Category Archives: Poet

Poetess Ananya Chatterjee Speaks Her Mind

A Long Conversation With The Poetess, Ananya Chatterjee from Calcutta, India

 

Summer afternoons are best spent in the coffee shops. You order for a tall glass of iced tea, and you are allowed to enjoy their conditioned ambience for hours. If you haven’t tried this yet, trust me, you won’t go wrong as you follow my suggestion. Again, there is an added advantage! You will be able to cut down your domestic electricity bill if you can enjoy some chill outside your home. Coffee shops are thus my favorite summer destinations during the scorching afternoons. It was on 16th of May (2014) I was curiously observing the election results of our nation as I got a call from one of my old buddies; she is the one who does not quite ring up. I had a pleasant surprise in store: My friend was perhaps shivering in excitement as she told, “Hey Kiriti, I am heading towards the publication of my first poetry title, and you know, I am more than thrilled!” Her vibrations were easily palpable through my ear-drum. I congratulated, wished her all success and invited her over a glass of cold coffee the same day. She probed, “Are you sure?” I laughed out loud, and poked, “Hey! You are most welcome, but get prepared for a ragging session.” “What’s that?” she inquired, and added, “Listen, I am game.” Dear friends, she is one of the promising poetesses from Calcutta, a lady in her early thirties, ace software professional in a multinational company, the translator for eminent artiste Soumitra Chatterjee in his book, “Forms Within.” She is Ananya Chatterjee, a caring mother of two lovely kids.

Ananya was almost thirty minutes late, thanks to the wonderful traffic of our gorgeous city! She was excited, she was giggling, and brought along the complete manuscript of her upcoming book. I chased her, “Now the ball is in my court.” Ananya smiled, flattered her eyelashes (those were for real), and said, “Okay! Carry on.”

 

Kiriti Sengupta: Ananya, what made you think of being a published poet?

Ananya Chatterjee: Well Kiriti, to be very honest, the thought of getting my works published, was a distant dream – not something I consciously set out to achieve. As you know, I have been writing verses since long- but it was only recently that I felt the need to reach out to a wider reader base. My mother, herself a composer of Bengali verses, as well as my sister and my husband, and a few steadfast friends, who are avid readers of poetry, actively encouraged me to make a serious effort in the direction of getting my verses published. The thought initially was huge, as I have always composed purely for the love of it, and it took some time to prepare myself for taking the plunge. I must also mention, that working on translating Soumitra Chatterjee’s verses, and then actually seeing them in print as part of the Coffee Table book Forms Within, gave me the final push. It was only after this, that I seriously started thinking of publishing my own compositions. For this, I shall remain indebted to distinguished curator Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya who provided me the opportunity to work on Soumitra Chatterjee’s verses.

 Kiriti: I have noticed that you prefer being referred to as a poetess. Gender of an artiste is hardly taken under consideration nowadays, but would you like to project your feminist self as you call yourself a poetess?

 Ananya: Yes, I am aware that poetess as a term is rarely used in current times. Yet, I prefer being called one. It is not something that I consciously decided, it is just that poetess sounds much better, and is a term I can more associate myself with. Let’s just say I believe that poetess portrays my identity better than its masculine form does.

 Kiriti: The title of your upcoming book is brilliant: The Poet And His Valentine. Here you have envisioned a male entity; do you think even a poetess has a ‘he’ existence? If this is right, would you like to say that irrespective of physicality all poets are essentially male?

