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BIPLAB MAJUMDAR TALKS

ABOUT HIS POETRY WITH PALLAVI KIRAN


AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY PALLAVI KIRAN
Biplab Majumdar is a talented poet of social consciousness with philosophical
bent of mind. He demonstrates a huge amount of social and cultural narrative
in his poetry, delving deep into the realms of vision and philosophy evident
from his three collections namely Virtues & Vices, Golden Horizon and Islands
Dolphin Song. In addition, his poems have been widely anthologised and
internationally published in literary magazines such as SAHITYA UTSAV (West
Bengal), POETS INTERNATIONAL (Karnataka), POETCRIT (Himachal Pradesh),
FREE XPRESSION (Australia), WORLD POETS QUARTERLY (P.R.China) etc.
Besides being a recipient of numerous awards including (Hon.)D.Litt, WAAC
(UNESCO), 2001, and Sahitya Gaurav Awards, 2009, editor of VOICES OF
KOLKATA and SAHIYA UTSAV, and actively associated with a few literary
bodies, Biplab Majumdar is a forensic document examiner by profession.
The following interview with him was conducted between 20
th
-23
rd
March,
2013
Pallavi Kiran: To begin with, can you describe the time when you first realised
that writing verse was something you absolutely had to do?
Biplab Majumdar: I started writing poetry at a very tender age (13 years) when
I had no clear idea about poetry and prose, I mean, about their basic elements.
During childhood I used to read fairy tales, comics, rhymes, stories for children
etc whatever I got near my hand. I was a voracious reader of prose and poetry
both. But why my first creative expression came out in poetic form I do not
know. It was so spontaneous, so natural and predestined that almost
unexplainable. Obviously, my early poems were in my mother tongue, Bengali.
At early stage I did not write regularly, occasionally I used to feel the
inspiration and then sat down to pen a few lines. As far as I can remember, I
felt a strong attraction to poetry during my college days. Though, I wrote off
and on but never dared to submit those poems to any magazine for a long
time. All my poems were kept in diaries for a considerable period. Probably in
the year 1996, my first book of poems Kichu Sadharan Kavita (Some Ordinary
Poems) published. The book did not bring overnight success to me but it did
create a magic in me. When I saw my poems in the form of a book, strange
feeling enveloped my ease. A sudden onslaught of alphabets flooded me away
with its eternal current. I stepped on the world of poetry; slowly I got involved
in this field. In 1999, I started editing a Bengali poetry magazine SAHITYA
UTSAV and next year VOICES OF KOLKOTA, a biannual International English
Poetry magazine. You may say, after publication of my first poetry book I
realised poetry was inevitable in my life.
PK: How far do you agree that poetry comes from the subconscious mind
rather than the conscious mind as stated by many poets?
BM: Let us discuss the question from the very root of the term conscious and
subconscious. If we say, a person is conscious it literally means, the man is
awake rather than asleep or unconscious. When we are conscious of
something we think about it a lot because it is important. We observe or
realize that it is happening. A conscious decision is made or done deliberately
by us giving full attention to it.
On the other hand, subconscious is the part of our mind that can influence us
or affect our behaviour even though we are not aware of it. But the fact is,
most of our subconscious output is the result of our some sort of conscious
effort.
In this perspective we may conclude that writing poetry is the result of
combined effort produced by the conscious and the sub-conscious mind.
In fact, poets are born with certain artistic nerves, unworldly instinct, and
sensitive soul. They watch the world from a different angle. Not only a poet,
each and every creative person sees and feels the world from his phenomenal
perception. The of beauty of the world, its people, happenings, discourse,
everything are noticed by the poet day and night create a movement in his
sub-conscious mind. They get matured there with his innate poetic realisation;
subsequently the process leads him to pen a poem which is ultimately a
conscious effort.
PK: What elements of poetry seem most essential in your communication?
How would you like to characterise or define your poetic vision?
BM: I think, a poet has to discover and rediscover himself repeatedly. What he
watches in his society and surroundings, the day to day life of common man,
lifes inevitable blows and pangs, the eternal fight between good and evil, legal
and illegal, moral and immoral, the result of it, the reaction of it in human
heart etc all direct him to look for their sources, the ultimate end. Often we
see people get tremendous mental shock when they fail to achieve success or
lose something valuable, someone who was dear to him. If once they are
aware of the root cause of it, the real wisdom behind it, their mind would be
comparatively calm and quiet, full of peace like the water of a moonlit tranquil
lake. Once if they know the difference between the real and the non-real,
cause and effect, the ultimate goal of human life etc, it becomes easier for
them to tackle any critical situation more firmly. Methinks, there should be
some elements in my poetry that come from the depth of the poetic
perception so that the readers not only get delight but also can enrich
themselves with thought provoking qualities, glimpses of truth and reality by
sharing my views. Because I believe, the person who enjoys poetry is somehow
different from other ordinary man. They are more sensitive, artistic, deep,
romantic, tender and beautiful in heart.
