Subhankar Das’ new offering of poetry, his collection, By the Banks of the Ajoy, Jaideb Vanishes into the Blue, is a first for Virgogray Press in that it is printed bilingual—in English and Bangla. When Subhankar’s manuscript came across our proverbial desk, we were delighted at the idea of sharing this well-known author’s words and poetry. By the Banks of the Ajoy… did not disappoint. There is a feeling we quite value in poetry, some have described as “the Ah-ha!” moment, it is a moment where you “see through” or your mind begins the penetration of the veil before your eyes. Poetry that does that is important. There were several instances as such found in the pages of this book.
To begin, the poetry collection draws attention to his long prose poem of the same name, a poem inspired by many factors even as writers like Henry Miller and Henry Denander echo through the allusion of Jaideb, the ancient, mythical Bangla poet still celebrated in areas of India today. Like many of the poems in the collection, “By the Banks of the Ajoy, Jaideb Vanishes into the Blue” the poet follows a trail of stream of thought, cut-up, a beatish ripple in the flow of words, subtle and overt wisdoms, and colorful use of imagery that at times touches the reader to pure psychosomaticism (read ”Erosion,” a fettered account of a doctor visit). Longer poems like “Ma” or “A Little More than the River Korkai,” exhibit the poets mastery of poetic language and voice; in fact, the voice of the poet, or the essence of such an entity, is apparent in both pieces, as “Ma” is a semi-sentimental piece, that while taking a backseat from the opening “Focault’s Pendulum,” is still resilient with poetic imagery and cadence:
“ I have preserved the pale ribbon, a tip of which she
held in her teeth to tie her hair and the memories of those
evenings in a box, so that ants do not eat it up.
Be careful, son
Take care, my son
Stay at peace, my son
I take care and I stay wrong. In outmost care whom would I give
those fountain—cherished days, to take care of? Who will try
and understand the smell of the colorless withered ribbon?
Forget about me; just ponder over the closeness of the two
bodies. Consider those poses and reflexes – the falsity too.
Feel the touch of the soft feet. Just feel the touch of the
fingertips on the burning forehead. Without applied color you
and empty and a zero.”
The poem, “A Little More than the River Korkai” begins with fervor of Romantic Passion, and falls into a facet of poetry most desirable, one which speaks to and of the soul, a touch of the supposed metaphysical regarding predetermined lives and the hidden knowledge, the mystic truth about our existence:
“All our deeds were pre-determined
We knew every note about our life, read them before
Since everything was pre-written we completed our task en-route
Now we’ll go to the other room to finish it up, jail the dialogues in blank cassettes
But still the stories of water were never in the notes
Those swirling waters that move with a suppleness of pine trees
Still love was there some parts loved
The rest remained like a blazing rose that I kept touching
The way the winter touches a city, a cigarette and remains like smoke
A borrowed blanket hovers on my shoulder, the same way.”
As Jaideb was a mythical poet of Bangla lore, I believe this collection does justice in recalling traditions and bodes well for the continuity of heraldic verse, with a literary beatitude all its own. This collection is also an outstanding introduction to American readers to the work of Subhankar Das, a poet already carving a niche for himself in his homeland of Kolkata, Bengal, India as a purveyor and advocate of underground Bangla poetry and literature.