“By the Banks of the Ajoy…” Reviewed by Federica Nightingale

The last poetry collection by Subhankar Das, “By the Banks of the Ajoy, Jaideb Vanishes into
the Blue”, is a true jump into a world of images and stunning views of ordinary life. Edited by
Virgogray Press, the book is printed bilingual, in English and Bangla. The title poem of the book
alludes to authors Henry Miller and Henry Denanant while mingling with echoes of Bangla lore of
the mythical poet Jaideb who lived by the river Ajoy. The poet’s poetic language and voice — a mix
of traditions — with the peculiar match of bilinguism, give the reader an enlightened view on the
puzzle of existence, as well as the surreal effect of transforming every verse into a necessary path
which leads to the Truth. Natural elements are the stones on which the poet inscribes his visions, by
drawing a straight line that separates appearances from substance. Voices from the past, memories,
and the blues often populate the lengthy free verse, telling us short stories of love and melancholy,
while a disenchanted eye of resignation keeps looking forward toward success. Subhankar Das’
poetic world is strictly cynical, apparently hopeless; beauty is a mere misunderstanding, a conflict
turned into slapstick comedy. Pervading the whole book is a pessimistic vein in which life and
death alternate between despair and nothingness, causing a loss of trust in love, which could be
the only anchor. The long prose poem that is the collection’s title piece can be considered to be the
manifestation of the author’s exploration of life’s mysteries, black holes, and unsolved responses,
his search for a way to human nature and nature’s signs. A powerful visionary grasps at a gleam of
hope. Without doubt, this is a worthwhile and inspiring read.

“That pretty fish in my aquarium who loved me so dearly is gone

today. Why do they all go? Where do they go? There is a staying

in every going away. All the rocks are but mad. They have lost

their stoniness in these magical lights, unknowingly, that’s why

instead of the heart there plays a light. She’s not here but I see

her sitting on a chair every day with her tresses flowing,

thinking unmindful.”

(from the poem By the Banks of Ajoy, Jaideb Vanishes into the Blue)

Federica Nightingale is a poet, writer and translator. She is Editor in Chief of  Project Collage (Errant Editions Small Digital Publisher).

New from Subhankar Das: By the Banks of the Ajoy, Jaideb Vanishes into the Blue

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.

New Releases

Mostly Spinach by Joseph Goosey. Art by Luca Dipierro

 New chapbooks will be available starting in June. Look for America Remembered on June 20, 2010 to be followed by new releases from Joseph Goosey and Peter Magliocco in July.  Other writers with forthcoming releases include Sara Crawford, Michael Mc Aloran, Doctori Sadisco and Felino A Soriano. We also have news regarding a distributor we’ll be hooking up with out of El Paso, TX. More details on that soon. Also be on the look out for more readings and live events to take place in the not too distant future. We’ll be sure to post them here for your chance to see our authors live in person. There are more great titles to come and great poems over at Carcinogenic Poetry that include work from the likes of John Grochalski, Gary Beck, James Brush, A.J. Kaufmann, Anna Coakley and more! Thanks, readers and writers alike! 

Mission: Submission 

We here at Virgogray Press are familiar with the need for submissions to make a great publication and can’t thank the writers enough, those who chose to pursue Virgogray as a venue for their writing, a place for readers and lovers of writing to come. There are many ways to send your work to Virgogray, but don’t stop there; send your work to other independent zines and small presses, too. There is such a benefit to community and networking with other writers and keeping your name and voice out there and the independents are doing a great job of that. Both electronic and print avenues are abundant, out there, keeping the culture alive for web goers as well as the traditional tactile book reader. We’d like to share a brief list of some possible venues to explore: 

Eviscerator Heaven -(Internet) Evisercator Heaven publishes on a rolling basis. Many great voices have contributed to the life of this publication. Check it out. 

Fissure Magazine – (print) From Shadow Archer Press comes an art and literature magazine featuring poetry, prose, visual art and more. They are currently accepting submissions for a special “steampunk” themed issue. 

Calliope Nerve: Muse Thing – (Internet) From Calliope Nerve Media comes Muse Thing, an astounding literary internet publication bringing poetry, prose, interviews, reviews, previews, art and more on practically a daily basis. You may want to check out the Eclectic Hookah Newsletter while you’re there! 

Graffiti Kolkata Broadside – (Print) Produced by Graffiti Kolkata in Kolkata, India, the GK Broadside is an international publication of poetry and art! Be sure to check out their chapbooks and other publications! 
As always support local and support independent.