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The songs of a different river

  • Published at 03:55 pm September 3rd, 2016
  • Last updated at 08:38 pm September 4th, 2016
The songs of a different river

Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private

-Allen Ginsberg

Abdullah Al Muktadir is not an urban poet, nor does he care much about modernism. His poetry does not contain the boredom of city traffic or hypocrisies on Facebook; nor do they talk about costly liquor or the charm of a film star. He does not go for the depiction of everyday life, for visualising realities of the life he lives, nor does he impose an artistic grandness on the trivialities of being. Rather, he narrates his feelings like one encounters in fairy tales, or perhaps in an epic. His tone is melancholic that mourns the past –

Now like crossing the river through a bridge,

We can quite easily ignore all our relations.’ (Shadanandapur Anadaheen Howar Por, p.49, my translation)

Anya Ganger Gaan, Samudrasaman, Muktadir’s first collection of poems, makes readers see life through the lens of poetry. It engages readers in the truth that he, as a poet, has discovered through his poetic consciousness. His reality is far different from that of ours, and also from other contemporary poets.

Readers who perceive modernism as a reflection of urban life would find Muktadir’s poetry not so interesting, they might as well find it old-fashioned, full of romantic lyricism. But a careful reading will make room for a second thought. Though there is no imposed experimentation in his poems, he has reconstructed language in his own style. He has blended spontaneous colloquial forms with the usual standard one. At the same time, we can find old-fashioned Bangla, the Shadu Reeti, in the book. He uses English titles for his poems. A few unnamed poems, though, are given no title but a single letter from the Bangla alphabet. Poems that are consisted of two or four lines are sure to make readers sense a different and elevated kind of feelings.

At the furthest limit you live, yet closest to me’ (Oi, p. 44, my translation)

The poet has come up with some genuine images as also with some unusual ones: the moon seated on top of a betel-nut tree and the sea drowned in the sea itself. A few metaphors like ‘squirrel eye,’ ‘yellow-coloured smell’ or ‘star-fruit body of the star-fish’ have been used in a very unique way. Walking on the leaf-covered ground is like boozing with strong liquor to him. He sees the red flowers in spring soaking in the colour of blood.

Death is a recurrent motif in Muktadir’s poetry. He perceives death in the same way as we perceive love and the loss of love.

I died, closing my eyes forever, when I was born’ (Ure Bheshe Dure, p.40, my translation)

The poet is absorbed in Nature. The festivity of winter moves him the same way as the first shower of rain does. River, water, rain, ocean mesmerize him. To him, the Jamuna is not a river, rather the body of a young woman or the heart of a young man. He imagines the Jamuna to be a living character without personifying her. In his eyes the Jamuna is saddened because somebody has changed her name one Ashwin; he speaks of it as though the river is a damsel in distress, waiting for her lover to save her.

There are times when the Jamuna becomes something more than just a river, some gigantic being like an ocean. The Jamuna represents the watery portion of the world to the poet. The river in the book title could also be construed as the mystical Jamuna. Poets from this part of the globe perceive the Jamuna as the flow of eternal love because of the Radha-Krishna myth. Love lends a different credence to the world he creates. Sometimes, without even any direct reference to love, a very subtle and powerful sense of love is created.

Only once there was rain, there were you and the smell of hasnahena. Only once, after long long days, there came a prolonged evening. Of the thousand histories of ours, this only is the one worth telling.’ (My translation)

Anya Ganger Gaan, Samudrasaman. Abdullah Al Muktadir. Published by Platform., Dhaka. February 2016. Price: Tk. 135