Category Archives: Indian Heritage

Man in the Botanical Garden: The Fallen, the Forbidden, the Golden, the Heaven-Going Tree Versus the Tree Turned Upside Down — A Review of “The Reverse Tree” by Bishnupada Ray

In the beginning man was hermaphrodite, a man-tree carrying both fruit and seed in the wake of it. But in a masterstroke of evolution the tree fell, its fruits fell off and the seeds spilled. From the seeds came two separate entities, sex-wise, male and female, and gender-wise, man and woman. They were so different in body and mind that without looking at each other, soon went in opposite ways in desperation. But both soon suffered the desperation of a yearning to seek out the other. This was love. Out of this desperation they sought fulfillment in the other. But out of the same desperation they were in perpetual flight, perpetually withdrawing from each other, in perpetual disagreement. Man never experienced such an aggravated sense of Eros and Thanatos as in this twin manifestation.

Or in the Garden of Eden man was alone and lonely, so God created woman from man’s rib bone to be his partner; a partner in life and a partner in death; a partner in his rise and in his fall; a partner in his glory and in his shame. It was a divine bond beyond and at the same time around the Forbidden Tree of consciousness, the consciousness of good and evil. When the forbidden tree bore fruit it was woman who ate the fruit first, so she also became capable of bearing fruit and she gave the seeds to man to eat.

Or in the sacred grove of Nemi in ancient Rome there had been a golden tree. Anybody breaking a branch of this tree would have become a priest-king. So the reigning priest-king had to defend the tree from any challenger aspiring to break a branch, by remaining on guard all the time and by maintaining a round the clock vigil. The power struggle or the blood conflict eventually got transformed into a psychological conflict of ego and around the golden tree man and woman were seen lurking in ambush.

Or in the Old Norse mythology there is yggdrasil or the heaven-going tree that acts like a stairway to heaven. Is this tree a woman, capable of redeeming the fallen man?

Perhaps all these trees get connected in the surreal tree that Kiriti Sengupta presents us in his latest book The Reverse Tree which he describes as a crisis-management autobiographical philosophy. The man-woman problematic leads him to reverse the fallen man-tree towards the original androgynous ardhanariswar position but he turns it upside down keeping in view the contemporary gender issues to show his reverse tree caught in a time warp. He seems to probe into this seemingly unending sex-dilemma which is all too human to humanly decipher by changing the metaphor in each chapter. The hypothetical, the comic, the poetic, the physical, the voyeuristic and the spiritual sides of the same quest are recorded with a human cry for compassion and a human will for divine grace. One can understand his anxiety in the question, “would you still like to consider men as trees?” I once heard an educated lady saying that man was a tree, the more stout the tree was the more bliss your golden deer(read ‘woman’) would get by rubbing onto it. If your tree is stout, as he claims in the prologue, why all this bother is not well understood. Here is his prologue:-

“my tree is stout,

well-developed

it refutes the gravitational pull

 

not always, you know…

 

my roots run

against the sap!”

However an uncertainty and a question of ‘life in death’ and ‘death in life’ is indicated as well in the prologue. A non-stout tree is unsuitable for the golden deer of magical forests and a man is helpless except he turns into a poet dreaming and churning out ‘poetree’ in his incapacity. Is a poet masculine or masculine enough to have a smooth sailing? I have doubts. The poet is a crucifix standing in wilderness of life awaiting the arrival of meanings to purify his soul so that he remains a spiritual martyr. Then why this concern to keep the soul immaculate in the process of its translation through life? The body must die for its sins. Similarly the soul must live by its own virtue. The body is experienced but it is transcended to keep the soul intact. Is not the body as divine as the ‘sap’ through which your ‘roots’ penetrate? Then why only the body is transgressed and violated just because you have a false sense of identity? Then what is an identity? There is nothing truer than your true being even when that gets deluded by the golden deer of ‘becoming’. Then why fear the false prophets, the ‘editors’ of falsity and artificiality? The body is immediate and contingent, the soul distant but urgent. Body is pain, blood, sweat, tears, guts (Clara); the soul is an untouchable (the narrator). The poet is a body, a failed body, a spurned and violated body, a body reserved for post mortem (like the inspection of Clara’s suture) but it is a body that redeems others, enables others to have a soul. The poet is the totemic ‘I’ without which life is meaningless.

I am sure that The Reverse Tree will mark a turning point in the writer’s life and art as evident from his serious and engaging questions about the areas of life not so well-lighted or clearly defined. Hope he will continue his philosophical quest towards enlightenment.

[Dr. Bishnupada Ray is the Associate Professor, Department of English, North Bengal University, India]

This review has first appeared in the Nov-Dec, 2014 issue of Style Hut Reviews. http://notnul.com/Pages/ViewPort.aspx?ShortCode=cC3A!ik!

