Critical Analysis Of Island By Nissim Ezekiel

About the Poet:

Nissim Ezekiel was born in Bombay in the year 1924. He was educated there. He had natural poetic spark in him. He started writing poetry from his very school days. His poems have received warm acclamation by Indian as well as foreign readers. Professor Ezekiel is one of the leading figures of contemporary Indian poetry in English. He was greatly influenced by the poetry for Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo. Among Ezekiel’s best known poems are Philosophy in India. The Night of the Scorpion. Enterprize, Poet, Lover & Bird watcher

Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004) was one of the foremost Indian poets writing in English who was born in 1924 in Bombay of Jewish (Bone- Israel) parents devoted to education. He was educated at Antonio D’Souza High School and Wilson College, Bombay, and Brik beck College, London. He stayed in England from 1948 to 1952, and this period was marked as a watershed in his life and career. As he himself wrote later, ‘philosophy, poverty and poetry’ shared his basement room in England and that confluence of experiences left its mar on his poetry’. After his return to Bombay in 1952, Ezekiel worked as lecturer, reader and professor of English at the University of Bombay. He had been abroad on a number of assignments: a visiting professor at the University of Leeds in 1954; lecture-tour of America; International Visitor in the U.S. in 1974; and as a Cultural Award Visitor in Australia in 1975.

Besides his teaching assignments, he had also worked for some time as the Director of the Theatre Unit. Bombay. He was also associated as editor with a number of journals including The Quest, Illustrated Weekly of India, The Indian branch of PEN (Poets, Essayist, Novelists), Poetry in India and Imprint. His Later Day Psalms was selected for the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1983 and he was awarded the Padma Shri in 1988. Besides writing poetry for more than half of a century. Ezekiel had been copywriter, literary critic, art critic, playwright and director of plays. Nissim Ezekiel passed away on January 9, 2004 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for many years.

Nissim Ezekiel published eight volumes of poetry:

A Time of Change (1952), Sixty Poems (1953), The Third (1959). The Unfinished Man (1960), The Exact Name (1965), Very Indian Poems in Indian English (1976), Hymns in Darkness and Poster Prayers (1976), and Collected Poems (1989). The poems of these volumes clearly mark out three phases in his poetical career: early phase of self-exploration, the middle phase when ordinary and the commonplace are treated with a simplicity that draws out the latent human emotions of the situation, elevating and transmuting them into poetry’, and the last phase when the poet’s rootedness in the Indian ethos is evident.

The poet’s versality was amazing. His poems are inspired by the modern spirit and they reveal a keen, analytical mind struggling to make order out of the chaos he finds around him. Though western influences can be found in his poems, the readers notice that the poet endeavours to adjust and attune the manner of expression to the temper of the new age. He has clearly broken away from the highly inflated diction of earlier poets by cultivating a modern idiom changed with irony and understatement.

Critical Appreciation Island

Island is a descriptive poem written by Nissim Ezekiel. Ezekiel is a professor of English at Bombay University. He is a man with acute social sense. He considers himself a modernist. He has written both in traditional verse forms and free verse. In a letter, he acknowledged that modern American poetry, particularly that of Pound, Eliot, Keats, Ruke, Mac Neice, Spender, Auden, has been major influence of his writing. The central themes of his poetry are love, integration of the Indian contemporary scene, modern urban life and spiritual values. In fact, his poetry registers a development from the predominantly external world of flesh and bone”, to ‘myths of light’. There is a future depending of the heart’s mysteries to a profound and fruitful knowledge. There is also a moment from lucidity. creativeness and satisfying sensuality to controlled directions. His later poetry shows the creative involvement of man’s intellect with language, it seeks the essence of expressions.

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Island captures the reality of the city of Bombay both in the historical and contemporary contexts. Once, an island of dreams rapture, has now become a network of slums and skyscrapers. The poet was born here. The poet tries to forge a correspondence between the growth of the island and his own development. He strives to find his identity in this changing panorama of sound and fury. In the last stanza, the poet accepts the ways of the island, both its silence and its noise. The poet finds himself uncomfortable and restless in the suffocating atmosphere of the city of Bombay. Previously, Bombay was a beautiful small town on the hills of Malabar. Now, it has become completely industrialised. Factories and mills have been established in this city. This has resulted in the enormous increase of population. Many slums have come up in the industrial area of this city. Sky-kissing houses have been constructed here on large scale to cope with housing problems. In this suffocating atmosphere, the poet finds himself unable to compose poems and songs. Sometimes, he cries for help.

Din and bustle of this crowded city is very disturbing to the poet. At the same time, there are many anti-social elements who disturb the normal life of the people. These anti-social elements do not possess human qualities. As such, the poet compares them with a dragon. The use of animal imagery, here, shows the bestial quality of man. There is a great difference between the past and the present in the city of Bombay. In the past, this city was as beautiful as an Island. But at present, this city looks like a fearful monster. Traffic is very heavy in the city. Many people are crushed every day. The poet is afraid that in future this city will become all the more fearful and suffocating. In spite of uneasiness, the poet does not want to leave this city, because he was born and developed here. The poet has tried to adjust himself with the industrial climate of this city. He has been able to make a compromise with calm and clamor here. This poem is remarkable because it gives us an insight into the poetic sensibility of Nissim Ezekiel. Like a true-modern poet he gives us a very evocative description of his sense of boredom in city of Bombay of today. The language of Ezekiel, in this poem, is typically modern. It has undergone the discipline of prose.

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