He is the author of twenty-five collections of poetry, ten novels one of which is in verse , and a book of critical essays. He is also assistant editor of the important literary periodical, Desh , and is in charge of the poetry section. Stylistically innovative, sensuous and imagistic, his poetry shot to prominence in the s. Goswami has won numerous awards, including the Ananda Puraskar in and as well as the Sahitya Akademi Award in
|Published (Last):||15 December 2015|
|PDF File Size:||3.15 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||4.18 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
Sumana Roy writes from Siliguri, a small town in sub-Himalayan Bengal. Her website can be found here. A superstar poet is just as much an oxymoron as a wealthy poet. Since a literary critic, in spite of her nosey detective instincts, has access only to a writer's words and not their bank records, it is difficult to say whether the Bengali poet Joy Goswami is the latter.
The film is about a man who is terribly and stereotypically a 'poet': absent-minded, lacking in worldly wisdom, social skills, and emotional intelligence, indifferent to his wife and household and yet dependent on her income and housekeeping skills. In keeping with his affinity for casting commercial 'stars' in his films, a business decision he does not hesitate to admit, Ghosh cast Bengal's most popular actor, Prosenjit Chatterjee, as the poet Indranil.
But most Bengalis of my generation did not go to see the film for Chatterjee's sake. The superstar who enticed us to buy the theatre tickets was Joy Goswami, arguably Bengal's most loved and popular poet. Goswami turned sixty this year, and to celebrate his life in poetry, a documentary called Joy at Sixty was produced by Sumit Das. The film, quite self-consciously, structures itself like a Goswami poem, and perfectly illustrates the ways in which his work has infiltrated the public consciousness.
Just as Goswami's poems are conversations, in Bengal, the college streets and university canteens are often filled with conversations about his poetry, snatches of which are recorded in Das's documentary: a dialogue between two poets sitting on the grass in Kolkata's Maidan; another in College Street's famous Coffee House, discussing how Goswami single-handedly changed the readership of Bangla poetry; two women reciting his verses and explaining how Goswami's poems changed their lives.
As I watched, I found myself smiling, the harvest of irony—I remembered my father's best friend advising me, as a child, to study hard instead of spending my time reading or writing poetry. Because Goswami, who lost his father early when the family was still living in Ranaghat, the suburb near Kolkata that gives his poems the tone of far-near and whose mother was a school headmistress, was a school dropout.
He wasn't exactly the kind of role model parents would bring to their child's attention. But by the time I was in college in the mid s, Goswami had become an everyday saint for my friends in the Bangla department. At college functions, his words rang out from loudspeakers, finding their way into the popular consciousness. I heard friends gossip about a respected professor mentioning Shakespeare, Tagore, and Goswami in a joke with the moral: if you want to write meaningful poetry, you shouldn't be wasting your time in this classroom; drop out of college right now.
One poet in Das's documentary remarks that Goswami was singlehandedly responsible for creating a new readership for Bangla poetry in the early s. What he does not say is that this was also the moment when a new India was being created: the arrival of satellite television and the Internet in our homes, the creation of recreational public spaces—all new, even foreign then, to middle-class Bengalis.
Introducing new readers of poetry into this milieu was an enormous task, and Goswami set upon it without a manifesto. He wrote for several magazines, not all of them established or well-known. He read poems by amateurs, replied to their letters, quoted them in his essays and editorials. He met young poets at book fairs and when they told him their names, he would quote their own poetry at them, and ask, "So you are the poet who wrote these lines?
Goswami emerged into the popular consciousness alongside another important Bengali wordsmith, Suman Chattopadhyay. Now known as Kabir Suman, Chattopadhyay is a songwriter, a singer, and Bengal's only public intellectual with a guitar. Both Chattopadhyay and Goswami played an important role in rejecting a bhadralok discourse bhadralok literally means 'gentlefolk', a mostly upper caste and upper class emerging in the late eighteenth century by restoring the everyday to poetry.
They were, in their different ways, dragging the epic into narratives of dailiness, writing about a thousand Mrs. Dalloways and a thousand different Ramayanas. Bangla literature—and music—is full of women who represent the muse, or unattainable love: Bonolata Sen, Neera, Ruby Roy, Bela, Nilanjana, and so on. Goswami's women subvert these tropes. The poems "Hamida" and "Olu", translated by Sampurna Chattarji in Harper Perennial's new volume of Goswami's selected works, are manifestos for writing about the kinds of women who are usually left out of history.
