Liton Chakroborty Mithun is impressed by the poet's poetic expressions
"One of the great pleasures of reading poetry to feel words mean what they usually do in everyday life, and also start to move into a more charged, activated realm. In poetry our familiar language can start to feel resonant with significance, more alive, even noble. The words we use in our everyday lives carry along with them reservoirs of history (personal and collective) than can, through a poem, be activated." - opines the American poet and critic Matthew Zapruder in an essay recently published in The New York Times Book Review.
As I started leafing through poet Binoy Barman's volume of poetry titled Jolsagorer Jolsaghorey Nrityapotioshi Chand (The Dancing Moon in the Music Hall of Seawater, to put it literally into English) I found these lines simply relevant and applicable. The very title itself set the tune and I felt the thrill as I went along. The collection published in 2015 comprises of 40 poems that string together a flurry of human experiences and emotions in a lucid and chiseled language. Being a reckonable poetic voice as he is, he put his creative marks on the breadth and width of the volume. That is not to say that this is a flawless piece of literature.
Poet Binoy Barman appears to be meditating over the question of life and death as manifested in quite a few poems in the book. The consciousness of the inevitability of death and significance of life is the ruling voice of the volume. The poet becomes the most philosophical when he discovers the overwhelming presence of death in the expanse of life and the negotiation of life with death. Despite the craving of every living entity for life, death inescapably brings all into its fold. The poet utters as if pathetically: "ami jabona/ tobu choley jay, choley jetey hoy" (p. 13) (I won't go, / yet I have to go).
He further feels the existence of death in the mould of life as he says, "Jonmey uthey porha bidayee train-ey / Mrityur songey ghumer upoma bhul" (p. 16) (You get aboard the train of death since you are born. / The metaphor of sleeping as death is wrong.). A sense of nihilism colors his life and death consciousness. He puts it simply: "Ami benchey achi ananta Na-er bhetor/ Ekdin Na-er modhyei baleen hobo" (p. 21) (I live in an infinite nothingness/ and will dissolve into the nothingness someday.).
At times it seems that the poet is obsessed with the all-pervasiveness of death. He says, "phool, amakey shunkey dekho/ Amar gaye shudhui mriyur gondho" (p. 22) (Flower, smell me to find/ the smell of death in my body.). Again, there are moments when the poet celebrates death and awaits its arrival to him. He lays bare his heart saying, "Macbeth amio janina/ mrityu asbey kon pothey/ doroja khuley bosey achi/ kokhon asbe sokha mukti amar" 9p. 35) (Macbeth, I also don't know/ which way death will come. / I have opened my door / waiting for my friendly liberator.). In short, the death consciousness keeps him true to his self and fuels the engine of his life as well as poetry.
Human nature and psychology seems to a favorite field for the poet to explore. The dark zone and the inherent flaws of human character come under his poetic scrutiny and introspection. He rather wants much like his French predecessor Charles Baudelaire to make the flowers blossom out of evil. He can also sense the primitive lodged in human consciousness despite the progress and evolution of civilization. He states, "ajo amra guhabasi/ adim kumir ajo santray manab lohitey" (p. 21) (We are still cave-dwellers; / the primitive alligator still swims in our blood.). He laments that we are forced to put a lid on our desires and senses. He makes a heartfelt utterance: "amra bhuley gechi ei shorir goroley gothito/ devta samhar kora amader kaj) (p. 26) (We forgot that our body is made of poison. / We are assigned to kill gods.).
This is another way of saying that we must be honest to our nature despite socio-cultural inhibitions. He also declares that "Amader punyo shunyo-gorbhojato/ Adipaap thekey mukti nei." (p. 29) (Our virtues are born out of nothing. / Hence, there's no liberation from the primitive sin.). He also strips down the garb of mythical and theological attributes of man. In the similar fashion, he latches onto nihilism and confesses, "Shunyer sadhana korey keteche jibon/ Amritasya putra noy/ Rashichokrey jato noy/ Kledojo kusum adamsurat" (p. 48) (My fife passes worshipping nothingness. / I am neither a son of God, / nor born into a zodiac. / Rather, I am a flower born out of evil.). In fact, the poet intends to dispel the mist of mystery and spirituality around the theologically endorsed supremeness of mankind and recognizes the real nature of human character.
Metaphysical elements permeate through the volume. The poet employs metaphysical conceits to get his emotions and messages across in an emotive manner. He spins images as incredible as those of the literary circle spearheaded by John Donne in English literature. He sketches bright images such as: "Brishtitey kakbheja chokchokey chokh/ Pratarak mosrinota odrishyolok/ Elo chul bekheyali megher urhal/ Silicon bichanay rod nirghum" (p. 18) (Glittering eyes like crows drenched in rain/ Elusive smoothness and the invisible world/ Flight of random clouds as scattered as hair/ Sleepless sun on the silicon bed). He weaves a net of mystery and builds up a world of fantasy and thrill with an impeccable use of evocative words and imagery.
Likewise, he sets out on a quest for an imaginary world as he says, "Ami khunje firi nodir tritiyo kool/ Oloukik batashey doley porider shubhro boson/ Sandhan pele tar tomatey-amatey byobodhan ghuchey jabe" (p. 19) (I am searching for the third bank of the river/ where the white robes of the fairies flutter in mysterious breeze. / Once I reach there, it will blur the distance between you and me.).
