Paperback: 62 pages
Publisher: Inner Child Press, Ltd. (July 17, 2014)
Reviewed by Shernaz Wadia
As Leonard Cohen put it so aptly poetry is just the ash, the evidence of a life burning well. When a poet fleshes up his emotions and thoughts and attires them with words, a poem seems to take on a life of its own but an invisible umbilical cord runs from the creator’s soul to that of the poem, making them indivisible.
It has been said that a poem is never finished. Even if the last line seemingly ends on an air of finality there is no true closure. There remain gaps to be filled between the stanzas, lines and words. Poems grow along with the poet making them an uninterrupted process. Even if he does not alter them on revisits, new ones sprout out of that receptive emptiness giving them continuity. In this book, Poem Continuous, the ‘Reincarnated Expressions’ are birthed through their transition from Bengali into English, done smoothly by Kiriti Sengupta.
Bibhas’s voice pulsates with an undercurrent of passion…it is melancholic yet inflected with hope…pithy in words but loaded with sensitivity…it is a reflection of the loneliness of the poet’s heart and its aches. To quote Kafka, “(his) pen is the seismograph of (his) heart.” I realised that these poems are not for idle reading. I read them once, I read them again and then again each time sinking a little deeper into their profundity, their challenging complexity, and emerged with an ‘aha’ feeling. That is the beauty of these poems…they plummet you beyond the tips into their inner core and thereby into your own deeper recesses, conversing with your sense of self.
Minimalistic, staccato at times, as in “The Small Boat” – Bird…Bird…Bird…Bird/Fetch the sky
and again in ‘The Offering’ which is all of four very poignant lines dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore,
“Poison in the diet
the budding poet!
Ye, the source…
What is in your mind?”
The poet leaves us pondering. I have used more words to talk about the poem than he has to convey his distress at the pathetic marginalisation today of poetry and poets. In the third line he expresses his reverence for the great bard in just three words!
Bibhas’ poetry is enigmatic with a near mystical aura to it as he puts into words his innermost emotions about life, love, nature and other poets. He connects with both the worlds – that of matter and of spirit to find and define the meaning and balance in life. His language is fragmented at times when all he has are shards of pain to be expressed, for instance, in ‘The Tie of Brotherhood’, where he laments –
“We are finished, aren’t we?
Can you hear me, Gurudev? Ye Tagore?
Crowd no longer…no music…hands free!
Now the ties are lost, and so are the Bengalis…”
In his Translator’s Note, Kiriti says “… wounds are essentially native, and they are difficult to translate into other languages.” I think other poets will concur with me when I say that often wounds of the spirit are native to the individual soul and are near impossible to transmit into words. That Bibhas and in this case, the translator has been able to open up those deep gashes so movingly to the readers, is very laudable.
‘Bhatiali – Song of the Boatmen’, is pure anguish. It harnesses the distress of myriad souls who
“Wish my blood obliterates the Partition, on either side of the border…” His pain transmutes into obstinate hope as he ends his poem with these lines:
“In the core of my heart I nurse the wounded soul carefully/Union of the parted Bengal will aid in my recovery…”
Though the poet talks of a divided Bengal, the soreness of his words reflects an universal ache…no country, no people like the divides they are forced into by the scheming, screaming, contorted truths propagated by authority, by those few who snatch power, control minds and leave them defenceless.
The poet often asks questions in his poems. In The Horizon, he asks “What is poetry?” and concludes with these lines
“The blind bird/was painting/its nest so deceptive/on the water-body…” Let each reader and lover of poetry demystify these words in his own heart and mind, for poetry means several things to different people.
Don Martin calls this book “A Literary Tour-de-Force”. Full of praise for the work he says, “This is a seamless, and highly accomplished Bengali poetry. Experienced lovers of poetry will immediately recognise the significance and nuances of the work. Those new to Bengali poetry are in for a real treat!”
Shernaz Wadia, a retired teacher, lives in Pune, India. A free-lance writer, her articles, short stories and poems have been published in many online journals and literary magazines like Muse India, Boloji, Kritya and The Enchanting Verses etc. Her poems have been anthologised in Poets International, Roots and Wings and Caring Moments. Shernaz is in the process of publishing her poems in a book titled Whispers of the Soul.. She has also co-authored a book of poems titled “Tapestry”, with Israeli poetess Avril Meallem. It is an innovative form of collaborative poetry writing developed by the two of them.