Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Reciting Pens reviewed by noted academician Subhoday Dasgupta

 

Book Review

 

The Reciting Pens

 

Author: Kiriti Sengupta

Publisher: Inner Child Press Limited (USA)

ISBN: 978-0615861869

Price Rs. 270/- (INR)

 

Reviewed by: Subhoday Dasgupta [A.P.C. College, Calcutta University]

 

 

The book is based on interviews of three poets, taken by the author Kiriti Sengupta who claims in his preface that he has kept the sentences mostly as they were uttered by the poets themselves.

This work is in fact a journey through the ‘inward eyes’ of three poets with three different frames of mind. Kiriti Sengupta found it a difficult task to accommodate different time frames of these three poets. But then the job was challenging and enriching too. “Reciting Pens” is not just a collection of interviews. The book is in fact a project on poetry as a genre with three case studies. Kiriti has also painstakingly translated few poems of all three poets in this project. He has realized that each language has some unique features in language, culture and nuances which is extremely difficult to be translated to any after language. In the introduction of the book the author expresses his concern for the acute dearth of efficient translators in Bengali poetry. This according to Kiriti, is one of the reasons why most of the English-Speaking readers are not aware of the rich heritage of Bengali poetry.

W.F.Lantry, noted American poet from the United States laments in the foreword of this book “…we don’t know enough about contemporary Bengali poets, and we should. Yes, we all love Tagore, and may be we have read a little of Kazi Nazrul Islam, if we’ve been lucky, we have sampled Shanka Ghosh.”

The first contributor to Kiriti’s project Joya Mitra an accomplished Bengali author and also a social and political activist. However, Joya Mitra herself would rather call herself “…merely a student of this society”. Actively engaged in the Naxalite movement that broke out in West Bengal in 1970’s and consequently imprisoned for four and one half years Joya started writing poems quite early in her life. She finds no contradiction in a person being a poet and a revolutionary at the same time.

Kiriti’s next poet in the project Ranadeb Dasupta too is a believer of Marxist ideology. In Ranadeb’s opinion writing poems is an exercise which is nothing but catching and penning down the “waves and rays of running life and surroundings” that continuously enters the mind of the poet and get refracted with various colours. Though a communist by conviction Ranadeb thinks that a poet is essentially lonely. The poetic soul should withstand the pain of injuries sustained in the journey of life. This pain in the long run attains wisdom.

Suddhasattya Ghsoh is the last but not the least among the three poets included in this case study by Kiriti. Suddhasattya, also like two other poets, has strong association with leftist politics. He hails from a family which suffered a lot for having fought for the cause of the have not’s. No wonder in his early poetic career he was influenced by Bengali poet Sukanta Bhattacharya who is noted for his poems on social reality especially on the perspective of the exploited people. Later however, Jibananda had been a major influence on Suddhasattya. This influence was so immense that at one point of time he realized that he must evolve his own style and content free from the influence of other poets. He gradually developed a style of his own with his mastery of words.

Going through the pages of this book where three noted Bengali poets are speaking their minds is definitely a pleasant experience. Kiriti in this project has blazed a new trend in research on contemporary Bengali poetry. An added attraction is translations of few selected poems of all three poets.

 

Subhoday Dasgupta

subhodaydasgupta@gmail.com

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Lahiri speaks in silence

Lahiri speaks in silence

 

 

Silent Steps

Author: Gopal Lahiri
Binding: Paperback

Page count: 79
ISBN: 978-8182531970
Publisher: Cyberwit.net
Pub. Date: 2010

Reviewed by: Dr. Kiriti Sengupta, Calcutta.

 

 

I have seen critics quoting varied definitions of poetry whilst reviewing poetry books. Many of them tend to hypothesize poetry in a different light, which is exclusively their own. I have often wondered: What is the exact purpose of defining poetry? Until now I have not found a single definition which is universally accepted. Hence, mentioning the definition of poetry in the review bears no additional importance. As I was personally requested by the author to critique the poetry anthology Silent Steps, I made my conditions visibly clear. My first and foremost condition was: I will not just highlight its positive sides, if I find something that pains me being a reader I will quote it as well. The author of the said book, Gopal Lahiri was more than willing to have my honest and straight views. Let me start with this poetry collection now.