PK: Your poems appear deeply philosophical in nature. But if its
philosophical, is it mostly or just about philosophy rather than any
philosophy emerging out of the poems itself. I would like to know your
perception and understanding of the word philosophy in relation to your
poetic process.
BM: Your question demands that I should be a bit illustrative. You are right,
noted scholars; critics and reviewer find my poems are mostly philosophical.
Before answering your question that why always philosophy plays a
subconscious role in my poetry, I should say, you must have noticed that from
the time immemorial almost all great Indian poetry contains the rich flow of
philosophical outlook. From the age of two great epics, the Ramayana and the
Mahabharata to the ages of Rabindranath Tagore, the one and only Nobel
Laureate in Literature in this sub-continent, all drive us to that direction.
You know, India is the land of philosophy. We Indians may be proud of our
ancient heritage, culture and civilization. As religion and philosophy are the
bedrock of any great civilisation, in our country also these two factors have
been playing a significant role in forming the great Indian civilisation. Just think
for once about the immense contribution of ancient India to the world in the
field of Mathematics (discovery of zero 0, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and
Mensuration), Astronomy (Aryabhatta, Varahamihira, Bhaskaracharya),
Medicines (Charaka And Sushrata, usage of anaesthesia, embryology,
genetics), Dharma (six Sanskrit playwrights of all times e.g. Kalidasa, Shudrak,
Harsha, Visakhadutta and Bhababhuti), dance, paintings and above all Indian
literature and philosophy. The Rig Vedic poetry, perhaps the earliest poetry in
the world, the two great epic that I mentioned earlier, the Puranas etc which
are considered as the pillars of Indian literature, all deals with rich
philosophical thoughts.
If we think of religion shall find almost all major religions in the world-
Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Judaism etc are
found in India.
In the history of civilization India has a specific place and identity as India
Music, Indian Dance, Indian Theatre, Indian Painting, Indian Arts and Fine Arts,
Indian culture etc where in each and every field one may have the glimpse of
Indian philosophy. Therefore, we find philosophy has a tremendous impact on
the nerves and veins in India. That is why most of the Indian pots resort to
philosophical thoughts in their creations.
Apart from that, we know, poetry with philosophic elements can surpass time.
Any contemporary issue is transient. For that reason, most of the Indian poets
deal the domestic aspects, social problems etc in broader perspectives. They
track the issues to the root, they analyse present in the perspective of eternity,
research everydayness in the light of timelessness. This is the journey, from
here to hereafter, from the ever-pervasive now to endless eternity. You may
say, it is an endeavour to catch life and lifes all demand-derivatives-
dimensions in greater aspect. To me, the term philosophy means a poetic
process towards transfixed transcendence.
PK: Is the issue of meaning or message something that is uppermost in your
mind when you write? What provoked your mind to create Virtues & Vices,
Islands Dolphin Song and Golden Horizon?
BM: Yes, you are right, like all other creative persons always some definite and
specific thoughts lead me to write a book. The thoughts behind Virtues & Vices
(2001) was, as life is a continual progress from ignorance to eternal light so a
man has to move forward against all vices for reaching the height of human
values. Untill and unless, a man does not recognise the true texture of various
virtues e.g. tolerance, discipline, willpower, simplicity, self-revolution, morality,
kindness etc and at the same time different vices e.g. anger, greed, pride,
passion, fear, violence etc; he cannot get out of the haze and maze of
mundane maladies. In brief, I wanted to write the book for inspiring my
readers to feel the necessity of ethics and morals in human life. Through my
poems I wanted to improve the quality of life or the art of meaningful living. If
my poems can soothe the restless psyche of mankind which is burdened with
numerous worldly woes, social ills, can light up the sordid souls, can disperse
the cloud of sorrow and fog of frustration and help them providing ingredients
essential for attaining mental peace and tranquillity that would be a matter of
great satisfaction to me. I started writing the book with this hope. If my
philosophic insight can improve in any way the daily life of a single person I
shall think my effort is successful.
My next poem book Golden Horizon published in 2004. At that time I was
inclined to write haiku. With due homage to the traditional Japanese form of
haiku i.e. 5-7-5 syllable structure I tried to write the poems with a bit of
different dimension. I applied my felt-experience, perception, reality in the
form of haiku.
You know, every creative person always likes to experiment with his new
forms, new ideas, and new colours in order to offer the world something new
from his end. In my opinion, if anything can be the subject matter of poetry
and if haiku too is considered as one type of poetry, there should be no bar in
choosing subjects of haiku. I mean, If traditional haiku directs us to naturalise
ourselves why the poets of rest of the world may not humanise nature in
haiku?
