Kiriti Sengupta’s poems are at once lonely, spiritual and a mystique of the open wide world punctuated with existential questions, In Healing Waters Floating Lamps the poet holds constant dialogue between what is signified — call it God, a moral question or retribution, or even a pantheistic credo. The persistent reference to water, the sea and the ethereal connote a world that is sacrosanct, such as the invocation of a holy city, or a Tagorean utterance of God and a hushed mystical world.
Throughout the poems there is a defiance of the ordinary as the poems catapult into an emblazoned extraordinary world. Yet the poems are not reductionist, they are structures embedded in a philosophy of humanity which is God-centered. The cultural stance that the poet takes is culled from everyday situations such as the apparent ordinariness of a fish depicting a cultural symbol.
The Tagorean impulse dominates some of the poems:
“Have you seen the floating lamps in the river?” (“Evening Varanasi”)
Or “My Master enjoys the stage” … (“Unravel”)
While “Eyes Of A Yogi’’ ends with a crescendo “The mother changes to sky.”
These poems are not arid intellectualism. They are poetry of the heart, the spirit. Yet they are complex interfaces of existence. They are not subject to one interpretation. Such interpretative dimension imbue these with fine, subtle qualities.
Throughout the poems there are reverberations of the infinite pinned down by a finite well-ordered reality. But the subversive elements dominate the poems- this well ordered reality should be transcended into the metaphysics of life. It is a Meta world we live in. The poems reveal this intensity of grappling with prescient but not foreboding truths. Always there is light, not darkness:
“I reach the sky
While I draw a circle in the water
Looking at the image
I take a dip” (“Beyond The Eyes”)
The poems militate against arid intellectualism. They open out the citadels of love, they are not susceptible to one interpretation, they are rather interpretative and multi-layered. They are irreducible statements not of the cerebral, but that of the spirit. This breaks new grounds in Indian English poetry.
The power of Sengupta’s poetry lies within, not without. The images are retained inwardly and inner senses cry out for something, somewhere:
“I have seen my mother
Preparing Ghee out of milk-
She never used butter
To clarify it further…” (Clarity)
“Clarity” here assumes an ambiguous connotation. Do we have it in what we say and do? Sengupta’s poems rest continuously in such clever word making and imagery. Let us look at the images in his poems: eyes, water, tears, river, yogi are some of them. The sacred city of Varanasi is another one. The poet is subsumed by a quest for the ordinary transformed into extraordinary metabolic desires. This gives to his poetry a pugnacity, barring any raucousness. The voice is always quiet, meditative, it is never sentimental or maudlin. If there is a cry for God, then it is an act of surrender. In fact surrender is one of the dominant themes of these poems. But it precludes any kind of overt religiosity. Sengupta’s poems are no ontology, they are direct references to life, the rustic world and sometimes to relationships. They may be direct statements, but their innards are complex and philosophical. They maybe short poems, but they “say” much more than they state. A lot of Indian poetry in English today is pretentiously cerebral and exercises in word play which has become a fetish. Healing Waters Floating Lamps is a refreshing and daring breakaway from this slip shod tradition.
Ananya S Guha has been born and brought up in Shillong, North East India. He has seven collections of poetry and his poems have been published worldwide. They have also been featured in several anthologies. He is also a columnist, critic and editor. He now is a Regional Director at the Indira Gandhi National Open University. He holds a doctoral degree on the novels of William Golding.