 Silent Steps was published in the year 2010 by Cyberwit.net. The book has no formal introduction written by the poet himself, nor has there been any foreword by a guest author. The cover seriously lacks a professional touch, and does not gel smooth with the title of the book. The price has been set on a higher side given the number of pages the book carries. These were my initial reactions as I tried to turn the pages in order to taste the poetry contained in the said anthology. Silent Steps carries seventy neatly composed poems by the seasoned poet, Gopal Lahiri. I will share excerpts of the selected few that I found extremely invigorating:

 My dear readers, what exactly do you expect from a poetry book, or from a poet to be precise ? I am aware that expectations may vary from a reader to another reader. Expectations are obviously on a higher side if the reader happens to be a poet him/herself. But, from a general perspective a poet is expected to deliver finer nuances of the worldly existence. Even if the poet attempts to deliver something that has a supernatural presence, the readers try to locate their imaginative sphere within the poetic rendition. The fact remains: poets rarely receive their due recognition. I have seen quite a few poets who consider them being looked down upon by the rest of the literary world. Lahiri murmured, he was probably ‘In Exile’ as he wrote:

 

“No one looks at me

As if I am not worth it.

Not even a cursory glance

That may put smile in my lips

While trampling grass and tearing flower

The cold looks and the wicked smile

Pierce through the flesh and bone

In every hour, in every minute

In the street, in the movie hall

In the crowded lane, in the park

The eyes filled with hatred and sarcasm

Take the light out of my life…”

 

Lahiri stayed honest to his observations as a general human. In ‘All that I have seen’ he wrote concisely what only poets can successfully deliver on behalf of the population:

 

“As I come back again and again

To my words, to my mind’s closet

The emotion flows into every pore

Cleanse the endless sins that committed.

Should I turn away from life?

………………………………….

Let the flame of fire spreads far and wide

Let the starlight oozes into my own world.”

 

 Like other individuals a poet has the right to air his/her desires. Lahiri has put up his wants remarkably:

 

“I want to value

The gift of freedom

To delight in

The face of winsome.

 

I want to visit

The untutored path

Show in time of need

The meanings of love.

 

………………………..

………………………..

 

I want to address

What I feel inside

Not the shame and fear

The beauty of life.”

 

 Lahiri wanted to traverse the untutored path. He wished to walk anywhere, and everywhere. As a poet and as an artiste he invited his fellow mates:

 

“… A breeze of love blowing

Open your arms to welcome all

To inhale the smell of spring

To walk anywhere everywhere.”

 

 A poet’s love to the civilization can, hopefully, be termed universal. Poets ceaselessly love the components of the earth, of the existence as a whole! Lahiri’s rendition mesmerized me actually. Dear readers, come on, face his endless love to all concerned:

 

“I do not love birds I do not love bees

I do not love clouds I do not love trees

 

I ask the little bird

Am I so cruel?

The bird gives her food from the beak

And fly away.

 

I ask the tiny bee

Am I so selfish?

The bee hums a sweet song to my ears

And move away

 

I ask the cloud

Am I so wicked?

The rain clouds gather in a moment

And drench my body.

 

I ask the tree

Am I so indifferent?

The tree shakes his head to shed leaves

And the breeze sooths my soul.

 

Come on all the birds Come on all the bees

I love you all I love you all.

 

Come on all the clouds Come on all the trees

I love you all I love you all.”

 

 Gopal Lahiri is indeed a seasoned poet who minds his words. He has demonstrated an adorable style of writing English poetry in Silent Steps. His words were simple yet elegant, his expressions were transparent yet so intrinsic! Lahiri evidently made his way to the hearts of the readers:

 

“…Before I reach you

Give me some more time

From your heart.”

 

I don’t know if Silent Steps is available in any leading book store across the country. Not all the readers feel safe to buy books from the virtual chains. It is now the responsibility of the publisher to distribute the anthology amongst all viable retailers. A poetry collection of such caliber should never go unnoticed. Silent Steps is truly a collector’s edition; not only for the poetry lovers, but it is indeed appealing to the general readers of literature.

 

 

 

 

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Critical Review: The Reciting Pens, by Don Martin (U.S.A.)

Title: The Reciting Pens
Author: Kiriti Sengupta
Reviewer: Don Martin
Editors: Stephen L. Wilson & Kate Lantry
Foreword By: W.F. Lantry
Cover: Partha Pratim Das
Illustrations: Pritam Ghosh
Publisher: Inner Child Press (US)
Price: 270 INR (Approximately $4.35 US Dollars)
ISBN: 978-0615861869

One of the nice things about being an editor and reviewer is I sometimes get to read some books I never would have chosen myself. The Reciting Pens, by Dr. Kiriti Sengupta, is one example of that. Pens is just not a book I would have chosen myself off the shelf of my local bookstore. But I am very happy I read it!

