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Of Truth and Illusion

A.J. Thomas

By Ranajit Das ,Translated from the Bengali by Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee
Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2011, pp.88, Rs. 295.00


To me, poetry is the recording of the emotional world structured by the intellectual reinforcements of indivi-dual subjectivity, through images, metaphors and sculpted words and phrases of specific aesthetic relevance. Even Wordsworth's well-known descriptions of poetry as, 'spontaneous outflow of powerful feelings,' 'emotions recol-lected in tranquility' etc., hold good to some extent; however, no one would insist that poe-try should be delicate or dainty; it could be poignant, shocking, yes. A Summer Nightmare and Other Poems, a collection of selected poems of Ranajit Das translated from the Bengali, sets me thinking on these lines, trying to take a fresh look at what poetry really means. 'He (Ranajit Das) believes that in the ultimate analysis poetry is the art of identifying all direct and indirect illusions and realizing the truth of life behind those illusions,' says Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee, the translator, in his Introduction. Going by this illuminating statement, let us look at the poems themselves. The very first poem gives the reader a foretaste of what is to come. 'Egomobile: An Ad' is like a mock-advertisement of an automobile. Almost all human preoccupations and passions are squee-zed into this tight structure. 'Fuel: blood, liq-uor or saliva of the Black Widow/The driving seat has three options, psycho-convertible:/A tavern for doubt. An arsenal for reason./And a cemetery for faith./A melancholy winner of both the Grand Prix of Pleasure/And the Safari of Pain. For the last 5000 years./Model: Hara Kiri....'The terse words and phrases prompt the reader immediately to be on alert, with a tight knot in one's chest. Yes, he/she is about to embark on a Formula One race of the senses and the intellect.... The next poem, 'Summer Noon' opens with a strangely fascinating stanza. 'The scor-ching and desolate summer-noon/is like a lunatic's intense yearning for/female company.' I am suddenly reminded of at least three diffe-rent lunatics who roamed the countryside of my childhood, who invariably hastened their steps intently, with a strange gleam in their eyes, when they spotted any woman walking alone along the country path, trailing them, only to be shooed away by vigilant men of the locality. On the other side, the fearful anticipation of the female is depicted inimitably, delving deep into the strange labyrinths of the human psyche. 'Hieroglyphs' reminds one of many African poems that depict the merchant, follo-wed by the missionary, ...

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