 Ananya: Well, the title happens to be the name of one of the verses belonging to this book. So, to answer your question, let me share with you the thoughts that went into writing this particular verse. In this poem I have drawn a resemblance between the relationship that a poet(or poetess) shares with his/her poetry, and that shared between a lover and his beloved. When a new verse starts formulating in a poet’s mind, the period is one of extreme, emotional upheaval. Being a poet yourself, you must have gone through those agonizing moments of irritability and restlessness when a new poem is about to be composed. Those moments, I feel, bear an uncanny resemblance to the emotional turbulence that unsettles a person, when cupid strikes- when love happens. The emotional balance of a lover goes for a toss, and the mind regains its composure only after he has shared his condition with his beloved. Similarly, a poet’s frustration is cured only after the thoughts that throng his mind, culminate in the form of poetry. Please note that here I have resorted to the generic rule that a lover is a “he” and the beloved being sought, is a “she.” This does not speak of their physical gender- rather of the role they uptake in the preliminary stages of love.

So, I guess, now I have answered your question. Just as all lovers are not essentially male, so is the case with poets.

 Kiriti: What is poetry, Ananya? And why did you choose to write this particular genre in spite of being an avid reader of fiction novels?

 Ananya: For me, poetry is an attitude towards life. A person can be a poet even without writing a single line or word. Poetry is a way of looking at things, a way of interpreting the sights we see and the events we experience- a way that is a bit off-route, a trifle irregular. A person looking at a tree might just think of resting under its shade- a poet on the other hand might imagine its swaying branches to be actually inviting him to nestle under its shadows. A poet’s imagination knows no bounds, and a successful piece of poetry can trigger an almost identical imagination in the minds of its readers. When the poet’s imagination resonates with that of his reader- that is when a verse becomes truly profound, that is when poetry serves its true purpose.

As to why I chose this particular genre- the answer simply is that I never chose. On the contrary, Poetry chose me, and I could not be gladder! One cannot choose to be a poet- one is either a poet or is not- it is not something that can be attained through endeavor- it is something that one is born with, or so I believe.

 Kiriti: If I ask you to name three of your favorite poets your answer would be…

 Ananya: This is so difficult, but I will try. The name of RabindraNath Tagore of course tops the list. Pablo Neruda’s works are also very close to my heart though I have read them only in translated form. Of course I am a huge fan of the haunting verses of Robert Frost, W.B.Yeats and T.S. Eliot – their works fire my fantasies. It is through their creations that I truly fell in love with poetry.

 Kiriti: Much experiment is now being carried out in poetry all across the globe. Your poems essentially vibrate with rhythmic pulses. Aren’t you scared of being marked as dated?

 Ananya: Wow, I would really love to answer this one. I have heard this question so many times.. why do I compose rhyming verse when the whole world is rooting for freeform verse. For one, let me just say, that this is something that comes to me naturally. It is not like I do not enjoy reading free form.. but when it comes to composing something myself- I want, not only the words to reach my readers- I also want the readers to catch the underlying pulse- the inherent rhythm or undercurrent that flows through each of my verses. And I would love to be called dated- as that would mean my being thrown into the same time period as my favorite poets- ha ha.

Then again, I never said I would not compose free verse- but I will never make a conscious effort in that direction. If it comes to me naturally at some point- I would be happy to take the plunge! But be it free verse or rhyming verse- my aim has always been to write effortless poetry. And as long as I am ensuring that, I am content.

 Kiriti: You are headed to join the league of Indian English poets. Tell me something honestly, would your readers consider your work unique? Remember pal, we have enough poets, and unless you have some unique renditions none is going to remember you for your poems.

 Ananya: Kiriti, I must confess I am loving every bit of this conversation J . First of all, if I started writing with the intention of being remembered, I would never be able to write even a single line- the effort would be too conspicuous! And secondly, I believe a poem is not remembered for its uniqueness, rather it is remembered only when it touches a chord with its reader. I would not mind my poem not being termed unique as long as even one reader says he or she wondered how my poem narrated his or her experience/emotions with such amazing precision. It is this resonance that I long to create. And I believe, I have succeeded in this, with quite a few if not most of my verses. The rest, I leave in the hands of destiny J.

 Kiriti: Who are your target readers? Poetry is not enjoyed by many; some poets claim that poetry is read only by the poets. What is your take on this issue?