I should probably say up-front that Dr. Sengupta is himself a poet of some note. He recently published his first English-language non-fiction, The Unheard I. That book, like this one, discusses among other things challenges in translation, especially with respect to poetry. His poems have also appeared in Twist Of Fate, a charitable work. He also has a number of non-English books out there. Dr. Sengupta knows his subject, and he knows what he is talking about!

Pens is an exploration of Bengali poetry. In his Introduction to the book Kiriti says his goal is to expose English-speaking readers to this unique art form. He further says that Bengali poetry is an under-represented genre in modern literature, and he is probably right about that. The book explores, among other things, the reasons for that, in a quite understandable manner. He presents three notable Bengali poets, all of them contemporary: Joya Mitra, Ranadeb Dasgupta, and Suddhasatya Ghosh. Not only does Dr. Sengupta present their poems for our consideration, he also gives us quite a bit of background on the poets. Going even further, Kiriti also interviews the poets, which gives us some context on their work. But more about that later.

Mitra is a poet who says she writes from her “quietude.” She explores those silent nooks and crannies we all have in our minds, but we just don’t talk about much. Her poetry is eerily haunting, and she writes with a lot of deep meaning. Dasgupta could be considered a dark and brooding poet. An avowed communist, he writes about the ordinary travails and struggles of life, without being overly political. Kiriti finally describes Ghosh as a “lavish” poet. His poems are rich in descriptions of scenery and events, as well as emotions. One thing I like about Pens is the poets are all so different, and each offers a different glimpse into their work, and into poetry as a whole.

Poets are funny, because they don’t always say what they literally mean. So you don’t always know. They use literary tools such as the metaphor to put their meanings across. Pens allows the reader to go beneath the surface meaning of the poems, and see what they really mean. This is where the background and interviews in Pens comes in handy. Having the poet explain their work, in their own words, adds a lot of context, and allows the reader to more correctly interpret their poems. I appreciated that aspect to a book of poetry, which I rarely see.

As with any translated work there are always two risks. The first is the translator must be faithful to the original work. Closely related to this is that the translator must be very careful with his word choices. Dr. Sengupta, as the translator, does a masterful job here. In his Introduction he says right up front he is not going to change much. That’s a refreshing change, because I see too many translators who essentially become co-authors. They change so much they are basically rewriting the entire thing. Pens is pretty much the words the poet actually used, without any modification or editing. This allows the reader to gain the true insight into the poet’s intent. The translations in Pens are very good, and they are faithful to the poet’s original intent.

The other thing related to translation are the word choices. There are just some words which don’t translate into English very well. This is especially true with a language like Bengali, which is very descriptive (you might even call it “flowery”). Bengali words sometimes have two, three, or even more meanings, all of which are correct. How does the translator know what the poet really meant, what his real intent was? For example, the translation of the Bengali word for “friend” can have any number of meanings, so the translator has to be very careful which English word he picks. Kiriti does a fine job of presenting the translated poetry which is true to the poet’s original meanings.

A big bonus to the book are the interviews. Most poets don’t like to talk about themselves or their poetry much. Dr. Sengupta has a knack for getting them to discuss it. His interview with Dasgupta was a little testy, as I read it. But Kiriti persisted, and probably got Mr. Dasgupta to reveal more about his work than he ever has before.

This is one of the most interesting things about the book. Kiriti delves deep into the poets. Why do they write what they do? How do their life experiences color their work, and what motivations might they have? For a non-Indian, such as myself, that allows me to read their work and get something meaningful out of it. The three poets profiled could be said to be complex, drawing their inspiration from their spirituality, their political activism, or even just from the beauty of nature or the flow of society. After reading Pens I really felt I knew these poets, on more than in just a, “Yeah, I’ve heard of them” basis. And that, as I see it, is one of the big advantages of the book. Plus, if you enjoy Gothe, Shelley, and Tagore there is plenty there for you to think about.

All-in-all The Reciting Pens is a must read for any serious student of poetry, and especially any student of poetic translation. I really admire Dr. Sengupta’s ability to put it all together – the background, the interviews, and the poems themselves, in such a way that the reader gains deep insights into the poets and their work. It’s a rare talent, and you can’t go wrong with this book!

Highly Recommended/ 4.5 of 5 Stars

– As Done 10/8/2013 – ( Source: https://www.facebook.com/don.martin.969?hc_location=timeline )

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