By Wani Nazir
Title: Let the Night Sing
Author: Lopamudra Banerjee
Publisher: Global Fraternity of Poets, 2017
‘No writer can stand still. He continues to create or he perishes. Each task completed carries its own obligation to go on to something new,’ wrote Rachel Carson on writing and the loneliness of creative work. All poetry in its own limited frame of reference is great poetry. But seen in a universal frame, the poetry that ‘awakens the poet within us’ is deemed as the greatest poetry. Any poetry that freezes the flowing channels of thinking and creativity in the reader as well as the poet himself ultimately dies its own death. Poetry including all arts per se should be a driving force for an artist himself to create untiringly, continuously; otherwise, the artist in him will perish for good.
Lopamudra Banerjee’s recent book, Let the Night Sing, a bouquet of her poetic musings, without any hyperbole, belongs to the poetry that opens up even the shriveled and plugged channels of creativity in the reader. Opening the cover page of the book, the reader embarks on an odyssey with a longing that there be no end to it.
The mesmerizing musings have been divided into five small volumes (as the stages of human life are, small but as purposeful as possible). The volumes/sections are: 1. Learning to Fall and Other poems 2. The Woman: Unwrapped 3. The Man and the Woman 4. The Voyage Within, and 5. Death, Ashes and Darkness.
Through these five sections, the poet traces the diverse trajectories of her life starting from her girlhood to being a woman grasping her world within and the world without. In the last two volumes, she dives into her inner sea of being brought before the reader symbolically through the metaphor of city, of physical landscape, through the metaphor of death and darkness, symbolizing her conscious stirs and travails to grapple with the realities of life and the metaphysical truths.
In the poem, “Learning to Fall: Lessons from my Childhood”, the memories of the girlhood meander in the mind and psyche of the poet, when:
“In a puddle of memories and rain
My girlhood breaks apart.
a child’s drawing, scrapes of useless artifacts
hum quietly, die out.”
“Unbound”, another sui generis poem reminds me of Clara Reeve, who, in her “An Argument in Favour of the Natural Equality of Both the Sexes” writes:
“Those talents that were once my pride
I find it requisite to hide
For what in man is most respected
In woman’s form shall be rejected”
In the poem, the poet tries to provide a vent through which she tries to voice the ambivalence and uncertainty of fighting a battle with her own self. Through the deployment of antithesis in the beginning, ‘painted walls’ and ‘crushed mirage’, the poet strives to produce an artifice to delude herself that she is sound, but as the poem progresses, she loses the grip and bursts:
“… my crushed contours, dreams die and resurface
Over and over again”
This is the mercurial self of the poet, the stagnancy shakes in every line, stability followed by instability. The poet burns and freezes simultaneously.
The poet is also haunted by Lacanian mirror stage, where an external image of body produces for infants a psychic response that gives rise to the mental representation of “I”. She appears to be an ardent spokesperson of feminism with, to use Dr. Koshy’s words in the blurb, ‘a powerful feminine voice that can sweep us entirely off our feet’. The poem, “A Woman I am”, is the cry of a woman who is
“Walking barefoot, parched and reckless
Swimming, moving, arms wide spread
In the lost tides of time,
The cord, long lost, pulls, tugs at my womanhood
In elemental wonder.”
These lines echo Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s lines from her poem, “Aurora Leigh”:
“The works of women are symbolical
We see, see, prick our fingers, dull our sight.
A pair of slippers sir
Dream of something we are not
The theme of half-desires and how the poet cudgels herself to assuage her smoldering interior also finds a place in Let the Night Sing. The poet parodies the paranoia of Maya in Anita Desai’s Cry the Peacock. For example, in the poem, “Amor Mio”, the poet compares her belongings, herself with a wrecked car; her voice is now fretful, choked as she is not able to chant the ballads of love:
“How can my love hold him
when all I have is my ebony morning,
bruised, breathing like a wrecked car?”
“Let the Night Sing”, the poem the title of the book has been drawn from, is a beautiful manifestation of how joys emerge out of pains. ‘If winter comes, can spring be far behind,’ writes Shelley in “Ode to the West Wind”. The darkness can’t reign forever, the effulgent day will break. The poet makes abundant use of onomatopoeia aiming to strike a confessional tone like that of Amy Lowell and Sylvia Plath. The poet is enjoying the night, creating her own world out of the black canopy, ignited and full of heavenly murmurs. The poet wishes to take advantage of the fair darkness:
Let the moon stay
Let us make love”
In her interview on a TV channel in Kolkata as to what poetry is, Lopa said:
“To me, poetry is a celebration of the broken pieces, the splinters and shards of my being … my naked emotions come through as a means to attaining catharsis.”
And what is poetry if it doesn’t give voice to pain? In the words of Mohiuddin Gowhar, a Kashmiri bard:
Shayiras asan shi zakhman zev anin
(A poet has but to lend voice to the wounds)
Since her poems arise from the pain-struck marrow and shards of her being, to reveal the paroxysms she is gripped with, she draws her images from various sources. Most of the poems wail and weep, shed streams of tears through soul-scathing words and images.
Being a courageous poet, Lopamudra Banerjee’s poems explore eroticism, sensuality, and sexuality, picturing meticulous detail in poems such as “The Fleshly School of Poetry”:
“I love the way you whisper and unbutton,
swing across my face, pushing me back.
Our bodies, a series of practiced curves;
The movements of pleasure in our mouths”
But beneath all this naked sensuality and eroticism, throes of pain seep deep down the marrow of the poet’s being because the form of eroticism these poems exemplifies tends towards the sadistic. In the novel, Claire d’Albe by Sophie Cottin, when Frederic says to Claire, ‘the idea you were suffering for me had something sweeter than the pleasure itself’ speaks volumes of the sadistic pleasure men derive out of the pain women are convulsed with. And Lopamudra Banerjee gives voice to the same perverse concern by using the device of allusion in some of her poems wherein a woman’s pain is shown as invested with erotic power of men:
“Krishna, the daughter of Panchal
Had lost her heart to Arjuna.
But, what did even the losing mean?
The ebbing, swelling, crushing of the waves
Lapped up by five men, calling themselves ‘husbands’?” (“Ode to the Incredible Woman”)
In the poem, “Imposters”, images like ‘mad hound dog, blistering summer heat, charred meat, imperious nuances, unlit rooms, festering wounds’ turn the tone of the whole poem dismal and gray. The imagery, as in other poems, is concrete, making the language all the more imagistic – ‘nearer the bone.’
In “A world without Poetry”, the poet has put forth the nakedness of the world that happened because the world is now deaf and mute and can’t hold the heart as Wordsworth so poignantly writes in “The Tables Turned”:
“We murder to dissect
Enough of Science and Art
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.”
Banerjee is deeply concerned that the world is no more a safe place for poetry to flourish as is revealed in the lines,
“Collective tangling of prosaic voices
Barbecue in the summer heat”
The poet employs a range of vocabulary and diction which compels the reader to read more and more of her powerful poems. The verses in which the poet seems to have the passionate love of being immortalized come across so alive that these verses of Hafiz Shirazi reverberate in the very being of the reader:
Hargiz nameed aanki dilash zinda shud ba ishq
Sabat ast bar jareeda-e-aalam dawaami ma
Never do they die whose heart is reborn by Love,
Our immortality is established on the tabloid of the world.
Let the Night Sing is available on Amazon India.
Wani Nazir is a Kashmir University gold medalist in English Literature. He teaches English at Senior Secondary School Level in the Department of Education, J&K. He writes poetry and prose in Urdu, Kashmiri, and English and is the author of a collection of poetry, And the Silence Whispered.
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