The Reverse Tree -- A Review by Bishnupada Ray

The Reverse Tree — A Review by Bishnupada Ray

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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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My Editors and I

God has made me an author. It was merely incidental, and I turned out to be an author of a few books. Two of my titles were in Bengali, my native language, and the rest two were in English, an international language commonly used by the people all across the globe. You may have a different take on my observation and an inference, for every single individual is entitled to his/her own version of thought! I am actually a writer, and I will prefer to be referred to only as a writer. One who writes is a writer, and if I adhere to this definition, a poet, a novelist, an essayist, and even a journalist is a writer. The term ‘writer’ includes a wide range of professionals, and an editor, I think, perfectly fits in this broad category of literary workers. In all of my English titles I had the opportunity to work with certain extremely talented editors, who are truly professionals with adequate knowledge of the work they remain associated with. In this article I will write about the editors who took the pain and invested their time towards the production of my books. Before I proceed any further let me confess: I’m an Indian. I had my schooling that encouraged the British style of English, otherwise called the Queen’s English. Most of the Indian schools are equipped with this age-old pattern of teaching English. Incidentally, until now, all of my editors have been Americans, but honestly speaking, they never posed a trouble against my decision towards adhering to this particular style of writing English.

I’ll start with Donald Randolph Martin, a known writer-cum-editor-cum-reviewer, who is popularly known as Don Martin. I worked with Don for my book titled The Unheard I. It was nonfiction with some good amount of poetry in it. Prior to editing my work Don asked me right away, “Do you want to Americanise your work?” My answer was: No. My aim was to popularise Indian nonfiction amongst the Western readers, under the competent guidance of an American editor. Don was the one who edited almost every line which bore punctuation errors. He actually taught me to be careful with punctuations. Don is a man of fewer words, and he started his career as a poetry editor. He remained extremely considerate towards the translated poetry that I included in my book. Although he edited a few lines of the poetry, but that was strictly limited only to the areas of punctuation. I was blessed with a note from his desk, and I included the editor’s note as the front matter of The Unheard I. Don’s words construct his real account of working with me, an Indian author. My heartfelt gratitude to you, dear Don! You taught me the finer nuances of the language and its presentation. Trust me, until now I have not used the word ‘imbibe’ since the moment you gave me a different meaning that is common amongst the Americans! Don, you would be glad to know that copies of the first edition (paperback) of The Unheard I are soon to be exhausted, and I owe my success to you and to Prof. (Dr.) Hulya Yilmaz, Senior Lecturer, College of the Liberal Arts, Penn State, who wrote the exclusive foreword. Another good news here again: the Inner Child Press, limited is on their way to publish the U.S. edition of The Unheard I.

Next in my list is a publisher-writer-editor Stephen L. Wilson. Stephen and I are very good friends, and he is one of my older brothers I have in the U.S. Although we have our share of differences, whenever we worked together we created some thoroughly professional products. It all started with my association with Indies In Action (IIA), a virtual group that is dedicated to support the victims of the natural calamities by producing literary anthologies. Stephen was the chief editor of the international charitable anthology, Twist of Fate (ToF), which carried a few of my submissions. During the making of ToF I got an opportunity to interview other contributors from all across the world. It had truly been an experience of my life time! As Stephen agreed to edit The Reciting Pens, he was curious: “Would you like me to do copy editing or proof editing or both?” I failed to answer readily, for I was not aware of these terms, quite frankly. Stephen made me understand of these things, and remarked: “Never refer my edits as suggestions…this is so unprofessional!” Finally, I came to realise that editors offer/propose edits that are not mere suggestions. Stephen, I am indeed grateful to you for all your hard work, which polished The Reciting Pens. Stephen Wilson not only edited my work, he made me aware of a few lazy words as well, as he urged. A few examples: basically, that, etc. With every movement Stephen made me take special attentions towards the final product, the paperback of The Reciting Pens. Being a Dental Surgeon, who was once engaged in research publications, the word ‘substantivity’ holds great importance! It may not readily be found in the common dictionaries. Substantivity refers to the ability of a material/compound to adhere to the surface of another material. Similarly, I will mark Stephen with a high grade of substantivity with reference to the job called ‘editing.’