 Ananya: At the risk of sounding clichéd, my answer is that my target reader is the common man – the kind of person we encounter in everyday life- the kind of person who worries for his family- who toils for his livelihood, dreams of his first love, grieves for his deceased parents, but is too scared to react when his neighbor is looted. My target reader is also the so called criminal who dreams of redemption, the ailing patient who wants to make her caregivers happy. The truth is that I have no specific target. My poems are for one and all.

I believe, there is a dormant seed of imagination in most of us. And a poem has the power to arouse that dormant facet. There is a saying “It is so difficult to be simple” And I believe many verses today suffer from the same ailment- we are trading simplicity for uniqueness. I have tried to keep my works simple enough and am confident that one and all will enjoy reading them and relating to them.

 Kiriti: We don’t have enough publishers in Calcutta who publish English poems. What is the equation with your publisher?

 Ananya: I feel really lucky to have Shambhabi – The Third Eye Imprint as my publisher. I agree – English poetry does not have that many publishers in Kolkata, and I am really happy that things have worked out so well for me. I love the energy and professionalism of my publisher and am really glad we chose each other!

 Kiriti: What is your take on self-publicity? Should a poet engage him/herself in marketing books?

 Ananya: This is my opinion- when a poet decides to publish his work in the form of a book, from that point onwards he or she should actively share the responsibility of ensuring that the book reaches a wider reader base. If a poet is indifferent to the entire process of publishing and marketing, then the book’s future will definitely get affected. In that case, the entire purpose behind publishing one’s work is lost, isn’t it?

 Kiriti: I understand that you are extremely excited with your first poetry title although you have been the translator of the eminent artiste Soumitra Chatterjee in his book “Forms Within.” I would like to hear your experiences as you have worked with him.

 Ananya: As you must already be aware, being a translator of verses yourself, translating poetry is a huge challenge, as one needs to not only translate the words, but also ensure that the lyrical factor is not lost. So, when I was offered to work on translating a few verses of Soumitra Chatterjee as part of Forms Within, I was nervous as well as excited, especially because his verses are so profound, and haunting. While translating, I made it a point to ensure that the translated verses carried the same lyrical quotient that the original verses did. I was naturally thrilled, when Mr. Chatterjee appreciated my work, and lauded my efforts. When the book came out, and I saw my name in print, as the translator, it was a huge feeling- this served as a trigger and further cemented my resolve to publish my own works.

 Kiriti: Please share your experiences as you are currently engaged in translating the verses of the celebrated painter Jogen Chowdhury.

 Ananya: After seeing my work in Forms Within, I was offered to translate the entire collection of Jogen Chowdhury’s verses. The poems are extremely thought provoking and have a unique element in them. Translating his verses has been a huge learning experience. It has been an arduous as well as challenging task- but I am enjoying every bit of it. This work has enriched my creative abilities to a large extent. I am greatly indebted to eminent curator Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya for providing me with this opportunity, as well as the opportunity to work on Soumitra Chatterjee’s verses.

 Kiriti: I wish you all the best, Ananya. May you receive huge response from your readers, and I sincerely hope that The Poet And His Valentine will be read, accepted, and recommended all across the world.

 Ananya: Thank you so much for your encouraging words and heartfelt wishes! I need all the luck I can get!

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The Poet—Mohammad Zahid

Poets are usually unkempt, but not to the extent of keeping their beds undone! Here I got a poet, who preferred not to touch his bed linen and his pillow cover that has absorbed his dreams, sweet or no-sweet. The poet believed in the substantivity of the cloth (Ref: The Unmade Bed, page no. 86) that would give back “the dreams that lie in its folds.” I’m talking about Mohammad Zahid, a talented poet from Jammu & Kashmir, who has overwhelmed his readers with his first poetry title “The Pheromone Trail.” Zahid, I think, prefers self-analysis, a trait that is not commonly found among the poets of our times. He wrote:

“I peep with fear through the window

To see the comedy of life

Let I be a clown myself

I laugh the most untoward laugh

At myself in the mirror…” (Ref: The Play, page no. 82)

 

Life is not all about logic and logical progress. Reasoning falls short when compared to the vast canvas of life. The poet wrote:

“There roams a shadow

That hangs from the corners of reason

Where upon reasons of sanity are questioned

That unreasonably get bogged down

In the quagmires of reason alias Logic

When I say, Why?

