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Saturday, September 22, 2007
Star Books Review

Poems in delighted eyes

Mahbub Husain Khan appreciates the ideas and images in a work of poetry

Narira Fere Na
Arunabh Sarkar
Agamee Prakashanee

I had read a few columns and a couple of poems by Arunabh Sarkar before I came across this slim volume of poems a few weeks back. Arunabh was working at The Independent when I started writing for that newspaper, but I never met him at that time. It was only in March 2006 when I joined The News Today that I met Arunabh as my colleague for the first time. And it was the poet himself who presented me with a copy of Narira Fere Naa which is his third volume of poetry. He has published only nine books in the past thirty years, with three volumes of poetry, one on journalism and five books for children. He has, however, written many works of fiction and poems, essays and columns since his days of youth in daily newspapers and periodicals.

When I read his Narira Fere Na, I found that not for nothing has my friend, poet Rafique Azad, named Arunabh as the 'king of lyrics.' The eighty-seven poems in this book range from three pages to four lines. I am translating for my readers his five-line poem Mousumi (Seasonal): 'Those favourite pictures of mine I had preserved/I have burnt them today! Because! Rather than explaining, let me give an example! In season all large and small! Because! Rather than explaining, let me give an example! In season all large and small! Trees have mangoes and lychees;/And some days later! All fruit is destroyed by time and storms.' This is a specific statement about a concrete emotion, and it echoes well beyond its given point of utterance.

Reading, Montaigne said once, is more dangerous than eating, because you can have a good look at the food before you put it in your mouth, whereas by the time you have read something it is already in your head. This applies especially to short lyric poems, which you can swallow in a moment, but which can permanently change your brain. Read Auden's 'Lay your sleeping head, my love' or Stevie Smith's 'Not waving but drowning', and they will be with you for life. It is said that when Nehru was dying, he wrote out the last lines of Robert Frost's 'Whose woods these are I think I know' on a piece of paper by his bed and kept repeating them. Arunabh also displays that power in his poetry to transform us. His eighty seven poems in this collection convey all the strangeness and exotica of love and life, and make the whole spectacle as familiar as the view across the street.

Arunabh Sarkar perceives in familiar objects elements of beauty that sometimes escape us, and sends us back to look at them again with newly delighted eyes. And so opens for us a world of strange and refreshing experience. It is the fullness of love for those things we most deeply cherish that makes his poems intense, yet with an absence in their hearts.

Arunabha Sarkar was born in Tangail on 29 May 1941. His father Shreejukta Kshetranath Sarkar, who died in 1967, was an educationist and his mother Shrijukta Shaila was a housewife. She died in 1984. The poet was educated at Mirzapur High School, Saadat College Karatia, and graduated in English from Calcutta University. Since 1967 he has worked in senior positions at leading Bangla and English newspapers in the country. He and his wife Aziza have a son and a daughter.

Mahbub Husain Khan, a former civil servant, is a commentator on social and literary issues.

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