Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher by Nissim Ezekiel
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The poem, “Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher” is taken from Nissim Ezekiel‘s fourth volume of poems which appeared in 1965 under the heading of The Exact Name. Here Ezekiel expresses his view about the method which a poet should adopt to achieve success in the writing of poetry. He illustrates his view by comparing a poet to a lover and a birdwatcher. In each case, he says, illumination and fulfillment come through a patient wait and through silent perseverance.
Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher Poem Summary
Those persons, who are interested in the study of birds or in the study of women’s nature, are never in a hurry, and they do not force themselves to make haste in order to achieve favourable results in their respective fields. In the same way the best poets are those who do not force themselves to compose a poem at a particular time. They always wait for words to come to them naturally and spontaneously, and it is only then that they start writing. A birdwatcher waits patiently on a hill to observe the movements of a rare bird. A man waits patiently for his beloved to surrender herself to him in due course, and the beloved surrenders to him only after she has convinced herself of his love. In the same way the poet waits for his mind or soul to provide him with the urge to write a poem.
Thus it is the slow movement which brings a reward. If a birdwatcher wants to watch or observe) birds of a rare kind, he has to go to deserted places or to a place somewhere near the source of a river. If a man seeks a favourable response from his beloved, he too has to wait till she melts towards him and remains not only a body made of flesh and bone but becomes a myth of light with darkness at the core. In the same way a poet imagines himself as flying through the air and waits restlessly till his mind is illumined by light and he can produce a poem.
Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher Critical Analysis
One of the commendable achievements of Ezekiel is his ability to weave the strands of diverse themes into the well knit fabric of a poem. The example that comes immediately to one’s mind is “Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher.” In this poem, Ezekiel combines the diverse occupations of a poet, a lover and an ornithologist by bringing out the identical nature of their occupations. He works at several levels, the lowest being the level of the development of any one theme in a single poem, and the highest being the level of a synthetic comprehension of traditions or themes.
“Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher” is one of the better known poems of Ezekiel and has received considerable critical attention. It epitomizes the poet’s search for a poetics, which would help him redeem himself in his eyes and in the eyes of God. Parallelism is drawn between the poet, the lover and the bird watcher. All the three have to wait patiently in their respective pursuits. Indeed their waiting is a sort of strategy, a plan of action which bears fruit if persisted in and followed with patience. Those who study birds or women need a lot of patience.
The best poet waits patiently for the right words to come. The hunt is not an exercise of will. The woman who knows that she is loved surrenders to the lover who is patiently waiting for her. Similarly if the poet waits till the moment of inspiration, he achieves some noble utterance. The moral that a poet learns from the example of the lover is that he should wait with unflagging patience for the words to come.
The second stanza stresses the fact that slow movement is good in all the three cases. To watch rarer birds, a bird watcher has to go to remote places just as one has to discover love in a remote place like the heart’s dark floor. Such patient search is truly rewarding for one will meet at the end of the quest myths of light with darkness at the core. The poet’s search is also fruitful. Waiting itself is a form of pursuit, a strategy.
Paul Verghese remarks What is Striking about the use of images in this poem is that the transition from one image to the other is so unobtrusive that the poet, the lover and the bird-watcher lose their separate identities for the nonce and merge into one another to carry the poem forward to its end. However the use of such vague abstractions as “myths of light” has exposed Ezekiel to the charge of “flabby thinking” and the use of wooly terminology of the Indian philosophical tradition.
L.N. Kher has given a lucid and penetrating analysis of this fine poem. Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher reveals the nature of the poetic perception through the network of a metaphor in which the images merge into each other like lovers in the act of love. Birds or women symbolize freedom, imagination, love and creativity. This exercise in waiting is similar to the patient lover’s or the bird watcher’s act of relaxing on a hill.
At the end of this wait, the poetic word appears in the concrete and sensuous form of a woman, who knows that she is loved and who surrenders to her lover at once. In this process, poetry and love, word and woman become intertwined. The image process, poetry and love, word and woman become intertwined. The image of thorny ground refers to the arduous nature of the poet’s mission. It is only after he has gone through his travail that he is able to see the birds or words of poetry in the form of women who slowly turn around not only as flesh and fine but also as myths of light with darkness at the core.
The poet then gloats on the slow curving movements of the woman, both for the sake of their sensuousness and the insights they bring. He creates his poetry out of these “myths of light” whose essential darkness or mystery remains at the centre of creation itself. The poetry which releases the poet from suffering is the medium through which the deaf can hear and the blind see. Thus this is a justly celebrated poem, containing beautifully worked set of images moving as the title suggests on three levels.