………………………………..

Thus I shut the books

To roam in the vast universe of the Maker

And find answers to my questions

Whose reason lies not in the black ink

Sprawled across the cellulose.

There are so many stars around, so no shadows!” (Ref: Reasons, page no. 63)

 

Zahid has revisited his school days for this volume of poetry. Like other children of his age group he too was unhappy with the conventional schooling that was not so student friendly in those days. He wrote:

“My back is burdened

With a bag of boring books

My mind aches, remembering

All yesterday’s lessons

My fingers tax

Writing many a thousand word

My palms await the pain

Of thrashes of the cruel cane.”  (Ref: On Way To School, page no: 58)

 

The poetry is the only religion of a true poet! Zahid has proved me right as I read “Pagli.” This poem, as the poet has depicted, was written ‘on seeing a sanyasin on the bank of the Holy Ganges.’ Pagli (that denotes a lunatic woman) says about the liberation of the women, who have lost their husbands, otherwise called the widows. Zahid wrote:

“Oh! I am a widow no more

No longer do I wear the white

No longer is my forehead

Bereft of the vermillion

No longer am I weak

No longer am I meek

……………………….

I am a free soul

……………………….

I was married to a man

Now I am not

I am married to my Lord.” (Ref: Pagli, page no. 59)

 

One of the profound poems of “The Pheromone Trail” is ‘The Missing Men Found.’ Here the poet made his readers cry; made his readers cry out loud—an extremely touching poem that elicits the grief, which has originated from the loss of the dear family members, “who rest in the countless unmarked graves.” Zahid wrote:

“They never came back once they left

With promises to come back at night

Bringing smiles for kids, love for wives

And hopes for their parents too.

……………………………………..

Ah they have been found now

Sleeping peacefully in their secret graves

Bullet ridden, decapitated, defaced

Winning shame for their killers

And colours too for killing them in cold blood.” (Ref: The Missing Men Found, page no. 78)

 

“The Pheromone Trail” palpates like a live vessel that carries blood into our hearts. Mohammad Zahid has successfully played with his words, gently, but steadily. I can easily say that this book will be cherished by a large section of readers of English literature. Although this volume of poetry deserved professional editing, I will strongly recommend this book to all those, who believe in the rhythm of our livelihood!

 

Title: The Pheromone Trail

Author: Mohammad Zahid

Publisher: Cyberwit.net

ISBN: 9788182534346

 

 

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Measuring The Sin Of Height – a review of “Living Inside” by Gopal Lahiri

This is a one-way valve that allows entry to your inner being, and once you enter there is no point of return. A valve that is predominantly red, with elements of yellow and grey. These colors are symbolic of the fire and its remnants — the inherent fire that dwells within the pillars of Gopal Lahiri. This was my first impression as I held the book, Living Inside, an anthology of select poems by Lahiri. This book included seventy poems of varied themes and colors. In his wonderfully crafted foreword the distinguished poet and academician Dr. Sunil Sharma wrote, “…rejuvenation through a rare combo of visuals, music and sheer lyricism. The soft spoken scientist can create kinetic verbal images that are experienced as the shimmering visuals reflected dynamically on moon-lit surfaces of a quiet lake, surrounded by deep solitude …” In the preface the book housed another guest author, Gary Robinson (Canada), who wrote, “Mr. Lahiri has a chronicler’s dedication to preserving feelings and nuances of what he finds around himself. Just as a photographer seeks to capture an image so does Mr. Lahiri – but with words …” An input here: The preface and introduction of a book are supposed to be written by the poet/author himself, and I didn’t find a reason to deviate from this popular convention.