How is one to write a poem about one's illiterate maid, for instance? First, stop making her anonymous—that seems to be Goswami's dictum. Hamida is the polar opposite to Jibanananda Das's famous Bonolata Sen, an impossibly attractive woman for whom the speaking persona has spent centuries walking; Hamida, on the other hand, walks for you : Her name is Hamida.
She carries the shopping bags. If you tell her, she'll carry them to your doorstep. No one calls her by name. The vegetable-vendors, the fish-sellers say: 'Give it to the dark girl, she'll deliver it.
Even if nobody else "calls her by name," he will. The poem continues: There she comes, through our lane, right behind Kaberi— Hamida with two bags big and small in her hands [ In the big one the spinning earth. In the big one rivers, trees, oceans, mountains, deserts, slums and cities Crores of ants, are they people? Bursting through the bag the moon Gleams in the sky. Trampling on space That dark girl walks on [ Below her feet Lakhs of lights dance!
Goswami is doing two remarkable things here: first, he is using Jibanananda Das's grandiose historical imagery to talk about the Laura-Beatrice figure of Bonolata Sen. But second, he is displacing this imagery from its museum status and dragging it into the everyday, a bit like carrying a king's throne in a "shopping bag.
In Nazrul's song, the dark girl is the goddess Kali. By giving the dark servant girl a name, by linking the darkness of her skin with that of a goddess, by making her the titular subject of a poem, integrating the moon, rivers, trees, oceans, and mountains into her history, Goswami manages to create a crack in our consciousness, through which he slips the word "slums.
The speaker in Das's poem walks the crests of Indian history searching for the woman who exemplifies its golden ages; Goswami's poetic subjects, in contrast, walk through crowded lanes in bazaars, in what modernist poets might recognise as the diminished epic.
My personal fascination for Goswami's work has been primarily with his quiet feminism. Goswami's work is rarely described as feminist, and yet it is undeniably so—especially in his poems about the natural world, in which he refuses to follow the old nature-as-woman trope, prakriti. One important example is the poem "Nando's mother" "Nando-r Ma" , in which a young woman named Priyobala Das migrates from East Pakistan to Kolkata to work as a maid.
Generations of female domestic workers in Bengal have been defined by their motherhood: either their names are elided with those of their firstborns, or they are called "mashi," meaning "maternal aunt. Meanwhile, his brilliant poems about houses often transform space by viewing them as an extension of the women living in them.
Take the poem "Cauldron," which details an old house being pulled down: Since morning two labourers have been coming and going In front of the veranda Pans full of sand and stone chips on their heads.
Over the last few days an old house nearby was torn down. Flats will come up. And so it continues, detailing the fear of eviction from a familiar space.
All this is seen through geological time, one of the constants of Goswami's poetry and prose , through "supernovas bursting like bubbles" and so on, until we reach the breath-stopping last line: Where will I live with Kaberi-Bukun?
Or take his poem "Olu": Olu cooks for us. In this house If anyone loses anything, let Olu know. Taking down the pressure-cooker She'll say: Dada's Panjabi? The blue one? It's hanging behind The bathroom door. Look, there's some in that pocket. Boudi's sunglasses? On top of the TV. Boudi's eye-medicine, Bukun-di's college books [ Many people in the subcontinent make a living by making themselves indispensable as house help. But not everyone has Goswami as an employer. I would use the word 'subalterns' to describe the subjects of many of his poems, if only he saw them that way—he doesn't.
For it is at this point in the poem that the poet turns Olu into someone who is no longer chained by misplaced household items. The cook and in-house detective what else can one call her expertise?
It also derives from his refusal to make a distinction between gharey and bairey , the home and the world. In the poem "Spice grinding," the man who has "come to prepare the spice-grinding slab" chips away lakes from the body of the slab.
Once he's done It'll be fit to grind spices on. In towns across the globe Car-bombs explode—abandoned briefcases, parked scooters Explode—every day flakes are flung off the body of the earth— around the slab those aren't shards of stone, they're rows of dead bodies Their hands and feet torn [ His expansive tendency to see an ordinary event as part of an epiphanous macrocosm is one of the charms of Goswami's poetry; here, "Mother Earth" herself is a spice-grinding slab.