So, in that small book of poems I wrote some experimental haiku mostly on
the subject of perpetual truth and philosophy. Subsequently one or two critics
raised voice against it but the well-known Nobel-nominated Japanese poet
Prof.Dr. Kazauyosi Ikeda of Osaka University wrote in an article, Such English
haiku are highly evaluated as true haiku by Japanese people.(POET; vol.45,
no.11)
My third English poetry book Islands Dolphin Song was published in 2009.
First, two books were in structured verse. I feel, sometimes, situation demands
when counted words appear unable and insufficient to contain the exuberant
flow of expression. And necessities of free verse become inevitable. Often a
poet feels in his life that fixed form of verse is too mechanical, suffocating. In
India and abroad most of the poets find it more comfortable because what
matters actually is reaching the heart of readers. So, I opted for free verse in
that book. The book was translated into Greek by eminent translator-poet
Antonios Zalonis.
PK: How do you feel when someone reads your poems and comes with an
interpretation of it far from what you might have intended?
BM: Human mind, you know, is just like a transparent crystal prism. When the
light of intelligence falls on it creates various sorts of colourful spectrum of
thoughts. So when after reading my poems someone comes with an
interpretation of it far from what I might have intended, I get astonished and
ask myself why did I fail to think the matter from this angle? Generally, I do not
prefer to express my thoughts in such obscure ways that readers get puzzled
with its meanings. And a true reader of poetry does not seek a clear-cut
concised form of meaning or messages from poetry; rather he expects
something more than that. You may say it is a kind of sense of excellence that
we get from music, the language of which is not known to us.
PK: There is a repetition of the phrase venom of poetry in the poem
Autumnal Afternoon in Islands Dolphin Song and in a haiku poem of Golden
Horizon. What do you mean by this expression?
BM: The term venom was used there as a metaphor. When venom comes
into veins a tremendous restlessness, uneasiness, discomfort, and bodily pain
occurs. And the body badly demands its release from within.
In the poem Autumnal Afternoon in Islands Dolphin Song, the natural beauty
of shimmering sunlit surroundings was so seer that it compelled the poet to
write the poem immediately. Untill and unless he penned it on that issue,
could not get rid of windy attack of poetic restlessness.
In Golden Horizon also the term was used with the same perspective: Veins of
a poet/ Dont carry blood, but the blue/ Venom of poetry. Not only has a
poet, each and every creative person felt this restlessness when the urge
exceedingly upsurges in his brain.
PK: Do you write poems to preach and educate the readers or poetise what
you think as a sensitive human being?
BM: No, I do not write to teach or preach anything. The readers of English
poetry, especially in our country are enlightened enough, they need no
teaching. It would be better to say, as a poet what I believe, feel and imagine,
what I get after delving myself I want to express that through my verse. My
life-long quest to know myself, endeavour to unveil the endless enigma of life,
to touch and feel it from every possible dimensions- the sunset and sunrise,
the blue sky overhead, and its non-existence, birth-copulation-death, the
roaring current of creative human thoughts, the ever-present inquisitive mind-
all are co-related, all are picturesquely present before us in a panchromatic
pantomime. My philosophy of life and poetic perception incessantly chase
them in order to see the bright face of truth. I just want to share my thoughts
and views through my poetry.
PK: Some of the themes in your work feature elements of vision related to
personal, moral, spiritual, social values, beauty of nature and its
consciousness, hypocrisy, social injustice etc. Why only these topic? Why not
poems on contemporary family values and relationship, women issues, love
and sex, child abuse etc?
BM: If you please go through my three collections in English poetry minutely,
will find all most all the issues have been covered except women issues and
child abuse. I have written four more poetry collections in Bengali where a lot
of significant poems, especially on women issues or atrocities on women were
depicted e.g. Guriar Ahabkaal, Maa Tujhe Salam etc. The poem Maa Tujhe
Salaam was about the miserable life and struggle of a poor woman labourer.
The poem Guriar Aahabkaal (Wartime of Guria) was about the much
discussed lady named Guria, the gross injustice done to her, and her demand
of equal right with man. The poems are recited off and on by many persons
here.
Yes, it is true I have not written any poem about child abuse. Your question
made my eyes open. I have to think over such other current social problems
too. Thank you for the question.
PK: In the end, can you tell a little about your current writing projects?
BM: Apart from poetry, I am to write short stories on different topics. A bunch
of short stories in Bengali have been published so far in different magazines. At
present I am preparing manuscripts for collection of stories. At the same time,
writing poems for the forthcoming poetry books. I think, I should write some
more English poetry collections.


Authors Profile:
PALLAVI KIRAN (M.Phil in English)
Submitted M.Phil dissertation entitled Social Consciousness in the Poetry of
Bilpab Majumdar, under the supervision of Prof. R.K.Singh, at INDIAN SCHOOL
OF MINES, May 2013.
At present she is a Junior Research Fellow at Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad
working on the topic Gulzars Poetry in Translation: A study in Pragmatic
Communication under the supervision of Dr. Mojibur Rahman.