Let me now explore a few of Lahiri’s poems. The first had been the title poem of the book. Look, what Lahiri meant by his Living Inside:

“…………….

holding hands with the one you love

of people we will never meet

deflowered by force and thrown out

all eyes reflect a defeated dream.

…………..”

‘Defeated dream’ has been a wonderful coinage, I must admit. And this was perhaps the key to Lahiri’s being in this thoughtful rendition.

While living in Lahiri wrote:

“sitting at the edge of the sunlight

a tiny bird tweets

i am still waiting for the right line,

……………………….

the time I always look forward to

never ever reaches my door.” (Time Slice, page. 22)

Weren’t these your own unspoken lines? So very natural …spontaneous …mental … human?

Lahiri made his voice audible against the age-old rituals of the nation, especially in favor of the women, who remain the same like the unchanged ‘sound of conch shells.’ He moved to notice:

“………………

the bindi looks pale on the forehead

a good deal of scar and pain

reside on those sad eyes of women.

…………………….

nothing has been moved from years, from centuries.” (Unmoved, page. 26)

Lahiri reinforced his poethood, and made the world consider him a serious poet. He searched peace and purity in his river that meandered ‘in silence.’ Here came his enthralling lines:

“…………

No one knows the sin of height

No one really cares for death.” (My River, page. 47)

While traversing by train Lahiri felt ‘the oneness…’ as he saw the ‘setting orange sun.’ He wrote:

“……………

the blue sky is as much as your eye

the green grass is nothing but your fingers

the twilight colour is your vibrant mind

the branches of the tree are your hands and legs

time disappears for a moment

the things that are not yours

now in your total possession” (Coherence, page. 74)

Lahiri urged to reach beyond his physical eyes. He was perhaps as spiritual as he wrote:

“…………

if i want to capture the mien of my circle

it is the time to go back behind the eyes

and change the way to see the world.” (Change the Way, page. 95)

Gopal Lahiri is a poet of fewer words. Living Inside is certainly a book that can be cherished by the general readers of English-literature. I am indeed happy to include Lahiri in my latest book, My Dazzling Bards that is essentially comprised of some literary critiquing of his select works, and works by other Indian poets. Honestly, Living Inside is a collector’s edition, but it lacks professional editing. May I request the publisher to be more careful in publishing future titles? The back cover is absolutely messy, and does no justice to the brilliant overview by the noted academician Dr. Jaydeep Sarangi. Moreover, the list of contents has not been properly done, and this does not quite match with this superlative anthology of the lively poems by Gopal Lahiri.

Living Inside

Gopal Lahiri

Pub: Authorspres

ISBN:9788172737689

Price: INR. 195.00

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Rainbow of Emotions

Hey friends! How many of you have ‘pearls’ in your collection? Come on, I’m waiting; I need to hear you fast! Not long ago I had advised my dear older-sister Dr. hülya yılmaz to buy some pearls that I believed would complement her complexion. Hülya, as I found her, was not so enthusiastic to buy a few! Oh! Poor I and that my wisdom. I never knew that she already possessed some exclusive, dazzling pearls that she didn’t want to share with her friends, and she preferred to keep silent about it. A few days back hülya murmured, “Brother Kiriti, before I die I must tell you that I have a few pearls, and I wish you see and use them to soothe your mind.” I went awestruck! How could hülya know about the possible indications of pearl? Well, a pearl symbolizes the Moon, and it is the Moon that governs your mind! With much curiosity I accepted hülya’s offer and uncovered her delicate pouch. Oh my God! I could not believe my eyes! Several natural pearls that were united with a white silk thread! One may wear it as a necklace, one may wrap it around the wrist, or one may put it on the crystal tray to savor its charm. And to my utter revelation I found them only ‘natural.’ Pearls may be ‘cultured,’ and they are the ones that you cultivate under optimum physical conditions. Cultured pearls do look great; they are shiny, but cheap! No amount of gloss can ever pose a threat against the glamour, relevance, quality, and eternity of ‘natural’ pearls. I am sorry; I forgot to tell you that there was a small tag attached with the string of pearls that hülya handed over to me. It was indeed a small tag, and one may overlook! I hold the tag, brought it closer to my eyes to see a word written on it. No, it wasn’t a price tag; it was rather a name, to tell you the truth. A name that hülya has candidly offered, Trance. In reality, Trance is a collection of poems written in English, Turkish, and German by none other than Dr. hülya yılmaz. My dear readers: I assure you that with every piece of her ‘pearly’ poem you will only cherish the spectacular human-mind that radiates the complete spectrum of light, called ‘vibgyor’. 