He, further, tries to explore the mysterious ocean separating life and death and says, "Bhesey bhesey choley jay dur/ somudro parhi diye porobashi dheu/ prithibir shesh prantey shushko dangay/ tumul nrityagiti thamey na tobu/ Jolsagorer jolshaghorey) (p. 44) (The alien and emigrating wave rolls away/ across the ocean to the far-off dry shore / at the end of the world. / The high-scale dance and music does not stop yet, / in the musical hall of seawater.). He also jumps into a world beyond this mundane one.
He reveals, "Kobekar odekhar otripto basona chhai hoye batashey orhey/ ghumer modhye dhosey sat-stor swopnokathamo" (p. 47) (An unfulfilled desire of seeing flies in the air as ashes. / A seven-layer dream-structure collapses in sleep.). Put simply, the poet becomes an inhabitant of surreal world when the physical world appears too tough to tackle.
Like most other poets of Bengali literature, Binoy Barman is politically as well as socially conscious and rebellious in temperament and intent. He strongly condemns the killing of Bangladesh's Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. He laments: "Ja ghotar ta ghotey gechey/ Ponchattor kalimakha kaler portrait-ye/ Pakhir kontho thekey surer udhao/ Ekhon elegy amader jatiyo songeet" (p. 15) (What was to happen happened. / 1975 is a black spot in the portrait of time. / Music banished itself from the voice of Bird. / Now an elegy is our national song.).
He is utterly unhappy with the political status quo of the nation as a sizeable portion of it forgets our glorious history. He rues that "Amra emoni hotobhaga jaati/ rajdondo sushobhito hontarok haat/ dhorshoker pokkhey hoy michil-bokrita/ Amra bhuley jai purbopurusher pon" (p. 23) (We are such a wretched nation! / The killing hand takes up the baton of ruling. / Meetings and processions are held in support of the rapists.
/ We forget the promise of the forefathers.). All social degradation and degeneration disheartens and provokes him into writing poetry of protest and resistance. He registers his rebellious self thus: "Fan-er songey jhulonto grihinir lash dekhey/ Bostabondi bewarish ongo-protyongo dekhey/ Dustbin-ey hamagurhi deya shishu dekhey/ shromiker kopaley churnobichurno roudro dekhey/ krishoker haatey bhangachora kastey dekhey/……/ Ami bishadey nimojjito hoi/ Prokasher sokol shobdo bhuley jai/ Ebong dhirey dhirey kobi hoye uthi.) (p. 46). (Seeing the corpse of a housewife hanging with a fan, / torn pieces of flesh of an unknown fellow wrapped up in a sack, / a toddler crawling in the dustbin, / fragments of sun pasted on a laborer's forehead, / a broken sickle at the hand of a farmer, /……/ I get plunged into sorrows, / forget all means of expression / and gradually become a poet.). However, he is also sensitive to the sufferings of the minority community as many of its members are forced to leave the county and cross over the border into the neighboring country to avoid persecution by fanatics and political opportunists.
He oozes out his grief by saying "Tobey ki chharhtey hobey bhitemati / purbopurusher ghamer gondhomakha jolhawa / Shiyal somproday totpor raatbhor / ajob chorus ghrinar trinokunjey" (p. 20) (Then should we abandon the lands / and habitats soaked in sweats of our forefathers? / Hordes of jackals are active all night / creating a weird chorus in the bush of hatred.). To put it squarely, Binoy Barman's poetic consciousness maps onto his social and political commitment.
Satire, fun, pun, humor and sarcasm add a special dimension to Binoy's poetics. He goes on to satirize the society that wants to discipline all its individuals and fashion them in its own mould. He quips about the helplessness of a poet in such a social framework and says, "Bechara kobi / Manatey manatee ekta jibon kete gelo/ tobu manansoi shobdoti khunjey pelo na.' (p. 9) (The poor poet / passed all his life by suiting himself to everything, / but failed to find a suitable word.). He also pokes fun in a tongue-in-cheek manner. He takes a dig at the hypocritical practices prevailing in society.
He makes utterances like "Ekjon neta bolechilen, nirbachoney jitley jonogonke sonar horin deben. / Kintu sonar daam otyodhik berhey jaway tini tar protishruti thekey sorey esechen." (p. 10) (A leader said that he would gift golden deer to people if he won the election. / But, because the price of gold hiked he backed out of the promise.). However, few other poems also contain humorous elements that jazz up the volume and make it a happy read.
To wrap up, I must say that Binoy Barman is a mighty poet with a solid grip on language and expression. His diction is quite rich and image-creating ability is enormous. I am thoroughly impressed with his poetic caliber manifested in this volume although few of the poems look a little clumsy. His academic profile is rich too, and there must be a nexus between his academic training and literary career. He is also a regular contributor to different newspapers and journals. However, I believe the poetry collection Jolsagorer Jolsaghorey Nrityapotioshi Chand (2015) merits wider popularity and critical acclaim. It should be considered as a new pearl to the already rich treasure trove of Bengali as well as Bangladeshi poetry.
The reviewer studied English literature from the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]