Whether he is writing about time and history at war with each other, about trees and grass, astronomy and the earth, the night sky and its inhabitants, the sun, reptiles and eagles, dead parents and living lovers, money and its siblings, houses and their windows, freedom, or about wood and its skeletons, the shadow of women hides behind all his themes.
Reading Goswami's poetry, one has the sense of how it might feel for a man to be a woman. In our times, that will almost immediately be understood as something akin to androgyny, but that is not exactly what I mean. In Goswami, I have that rare sense of being allowed to enter a man's female mind.
But my favourite Goswami poems are the pagli , the poems about the madwoman: Shanti shanti shanti shanti—when the golden madgirl sits on the shore eating one sunset after another Ashes, Burnt by the Sun Or, Here comes the mother Having sold her daughter The mad will roam again, looking for A drowned world rage sorrow seared Ashes, Burnt by the Sun. And this— A mad woman has been sitting at the ghat For such a long time after her bath Ashes, Burnt by the Sun.
And then there is his most famous madwoman poem, not included in this collection. It is titled "Pagli, tomar sathey," meaning "Madwoman, with you," which opens thus: Madwoman, with you I'll spend a fearful life [my translation] No matter how many times I read these poems, I am always left asking myself two disturbing questions: is this poem about someone like me?
Am I mad? For in Goswami's world, the madwoman does not live in the attic. She is you and I, the woman a lover takes to bed, to the theatre, to the dust and the storm, to Shyambazar and to proofreading sessions, and so on.
It is this everyday quality of madness that gives Goswami's poetry so much of its energy. He finds it everywhere—the madness of tradition and the madness of individual talent. The madness that turns a companion into a competitor; the madness that attends the uncertainty of ending a poem; the madness that has turned poetry into a consumer product; the madness of migration, between nations and between genres.
As I read through Sampurna Chattarji's affectionate and efficient translation of this selection of Goswami's poems, I was grateful to her for having preserved that madness; for, while sanity might bind us as a community, it is the specificity of our madness that makes us unique.
Bangla's vernacular energy is difficult to communicate, especially when translating a poet as creative with new expressions as Goswami. I was inspired to look up the Bangla when I encountered the expression "worry-water" in the poem "Escape Route," and to find out what had given birth to the English expression" mygoodness!
No explanation for madness. Read bio.
Sumana Roy writes from Siliguri, a small town in sub-Himalayan Bengal. Her website can be found here. A superstar poet is just as much an oxymoron as a wealthy poet. Since a literary critic, in spite of her nosey detective instincts, has access only to a writer's words and not their bank records, it is difficult to say whether the Bengali poet Joy Goswami is the latter. The film is about a man who is terribly and stereotypically a 'poet': absent-minded, lacking in worldly wisdom, social skills, and emotional intelligence, indifferent to his wife and household and yet dependent on her income and housekeeping skills. In keeping with his affinity for casting commercial 'stars' in his films, a business decision he does not hesitate to admit, Ghosh cast Bengal's most popular actor, Prosenjit Chatterjee, as the poet Indranil.
Joy was born on 10 November in Kolkata. His family moved to Ranaghat , Nadia West Bengal shortly after and he has lived there ever since. Goswami was introduced to and encouraged with respect to poetry by his father, Madhu Goswami a well-known freedom fighter in the area. He lost his father at the age of six, after which the family was sustained by his mother, a teacher. She died in
In the evening sadness comes and stands by the door, his face Is hidden, from the dying sun he took some colors and painted his body The sadness comes in the evening, I stretched my hand and he caught my wrist, in an iron-hard clasp He caught me out from my room, his face Is black, he is ahead of me and I follow him I crossed from the evening to the night, from the night to the dawn, then the morning, the noon, the day, the month Crossing water, tree, boat, city, hill Crossing blows, stumbling, poison, suspicions, jealousy, graves, genocide, the bones and ribs of civilization, swamp and grass Then crossing my own death, death after death, going on and on The bony fingers holding nothing but a pen Nothing Since then always the sound of the bird beating its wings in his skull, When he tried to hear someone instead he heard that sound, When he looked in someone's eye he always saw the eye of the bird, Waking up every morning he cut off one friendship, In the night when he lay beside his sleeping wife, checking his own body He wants to examine it to be sure that his wife is not sleeping with anybody else. By pressing your own throat you strangled many times the shout of delight You restrained the shout of delight when death was near Are you dead?