followed by no reaction in the poem discussed above. Now here is a Poem that shows what happens when a positive action is followed by a positive reaction.

Suppressed Yearnings

When I nervously at last revealed to you
the yearning I restrained for long in my heart,
you said you have been dying to hear it
and any future delay would have burst your heart.
Then e lightning struck, two dams blew up
and two rivers rushed swiftly and merged into the sea.

(From For A More Beautiful World)

(Words in the brackets are supplied by me)

Obviously the first part juxtaposes ‘I’ & ‘you’ and their complementary action and reaction, i.e., ‘I’ proposing to reveal the yearnings and ‘you’ is ready to hear it. Both are eager and with bubbling up emotions. This state is aptly expressed by the juxtaposed complex & compound sentence structures. The second part juxtaposes the explicit nature and implicit human phenomena, which are complementary and point to the final harmonious state. Here the juxtapositions support and reinforce the juxtaposed actions and facts and lead to the final positive gain. William Blake’s poem - ‘Poison Tree’ shows how if one keeps one’s feelings suppressed, they grow into poison tree. Here Joy has shown how if the suppressed feelings are expressed, and if they are taken up in the right spirit by others, the mutual love and understanding flourish. This poem can also be inter­preted thus; here ‘I’ means the ‘inner self’, ‘the soul’, and ‘you’, the external physical self, the body. When there is proper communication between the body and the soul, there grows unity between the two, leading to the balanced personality. T. S. Eliot has shown the other side in “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, viz., the divided ‘you’ and ‘I’ body and soul, leading to the paralysed personality.

Here is another poem of eight lines with a different situation: (Pg. 56 – Poem – Forgive Them)

With some modifications the poem can be represented as follows: -

(The words in the brackets are supplied by me)

Forgive Them

When you wash my sore and
wipe my tears,
do the onlookers call you
‘a foolish ass’?
Gracious friend,
you must forgive them,
for they know not the contents
of your covenant with God.

– (From Forced Smiles)

The peom has two juxtaposed sentences of four lines each representing two aspects of life. The first part, i.e., the first sentence juxtaposes the trio, viz, ‘you’ washing the sore and wiping the tears of the sufferer; ‘I’; and ‘onlookers’ calling ‘you’ a foolish ass ‘for serving the sufferer. This makes ‘you’ sad and nervous. At this ‘I’ tries to pacify ‘you’. And therefore, in the second part again we see the trio being juxtaposed with a difference, viz., ‘I’ giving friendly advice to ‘you’ to overlook the behaviour of ‘onlookers’. This can be diagrammed as:

This representation also points to the fact that if we take heed of onlookers, i.e., critics and biters, etc., they become dominant, but if neglected and overlooked, they become weak and go into oblivion. The poet has here formulated another formula of smooth life, viz., severity of negative reaction is diffused, when it is followed by no further action.

There is yet another situation in which no outside person or party is involved and yet a person can suffer. This is seen in the following poem:

Blind Despite Bright Eyes
I own very bright eyes;
and also good sight;
But always keep them closed.
So I am in darkness and always blind.

– (From The Final Goal)

The poem, with some modifications, can be represented as follows:

The poem has two sentences which juxtapose ‘I’, the owner and non-user of bright-eyes, in part one, and ‘I’, the sufferer, in part two. In ‘It Ate Me Up Like Termite’ the subject ‘I’ has an abstract negative object ‘hatred’ which’ remains un-res­ponded, and as a result of this, the neglected object makes the subject ‘I’ suffer. Here the subject ‘I’ has both concrete and abstract objects, viz., ‘bright eyes’ & ‘good, sight’, but they are kept unused, and as a result of this, the subject ‘I’ is made to suffer, i.e., ‘I’ is in ‘darkness’ & ‘blind’. The conclusion is plain, viz, not only negative but also positive possession can make one suffer, if it goes unheeded or unused. The poem can be interpreted at another level, too. ‘I’ keeps his bright eyes ‘closed’, which means ‘I’ does not use his eyes to distinguish between right-wrong good-bad, true-false and so on. Conse­quently ‘I’ leads blind life, i.e., ignorant life. This mistake was made by Earl of Gloucester in Shekespeare’s King lear. When Gloucester had eyes, he could not distinguish between right and wrong people. Then he really turns blind, but starts seeing things in their true perspective and confesses ‘I stumbled when I saw’.

In ‘Double Standards’, a poem from The Final Goal, two faces of the same person are juxtaposed which makes the person’s position ridiculous. The poem contains fifteen lines and stands divided as eleven and four lines. First part shows the person’s behaviour with reference to others, while the second with reference to the self. The whole thing with some modifications can be presented as follows:

Thus the hypocrisy which is rampant in our society is very pointedly exposed through the juxtaposition device. The selection of the linguistic choices and their organization are also very subtle. The outward practice in part one is expressed in three sentences of eleven lines, while the ‘private practice’ in one sentence of four lines. The juxtaposition of ‘always’ with reference to ‘others’, of ‘suddenly’ and ‘swiftly’ with reference to ‘self is quite interesting. The subject ‘you’ has verbs like ‘talk’ ‘hold’ in part one, while none in the second part. “Standard practices” has complement in part one, while object in part two. These facts heighten the contradictory practices of “you”.

This way many more short poems can be analysed to highlight the effective use of the juxtaposition device in Joy’s short poems. But the illustrations given above adequately esta­blish the efficacy of this device in making the poems ‘concrete’ ‘distinctive’ ‘hard-hitting’ ‘tablets of insight’, etc. Joy’s every short poem is like an arrow which hits certain ill or evil that vitiates man’s life. But like Eklavya he shoots the arrow in such a way that it hits the mark without causing the wound. Joy prefers arrows to the atom bombs for the eradication of ills and evils which squeeze joy out of life. In the developmental process of Indian Poetry in English, Joy will specifically be noted and praised for his short poems. He will also be reckoned as a poet of non-scholarly but plain-poetry-loving public.

September 15, 1989

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: