Selected Bengali Poetry

Presented by KAURAB

Debarati Mitra

Introduction:: Aryanil Mukherjee

Debarati Mitra's (b. 1946) books; a large majority of her best work, are carried by presses and publishers of the official culture, mainly by ABP. She also received the Ananda Puraskar in 1995. Her style is modern, subjective, lyrical, intense and lives far higher than the stereos of gender-centric literature. This has earned her a distinctive place in Bengali literature. Her first book, Andha Skoole Ghanta Baje, (Bell Rings in the Blind School) was published in 1974. Subtle, metaphorical and delicately wrought, her poetry has been widely acclaimed and won many awards. She is believed to have drawn some blood from the devotional Shakta poetry of Bengal. Needless to say, therefore, Debarati Mitra represents one of Bengal's best modernist voices even when her work is not segregated by gender. At the surface language level her poetry is at once made communicative by lyrical ease and sublime tonality; a profounder tectonic study, however, reveals in deeper layers, her subtle dealings with a plethora of issues - social, mnemonic, sensuous, poetic, philosophical, aesthetic and sexual. While one one hand her abstract imagery comes to rest on surrealist metonymy, on other hands her work is sometimes synesthetic, at times boldestly sexual and aesthetically accomplished, often peering into social and psychological landscapes of both women and men. Debarati was born and raised in Kolkata; graduated from Jogmaya Devi College, Kolkata University; has authored eight collections of poetry, married to poet Manindra Gupta with whom she lives a quiet life in South Kolkata.

Some representative poems of Debarati Mitra that cover her range and styles.

Selected Poems :: Debarati Mitra

Bell Rings in the Blind School

In the blind school, the bell has rung
The day’s over for now.
Every pure sound, intact or injured
willingly droops on the chopping block of pain.
Clutching the quiet feet of a Jarul
the wild sunflower shadows it.
Slowly chimed the clock at a conked out hour.

Boy, don’t look back
the light or death you roam in vain to find
throws a faint gleam on the pale shadowed wall
of the blind school – dipping and darting away

Like untrod temples a multiplicity of houses here
their long lines stretching on and on
their soft white shadows
realm beyond realm, to the solitary sea.
There it bows
tossed by waves and turned
benumbed memory crashing against the rocks

Did you ever see
unfinished tomb of a young boy or girl
gazing at the sky weeping silently ?
In the cleft of two lonely peaks
flowers like cotton flakes suddenly scatter
sometimes, abstractedly, in the mountains.

Eyeing the wakenings on the tree-tops:
sometimes in sleep, delirium ending
color of some still, endless, everlasting desire
welling up impossible, exquisite.
Overbrimmed eyes; within or, lonely, outside, forms
Secret and sequestered, a best-loved image:
As through the sun, watching a green pupil
or the boy’s replete overflowing yellow
or some soft brilliant light leaning from the eaves
next door like a blurred lion’s face, a sunflower.
And the bell chimes faraway.
The blind-school bell.
All sounds put to stop
the bell beats faraway.

Jarul - A tree (Lagerstroemia speciosa) with pink blossoms

Translated by Malay Roy Choudhury & Aryanil Mukherjee.

Dedication page

Turn over the leaf to the books dedication page and look
- the wooden bird lies dead in its box.
The tiny leaves of the Krishnachura trees fall in a light
piercing the grassy wasteland;
a white house rises today like an aeroplane,
on the right is the red cross of Sudha Pharmacy.
Ours was a cosy nook:
a streak of turmeric yellow hidden in the thorny bush,
a torn blue thread in the gramophone - resonant with melody,
salty-spicy savouries in pockets and tucked in folds in the brown
fresh butter in the brain, hair like a magic hat,
timid flames on wick-like fingers -
they have rubbed against a stone surface and burnt away,
they will not return again.
At dusk,
there is no one below the margosa tree.
The book’s dedication page trembles on the bough
like a small slanted leaf;
myriad shredded blackbirds are lively in the mist.

Krishnachura - A tree found abundantly in Bengal; has mauve spring blossoms.

Translated by Debjani Chatterjee.

Lukewarm Honey

Why a broad window,
why so much hidden green pigment flew off last night?
Not a familiar attic of the world -
Sunwheel at wildwooded Konarak spins to make music.
No, no, it was cloudy, you had said
clouds, hyper clouds, moistened affection
fine veinlets webbing out the rasna vines
breath thick with sugary scent.
What did you have in your mouth?
Lukewarm honey from nascently broken Venezuelan hives
or was it tears?
Look, your cheek’s molten, your chestlong hair drenched
you’re blue since birth.

