Book Review

Published:  01:06 AM, 11 June 2017

A commendable poetical endeavor

A commendable poetical endeavor Samarik Kabi, Besamarik Premik by Akhtaruzzaman Azad, Publisher - Basbhumi Prokashoni in February 2012

Liton Chakraborty Mithun elaborates the inward  aphorisms that have been expressed by the rhymer.

In recent times, a batch of young poets have emerged in Bangladeshi literary scene and gained a strong foothold in attracting readers. They have successfully injected fresh air into contemporary poetry and accomplished some appreciable feat in giving it a new look and texture. Their pieces are filtering out Bangladeshi poetry of excess and experimental rubbish carried out under the banner of postmodernism.

Akhtaruzzaman Azad, hailing from the coastal district of Barguna and based in the capital Dhaka, belongs to this group of young Bengali poets. In his literary career spanning over more than eight years now, he has brought out quite a few popular and acclaimed pieces. His third volume Samarik Kabi, Besamarik Premik (The Military Poet, The Civilian Lover), published in 2012, is a collection of poems what he calls 'politico-romantic poetry'.

They are politically conscious and vocal, romantically articulate and socially committed in addition to their poetical grace and quality. They are not, however, without frailties and weaknesses that are worth critical handling on the part of the poet for avoiding further recurrences.

Azad's political poems are very strong in expression of what he considers politically and ideologically spot-on and acceptable. They are marked for their firm support for a Bangladesh to be run according to original principles and spirit of liberation movement. Diatribes and scathing satires are among the features that characterize the political pieces. His very first poem 'Itihas' (History) is a gibe against flattery and ingratiation, a common practice in almost all sectors of country, especially in politics.

He declares, "Toshamudey Jon Priyo hoy Sobar, ei holo Porihas; / Toshamod korini kokhono Ami, ei holo Itihas!" (Flatterers are dear to all, which is a mystery; / A flatterer never I am, that is a history!). In another poem titled "Noshto Birer Noshto Neerey" (In the Rotten Abode of the Rotten Hero), he denounces a compromised freedom fighter as a sellout and a rotten hero infecting the country.  "Ekhaney Sonamachh Pawa Jay" (Goldfish Available Here) is a fierce attack on the generations, especially those born in post-90's Bangladesh for their goldfish-like short memory regarding our war of liberation and Pakistani atrocity and brutality against us.

In "Apamananiya Swarashtramantry" (Disrespectable Home Minister) the poet takes a dig at some of the home ministers, if not all, from different regimes for their sheer negligence to the duties entrusted upon them. Here, home minister is a generic term. Moreover, in some poems like 'Rashtra-Condom' (State-Condom), 'Jay Jay Deen' (Religion is Getting Ruined), 'Humayun Azad Samipeshu' (To Humayun Azad, the poet criticizes issues of patronization of a certain religion by the state, political use of religion and sponsoring of fundamentalism and extremism, and stalling forces of freedom of speech and thought. There are few more poems that also have political orientation and awareness.

Social consciousness and alertness characterizes Akhtaruzzaman Azad's poetry. His piece 'Tipai' is a strong dismissal of the proposed Tipaimukh dam to be constructed across the border in India thus depriving Bangladesh of fair share of common river water. 'Jounokolar Kopot Kopat' (The Fake Door on Sexuality) is a satirical negation of self-contradictory social stance on sexual behavior.

In one hand, there is a celebration of sexuality behind the veneer of cinema, poetry, music, painting, sculpture, etc. On the other hand, a passionate kissing between lovers in the public space draws ire and strong indictment from all around. 'Amra Kotipoy Tholer Biral' (We are some of the Cats in the Bag) is all about sexual repression endorsed by social conventions. The speaker declares to come out of this type of self-negation. However, the little poem 'Border' criticizes border killings perpetrated by Indian forces. In short, Azad is socially committed poet.

Contrary to the serious and aggressive nature of political poetry, Azad's romantic love-poems are so full of emotions, enthusiasm and humor. They are a cascade of powerful feelings and desires. In the poem 'Ami Borabor-i Ekjon Rabindric Premika Cheyechilam' (I've Always Desired a Rabindric Girlfriend) he vents out hidden desires of a typical, cultured Bengali Romeo. Rabindric girlfriends or lovers are those who deck themselves up in attires and with styles Rabindranath introduced and made fashionable through his key heroines.

The poet Azad takes up the idea and gives voice to the Bengali boys' romantic imagination in this piece. On the contrary, the poem 'Ami Amar Kono Khunikei Khoma Korini' (I haven't Forgiven Any of my Killers) he creates a court-room ambience and employs a legal register in figuratively sentencing his jilting lovers. However, the poem 'Tomar Lagbe Kemon Shuni' (Tell me how you would Feel) is a humorous and sentimental piece of rhetoric played out in order for persuading the speaker's girlfriend.

The very opening couplet is highly provocative where he quips "Sei Dinti khub durey noy, esei jabe shigri, / Tomar Chheley amar upor korbe jokhon Degree!" (That day is not far away / when your son will come to achieve a degree on me.). In this piece, he also throws some leads as to how sensational and popular he will turn out to be in future, thus persuading his departing beloved.

This poem along with many others employs an apostrophe to 'sabalika' (the Teenage Girl). For instance, 'Sabalikar jonyo Legal Punthi' (A Legal Verse to the Teenage Girl), 'Ultimatum', 'Sangsad O Sabilika' (Parliament and the Teenage Girl), 'Uddeshyomulok Pangktimala' (Targeted Verses) are among the pieces that carry romantic overtones and emotive diction.

They are sprinkled with parliamentary jargons, snatches of courtroom dialog, political lingo and what not. In addition to that, 'Punashcha Kalyani Das' (N.B., Kalyani Das) is perhaps a sequel to other 'Kalyani Das poems' dedicated to the speaker's first love Kalyani Das. There are, however, few more scintillating love poems in this volume.

Poetry about poetry is a common feature of Azad's creations. He seems to be very proud of his poetic credentials. He also champions the art of poetry as something to be taken seriously into account. In 'Jodi Biswas koro, Bondhu Tumi' (My Friend, if you Believe) he says, "Tomar ache Padri-Pope ar / pir-purohit-nobi, / Amar nahoy thakuk kebol / Kobita ar kobi." (You might have Father-Pope and/ Priest-saint-prophet / I have only two partners: / Poetry and poet.).

In another piece titled 'Lottery Pele Kobi Morey jay' (Lottery Kills the Poet) he hints at the damaging impact of money, property and greed on a poet's creativity. In the concluding poem of the volume, he brags that he is a 'tiger of poetry'. In 'Kobi O Master' (Poet and Teacher) he says that illiterate people cannot distinguish between a poet and a teacher. In another poem he declares that he is the final poet and judge, no poet will come afterwards. To wrap up, he is highly appreciative of poetry and poets.

To conclude, it is obvious that Akhtaruzzaman Azad is highly potential and prospective both as a poet and a free-thinker. His poems are mostly written in a lucid, fluid, slender and chiseled-out language. Poetic devices are adroitly employed in them. Nevertheless, some of his poems are not worth his poetic caliber, and they are mired for sloganeering tendency, unnecessary excess and speech-like construction. Despite these avoidable failures, his poems in Samarik Kabi, Besamarik Premik appear to me a commendable endeavor. I believe you will find something substantial about it if you go through the volume.


The reviewer is a budding writer & critic.  He is reachable at litonchakrabortymithundueng@gmail.com

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