If Stephen L Wilson edited and polished The Reciting Pens, it was Kate Lantry who was solely responsible towards the finishing. Kate is the wife of the noted poet W. F. Lantry (Washington, DC), who wrote the fundamental foreword of my book. I was in regular touch with Kate as she was the one who facilitated my interactions with W. F. Lantry. I never planned of Kate as the contributing editor of The Reciting Pens, nor did she want to be acknowledged as one! It was Kate’s spontaneity that she came forward with some valuable edits, which she found important to be implemented. If I remember quickly, Kate was so particular towards a definitive style of presentation, for my anthology was essentially based on the interviews that I held with three published Bengali poets from Calcutta, India. I am so proud of you, Kate! You are the one who worked much towards the stylisation. No amount of appreciation can ever pay for the load of work I had put on you.

My dear friends, fellow authors, and aspiring writers: Please get in touch with Don Martin, Stephen Wilson and Kate Lantry if you are seriously looking forward professional editing of international quality!

Don Martin: https://www.facebook.com/don.martin.969?fref=ts

Stephen Wilson: https://www.facebook.com/StephenLWilson?fref=ts

Kate Lantry: https://www.facebook.com/kate.lantry?fref=ts

 

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The Unheard I – Reviewed

Reviews of my nonfiction book “The Unheard I.”

1. By Prof. Dr. Sunil Sharma, from Bombay, India:

Kiriti Sengupta, when not performing dental procedures on decaying / decayed teeth, loves to compose lines in Bengali and meditate on many issues. Some of these reflections are finding their slow but sure way into the library of a well-read and aware reader − thanks to a mini-book tantalizingly called The Unheard I, a rich collection of pieces with wide-ranging topics from the poetic, spiritual, and mundane to the difficult art of translation.

The 63-page, beautifully-translated and produced book is disorienting to a reading-expectation revolving around traditional modes of writing and production. The book tosses different ideas and strands as lightly as a master chef tosses delicate long noodles and other ingredients in a wok and serves up a rich spread − hot, appealing and delectable.

Kiriti comes up with a rare genre of writing − Yogic poetry that celebrates Indian heritage now globally known for its holistic healing. From dentistry complexities to yogic poetry to a clinical examination of the first person singular I is a demanding task that only multi-talented Kiriti Sengupta − a dental surgeon and predominantly Bengali-language poet − can perform.

The Unheard I is a sincere engagement with some themes of enduring value. It needs to be read and further discussed by well-meaning critics and readers interested in a creative exploration of charity, yogic philosophy and practice and the art and science of translation. Go and grab a copy and then plunge into some serious stuff you will not find in this age of mindless thrillers and commercial pulp fiction.
29-Aug-2013

2. By Prof. Dr. Jaydeep Sarangi, from Calcutta, India:

Dr Kiriti Sengupta’s “The Unheard I” is a reading wonder which unfolds a colourful image gallery of new trend in writing. It’s an enjoyable read even though a reader stumbles at several doors. When the doors are opened with master keys its an inviting discourse. I was fascinated by the interesting mix up of genres in the book. I read again to conceptualise my ideas. Is it a meta nonfiction? Possibilities are wide open. If we go by the present critical nuances the book is an interesting discourse where the author has made some deliberate choices.

It’s about the narrator; about writing and translation from Bengali. An orthodox reader may find the book “shocking”. It moves on! It moves our cerebral cells. Foreword of the book is a key to get into the book. Editor’s Note clearly mentions the idea behind the publication of the book. Don Martin states, “Kiriti was a joy to work with(.)” Joy spills over white pages of the book as we are whisked from one idea to another.

The book has three segments: A Serious ToF; Yogic Poetry; The Indian Heritage and The Translator I. Out of these three parts I personally like the second part where the author has introduced Indian heritage and Yogic poetry. The ideas are not definite but make sense. The author doesn’t try to historicise the traditional heritage. He makes his own selections and enjoys a licence. No reader should form a definite heritage out of this seemingly partial presentation of a tradition handed down generation after generation. It reminds me a modern trend in different parts of the globe where poetry is performance. I’ve attended a few of them in alien shores. It’s again back to our ideological position. Can poems be reflection of a meditative mind? Can poems be circulated and written for facebook community? I think the world is changing fast.There is a new threat for critics, writers and reviewers: requests flood like rivers in monsoon. There are so many types of writings as there are innumerable writers in the world. Life narratives emerge as a potent body of nonfiction. There is no hard and fast rule for its contents. It leaves possibilities open!

“The Unheard I” is a literary proto autobiography of a dental surgeon where the author moves out of his professional world and explores “self- realisations”. Some descriptions are sketchy and short. But there are rooms for improvement in the next updated edition. Writing is an ongoing process. It’s mutual. Both the readers and the author evolve over a period of time. And there is always a proper time for everything. Elegant production of the book adds a separate dimension. We do think that those who have a drive to write nonfiction, and who persist with the genre end up in good writing. Granted, everything is not attractive, but something is really engaging which pulls a reader back to his seat.

