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An Interesting Corpus


Ameena Kazi Ansari

SELECTED POEMS
By Jibanananda Das
Penguin, Delhi, 2006, pp. 82, Rs. 150.00

THIS ANCIENT LYRE: SELECTED POEMS
By O.N.V. Kurup
Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 184, Rs. 175.00

STREET ON THE HILL
By Anjum Hasan
Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 64, Rs. 40.00

UNIVERSAL BEACH
By Vivek Narayanan
Harbour Line, Mumbai, 2006, pp. 76, Rs. 150.00


By Deepankar Khiwani
Harbour Line, Mumbai, 2006, pp. 83, Rs. 150.00

ONLY THE SEA KEEPS: POETRY OF THE TSUNAMI
Edited by Judith R. Robinson et al.
Rupa, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 183, Rs. 195.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 3 MARCH 2008

It is said that poetry often takes a back seat. But this does not hold true all the time as is evident from six anthologies that represent a splendid variety of thoughts and themes, tones and techniques.   Let me begin with Jibanananda Das. He re-mained eclipsed because Tagore (d. 1941) was idealized. Das surely deserved better attention which he did not get during his own lifetime as Tagore did. Ironically enough, Tagore had little respect for Das’s language and imagery and he said as much in no uncertain terms. It is interesting to note that Chidananda Das Gupta, himself a translator of Tagore, says this at the very beginning of his ‘Introduction’ to this slim volume: ‘The Tagore umbrella so overshadowed the entire arena of Bengali culture for upwards of half a century that it is hardly possible to introduce the poetry of Jibananada Das (1899-1954) without referring to Tagore’. It is a grim reminder of how W.H. Auden, too, remained under eclipse because there was T.S. Eliot to celebrate. This had turned Auden sour for quite some time, but Das being different, cared little for projecting himself as an icon.   Das was a major poet by all standards. This is testified by the perspectives he developed on life and times (rural and urban), the way he nurtured his art (language and imagery), and the manner he showed the graph of his development as a poet (early and later phases). He is a chronicler of his times, more especially in his later verse where he reflects the discontent of living in a city. This transports us to his earlier perception of rural life where he sensed a unique vitality that kept human beings from perishing. Das imparted a new shade to the very movement of modernism in Bangla poetry and took it far beyond Tagorean poetics. The essence of his poetry lay in ‘transcendence,’ as rightly noted in the translator’s ‘Introduction’, and not so much in ritualistic faith. Similarly, he developed philosophical angles in his reflections on Nature rather than dwell on its external beauty. On these accounts, Das was easily distinguishable even among his contemporaries. The fifty-eight poems contained in this volume provide a reasonably fair access to Das’s weltanschauung. While Das has been translated by several hands in the past, this new translation of his poems attention for two reasons—first, the carefully selected ...


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