By Mosarrap H Khan
Deceptive simplicity, albeit a clichéd phrase, is what comes to mind when one tries to make sense of Kiriti Sengupta’s disparate set of poems in an upcoming collection, Rituals, to be published by Hawakal Publishers. The themes of the thirty-eight poems that form the fulcrum of the collection range from leftover love, a mother’s love for her newborn, a father’s love for his son, a husband’s love for his wife, and transgressive love. As I read the collection and try to impose a structure to wrap my head around the compelling poems, love seems to be one structuring principle in Sengupta’s collection. Yet, it will be reductive to hang the collection artificially on the peg of different contours of love. His poetry is also about religion, myth, customs, office gossip, and much more. The strength of the collection is its diversity of themes and treatment – prose-poems and free verse cohabit the pages of the collection.
Sengupta’s poems inhabit a space between poetry and aphorism in the way he compresses thoughts and pitches them in a tiny enclosed space. This is true of both his prose-poems and free verses, where intense longing and loss leave their imprint on mundane objects: “Several prominent lips on cups and plates…cigarette butts stick out from the water jar…the filth radiates intimate odor. My tired eyes uncover the kohl of night, while my glasses spot tears” (“Comeback”). The minute aphoristic space is further compressed, “Roadside lamps romance with their acrylic veneers” (“On the Richter Scale”). Sengupta’s scale is small, fragmentary, reminding one of poet Sharon Dolin’s formulation that aphorism enters poetry when gaps in life need an apt medium to represent it. There are rare occasions when thinking in aphorism converges with the anticipation of negotiating life, of doing, as when a father comforts his son during an air turbulence, “Relax! Bumps help us / realize the earth” (“Gravity”).
As he set out to do in some of his previous collections, Sengupta envisions a small slice of ordinary life, and then infuses it with transcendence, blurring the line between the real and the magical. In “Observance”, he writes, “Menstrual blood is no different from the one the heart pumps.” Two different generative functions of blood are juxtaposed, the visible with the invisible, the supposedly impure with the pure life-giving force, reiterating Sengupta’s ability to transform the mundane into the ethereal. The evocatively titled collection, Rituals, views life as a series of unconsciously learned beliefs, which could be metamorphosed, loosened from the deadening force of habit. It is the job of a poet to defamiliarize the ordinary.
In Rituals, Kiriti Sengupta does an intriguing job of distilling wisdom from the dross of our daily life, a necessary condition for the possibility of poetry and living.
Mosarrap H Khan is a founding-editor at Cafe Dissensus. Twitter: @mosarrapkhan
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