There are translations (from Kiriti’s mother tongue) of some poems in the book. Good or bad doesn’t matter. It’s a valuable reflection of a society/culture rich with art. The selection of poets is personal. It can go to any number. I was expecting a logic behind the selection of poems from the vast and encompassing reservoir. It’s about a very rich culture where one should be careful. Translation of a rich culture to the global readers is a serious act. I hope Kiriti has good answers to follow up. I’ll be happy if the book travels well in future. Hope it carries healthy food as baggage.

What I like most of the book is the ending of the book. It prepares us for the next book. Any way, the book promises to be a stable march for a better tomorrow. Happy surgery in words!
1-Sep-2013

3. By Stuart Aken, from England:

This short piece of esoteric literature came my way via contacts on Facebook. The book is divided into three sections: A Serious ToF (Twist of Fate); Yogic Poetry: the Indian Heritage; The Translator ‘I’. So, I think you will realise this is not a work of interest to what might be called the ‘common reader’. It is a scholarly piece that will appeal to those with an interest in poetry, particularly spiritual poetry expressed as literature, as well as those who have a leaning toward or a significant interest in Indian myth and religion.

The Twist of Fate referred to above is an anthology of pieces collected together to present to readers as a way of gathering funds to help those left in distress by the tornado that hit Oklahoma in May 2013. And this first chapter of the book is a presentation of the author’s experiences in contributing to that anthology.

Poetry, let alone Yogic Poetry, is a genre of which I have little experience. My admiration of the craft lies within the bounds of the variety of works produced by the two Dylans (Bob and Thomas). And my knowledge of Indian culture is minimal. So, I found this section both illuminating and confusing. The many references to the Yogic culture were lost on me, but the general sense of spirituality came through.

The Translator ‘I’ deals with the author’s work and attitudes regarding translation as a craft. He is an acknowledged translator of work from Bengali to English. I’m no linguist, but I have always admired the skill that allows those who understand more than one language to translate not just words but meaning. The ability to convey the essence of a piece written in one language when converting it into another is almost magical to me.

So, not a general reader’s book, but a piece of work that will undoubtedly find favour with those interested in the subject matter discussed. It is to those readers that I recommend the book.

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‘The Unheard I’ dedicated to Prof. Dr. Mary Miles

Each and every book bears its characteristic spirit. An author grasps it the best, and helps the publisher in channelizing the potential towards maximum readership. What is a book without its readers? Simultaneously, the author dedicates his/her work to such a personality who deserves to be dedicated upon! This is one of the significant steps in creating a marvel. Identifying the spirit of the work and dedicating the work to a distinguished soul are equally challenging tasks. I feel extremely joyous to dedicate my upcoming nonfiction ‘The Unheard I’ to the adjunct Professor (of English and History) Dr. Mary Miles, Pennsylvania State University. She is sheer talent!
Dr Mary is the recipient of the prestigious Russell Award for Distinguished Teaching, conferred by the Arts College at Cornell University, U.S.A. She is also the recipient of several significant awards for being a ‘great’ teacher! In the year 2012 Mary received Nancy Lowe Award for Excellence in Teaching from the English and Composition Departments.
I am honoured to dedicate my book to one of the finest teachers from the United States.
‘The Unheard I’ is all yours, Mary! I thank you for your kind acceptance. My thanks are extended to one of the wonderful Professors of German Language, Hulya N Yilmaz for introducing me to the storehouse of such serious talent, which is Dr Mary Miles.

‘The Unheard I’ is edited by the best-selling author cum editor Don Martin from the United States and is scheduled to release globally (Paperback) on 18th July, 2013 by Subho Bondhyopadhyay of ধানসিড়ি প্রকাশন. The book has been registered with Pothi.com for national and overseas sales.

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‘The Unheard I’ – cover revealed!

My upcoming nonfiction, ‘The Unheard I’ is scheduled to release on 18th July, 2013. Please,Image stay tuned!

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The Unheard I … pre-release glimpse

I am really short of words. I just don’t know how to express my thanks and gratitude to those personalities who have been so active and prompt towards the publication of my upcoming nonfiction, “The Unheard I.” Those are:

Don Martin, for the tedious edits
Hulya N Yilmaz, for the wonderful foreword
Senjuti Dasgupta, for the awesome covers
ধানসিড়ি প্রকাশন, for supporting such an endeavour

Heartfelt love goes to the translators who have contributed towards the second chapter, ‘Yogic poetry; the Indian heritage.’ They are:

Shishir Roy, for the poetry ‘The Stairs’
Ranadeb Dasgupta, for the poem ‘Red and Blue’
Gopal Lahiri, for the poem ‘The unheard’Image

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