Notes From One Poet To Another
Shamim Reza has published seven books of poetry since 2001. This collection of selected poetry is an excellent introduction to his literary universe.
Reading his poetry, from the first book, Rivers Inscribed on Stone (Patharchitre Nadikatha, 2001) over Nalanda -- Daughter of the Ancient World (Nalanda -- Dur Biswer Meye, 2004), When Night Falls at Subarnanagar (Jakhan Ratttir Naima Ashe Subarnanagare, 2006), School of the Universe (Brahmander Ishkul, 2009), Manuscript of the Soul (Hridoylipi, 2014), A Country of Stateless People (Deshin Manusher Desh, 2018) and all the way to the latest poems in Shamim's Padabali (Charyalok, 2020) is a true journey, which in a way describes a full circle. Tre reader travels from the invocation of a human philosophical birthplace in Rivers Inscribed on Stone. Here he merges modern thinking with ancient myths, a poetic method that becomes one of the major features to characterize his poetry.
While reading, I find myself being at the same time out of time and history and intensely within the machinery of human thinking, human devotion, human struggle for freedom, all that which is history. I see history as it is visible to us who live it and as it is presented to us in tales, folklore, legends.
To me that is a true realistic way to see us, poetry and the world. In our minds, in the way your mind goes when you walk the streets, meet your friends, shop, write your essays, enter the bus, you are in many places at the same time. You, as a citizen of Dhaka, know what it is like in the Bangladeshi countryside, you, as a reader of daily news on your tablet, know the looks and sounds of the two-liners of Charyageeti or Tagore´s Fireflies.
And those features are only the outlines of literature and soul. Within lies, as in all literature, the neverending story of mankind's struggle for freedom and a decent life, and poets and artists always play an important role in that struggle.
Shamim Reza's literary mind is restless in a way that creates wonderful meetings of cultures and minds. He moves seemingly freely between ancient Bangladeshian poetry and European modernism, knowing that we are all human beings and that he writes in a globalized world where I, as a Northern European poet and reader, can be reached by his works almost as easily as the students at the Jahangirnagar University.
Shamim Reza (or Rezaul Islam Shamim) is a poet, playwright, novelist, essayist and short-storywriter, and he has worked as a journalist and editor. He has also made an academic career, being the founding director of Bangabandhu Institute of Comparative Literature and Culture, Jahangirnagar University. He has also received a number of well-deserved literary awards. He was born in 1973 in the village of Joykhali in the Kathalia Upazilla Jhalokathi District about 150 kilometers south of Dhaka. This suggests a life of rich experiences, a move from countryside to the urban life, a life where the pendulum swings from the social interactions in teaching, meeting colleagues and students to the seclusion that intense reading and writing requires.
Literature is for all mankind. So many of us are blessed with the power of reading and writing. We are able to see and understand what comes from other cultures, from the other side of Earth. Myths, stories, tales of love and life, philosophy, religion, satire, concern -- all is brought to us by means of words, they are vessels meant for understanding.
Poetry -- I am a poet and I have spent almost a lifetime trying to define to myself what this genre really is. What makes it so different from all other human expressions? Its apparitions, its sometimes-melodious qualities, its imagery and much else suggests that it has something to do with what we call the soul, the minds, the search for something beyond ordinary thinking, ordinary language, Yes, an idea that somewhere lies something else which we cannot reach by other means than poetic evocation of feelings and thoughts.
I don't know.
What I do know is that poetry is a sublime combination of language and imagination, a kind of dark matter through which the poet journeys in his or her efforts to find that something which is his or her calling. And Shamim Reza is one of those who really did heed the call, one whose poetry is not only personal, not only literature that comments on the world of today, but also a statement to his readers about the nature of poetry.
In Shamim's Padabali (2020) he writes:
I write with contemplative care
Poetry you call it, I call it prayer
It read those lines as fine aphorism but also as a highly concentrated work of poetics, words that contain his whole body of work. A poet who writes like this is a poet who does not compromise with anything in his world of literature, a world that is linked, flesh and blood, to the rest of the world. The two of them depend on each other, no one lives without the other. And that is so, either you live in Sweden or in Bangladesh.