A submerged blue like the sky in unlinear windows
unheavenlier than dreams
why does the thought of a fall scare you
press your whispering lips
against lips and tongue.

Moonless, shadeless
aggravating cold of a cluster of distant stars.

Konarak - An east-Indian town famous for its sun-temple.
rasna – an Indian vine

Translated by Aryanil Mukherjee.

A 21st March

Going through an impossible revolution
When in every minute a swarm of butterfiles in errant colors
Rush in to deluge out all, in a trance
A 21st March, when day and night are synonymous –
My blood and soul agitated alike.
OK, then blame it on me
Why, why so dark a mole on the left corner of your lips?
A tiger’s burning striped yellow
Its burnished metal-line speed flashing
Charging hazy heart disconsolate
Body obsessed with the iris, hums all day
That haunting lyric, its notes.
White-and-blue festival day in the sea’s untiring radiation your mole
2:05 AM dynamite blasting in mobile mountains
The unhuman green signal of exploding trains
Get affixed to the brain
Like a slender rusty nail or a sacred cross.

Translated by Aryanil Mukherjee.


From where comes the light of now !
Let me fragmentize the brown diamond
What’s in it ? How many pages, which worm?
It has sucked up the marrow of seasons, molten sky
Enjoyed a million suns once, now distilled.

I too, want to save, cross over abode
Abode meaning the summit, not heaven-home, not ghostland.
I lack a proper vehicle, can never reach there quite.
Wind O’ Water, how do I blend into your animal sublimate ?
If I fly with handless watches
There’s no hole in the horizon.

So he’s my last resort –
A brain filled with black molecules, rectangular chest
In his solitary company
I descend with care into the stones, sandy burrows –
Wordless corrosion damp aeonian air
Thin transparent triangular circle of a Tamarind tree
Gelling but turbid still.
A bird atop emerging greenish white
A mind of wet black sponge
Submerged with dormant speed
Just when the lion wakes
Mouth filled with dancing angels; a half-snake
Legless, hanging hair-plait
Vicious lowering boughs touch my shoulder
I keep walking.

I stare straight at the sky now –
Two fine diamonds fly away in a wink
Fusing into a nebula, immiscible soul.
Into the sockets pours a senseless solar circle
Of collapsing black.

Translated by Aryanil Mukherjee.

Artist Unsuspected

He brought clay from
The lily pools and serene lakes
Filtered fine from the waves of Subarnarekha
To sculpt the festival deity,
On the banks of torrential Jahnabi
Facing alone some God-colored prehistoric red
Blood sensing distant transmissions,
He dug up the earth's soul,
Removing oneself quietly from the surface
Beguiled by subterranean lust
He sinks to recover the dense tirbid mire
From the bottom

Or with amazed eyes
Collecting soft shells of wax
He feels on his hands
The face of a lover
A mother's face as if.
Shedding sweat from forehead to feet
He picks out a slate-shaded metal
Making his doll with extended care ?
Two million years later
Burning meteoric rocks
Fall on the terrace as pristine art -
No more creative space in his sculpture
The artist does not try to defend it
He should not.
Subarnarekha - East Indian river
Janhabi - A mythical Indian river, sometimes used to imply the Ganges

Translated by Aryanil Mukherjee.

The way father is also an inevitable lover

He didn’t throw himself at the young woman’s feet
Or into a requiem
His hand becomes god’s extended metaphor
Moving into the annals of creation like an impressionist
Didn’t say in some symbolic mudra, "I love you".

Empathetic father
Afternoon cottonflowers seeking quiet rain
He returns home to find the window curtains removed
Lazy clouded sleep not calling into meditation states

It’s the Puja season
The girl is holidaying in Junagar
Bee or the cricket hums
Which is the source of nostalgia

Puja - The word puja means worship. However, puja in the Bengali world often refers to Durga Puja – the annual 5-day autumnal festival of worshipping goddess Durga. Puja is holiday season for Bengalis.
Junagar – a small town in India

Translated by Aryanil Mukherjee.




andha school-e ghanTA bAje(1970)

(Bell Rings in the Blind School)

shreshhTha kabitaa(2000)

(Selected Poems)

Selected Bengali Poetry
Selected Bengali Poets Generation-1930
Selected Bengali Poets Generation-1950
Selected Bengali Poets Generation-1960
20th Century
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