 She is no stranger. She is no third person. She, Dr. hülya yılmaz, is family! She, a poet (I don’t know if she prefers being called a poetess), and a senior lecturer with the College of the Liberal Arts, The Pennsylvania State University. I remember as I met her first during the making of a global anthology, Twist of Fate (ToF), produced by Stephen L Wilson. I had the opportunity to invite her at my interview desk, and she stunned me with her answers. As I inquired about her status being a writer, she emphatically stated that she had been an ‘interrupted’ writer of prose and poetry in her native country, Turkey! [Ref: The Unheard I, Kiriti Sengupta, Pub: Inner Child Press, ltd] Now what did she mean with the word/adjective ‘interrupted?’ Honestly, I had maintained silence, and didn’t ask her about it. But perspective changed all of a sudden as the noted editor-critic-translator Atreya Sarma Uppaluri (Editor, Muse India) from Hyderabad (India) raised a question whilst reviewing The Unheard I: “Why did Dr. hülya yılmaz call her ‘interrupted?” I gave him an explanation of my own: ” hülya yılmaz has had her publications scattered all across two countries; one is her country of origin, and the other her living.” I was not wrong, and I have been proved right as I now read her own words: “…While I haven’t stopped writing poems or prose, life’s demands took over the concentration I used to have back then to pursue my passion for creative work. Until about a year and a half ago, when I established an electronic platform for my writings in English, Turkish and German in various genres – including autobiographical fiction and non-fiction…”Again, there was one interesting point: Dr. hülya yılmaz didn’t write her name as Hülya Yılmaz. I was obviously curious. As I inquired during the interview she said, “I haven’t capitalized both of my names in years.” [Ref: The Unheard I] Ah! It was indeed overwhelming. She is such an uplifted soul who speaks her mind.

 What is mind without emotions? What is brilliance without emotions? Worldwide the scientists are hugely focused on the Emotional Quotient (EQ) of humans. Now in Trance hülya yılmaz has silently showcased, willingly or the other way, her strong adherence to the eminent poet William Wordsworth. According to Wordsworth (Ref: Lyrical Ballads): “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” With Trance the readers will certainly enjoy revisiting memory lane. Poetry has its distinct charm, and is considered the queen of literature. And it has its characteristic spell of silence. Poetry unsays much, but says lesser! In this collection the readers will explore the void of silence. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the whole of the book, and I strongly believe that none can go wrong with Trance. I will especially mention the poems, titled: raising a wife, anatomy of a divorce, barren no more, alive?, how?, denial, and You Are Not Alone. Poet hülya yılmaz dazzles bright with her new work Trance. I wish her all the best!

 My dear readers: Let me thank you from the core of my heart as you followed my words.

 Dr. Kiriti Sengupta

November, 2013

Calcutta, India.

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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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Filed under Anthology, Poet, Poetry, Reviews

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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Filed under Indian Heritage, Interview, Nonfiction, Poet, Poetry, Writer