A Foreword by  Allen Ginsberg

Bengali's a tongue spoken by as many people as used to live in France,the big city is Calcutta,the Ganges here called Hooghly river looks like Hoboken Hudson but mud yellow with a big bridge passes thru to empty into the Bay of Bengal.

The great poet of the tongue Tagore is sung better than recited or translatd and everyone feels nostalgic for Rabindranath songs.As a modern literary kelson he seems to be a big bore:that is to say early XX century academic preoccupations in the poetic field were so dominated by Tagore festivals, speeches,recitations,criticisms that his work has become institutional and apparently of little use (besides lovely fireside enjyment)to the young.One poet now dead, killed in 1954 on Rashbehari Avenue run over by a tramcar, Jibanananda Das, did introduce what for India would be "the modern spirit"-bitterness,self-doubt, sex, street diction, personal confession,frankness,Calcutta beggars etc.-into Bengali letters.From gossip(not reading Bengali myself)I gather that Jibanananda does serve, among all older poets, as a model for the young.

The poet Sunil Ganguly (the longer version of his name in formal Brahmin style -Sunil Gangopadhyay) is an old friend of myself since we met back in Calcutta in 1962.Sunil Ganguly is an excellent poet in Bengali and a good drinking companion.

In those days Sunil Ganguly worked at two newspaper jobs to help support his family.He met his big gang of friend poets in an upstairs coffee house across the tramcar-bookstall street from Calcutta University

On Monday nights; they argued with friendly Marxist poets , they fixed up dozens of little magazines, they went to country liquor shops (rice wines) and got pastered; after the trams stop at midnight they walked home half the length of Calcutta thru dark foggy streets.

Sunil Ganguly has also written novels since 1962,two of which (The Adversary and Days and Nights in the forest)were made into movies by the internationally famous cineaste Satyajit Ray. Sunil is now literary editor of the great Bengali journal Desh.Sunil Ganguly's poems are interesting in that they do reveal a temper that is XX Century International ,i.e. the revolt of the personal.Warsaw,Moscow,San Francisco,Calcutta, the discovery of feeling.You have a really simpatico human being speaking here.

New York City, Allen Ginsberg
December 1989

Poems of Sunil Ganguly (Gangopadhyay)
(Translated from Bengali by Sheila Sengupta)

A nuisance of the dead
The truth of life
Poetic madness
An insult and a reply to Neera
Not Art, it's you, I want.
For the coming years
How I live now
My midwife Ma
The offerings
The poet

A nuisance of the dead

At times, a note book of poems makes a frightening noise,

The face of another poet comes to my eyes,

These showers,,this solitude,this lazing around in the evening,

All seen through another poet’s eyes,

The words of another poet keep coming forth,

These words ,under some alien command

Fall in line,

As if they become like a poem,surely a poem , whose?

As if in my undesired hands,plays my own helplesness

Suddenly one evening ,a poet dead over half a century, , steals

My lonely awakenings,my discerning the rains,

Snatches away my words and sentences,his heartbroken grief,unfinished breath,

His eagerness for speech

Touching my pencil, flaps its wings,I feel scared

I shut my eyes and relish that fear with closed eyes.

If I visit a woman now,I shall see clearly-

Holding on to the woman’s arms,and locked in kiss

- a poet dead for over half a century.


I see you -standing in the balcony,

a look of arrogance plays on your face-

- but that doesn't suit you Neera, it just does'nt

Are you just any other lady,

leaning from any balcony,-

silhouetted against the twilight?

You are mine alone.

As I see you from afar

-your hair shorn of lustre,

and dew-strewn face,

with your chin resting on your palm,

you look a true woman,

but that look of arrogance on your face-

it does'nt suit you,

it does'nt!

Remember Neera, its the viewer who makes you beautiful,

the viewer is the one who creates,

and amidst it all-

your pensive beauty mingles with the breeze sighing outside.

The truth of life

The day rolls on,

did you not hear, oh Sanyasi ?

like a stone rolls down from the top of a hill,

the day comes to an end.

the world stays calmed by the rains,

the shores are desolate,

only a boat on the shallow river –rocking all by itself.

Come back-oh Sanyasi,

such painful wounds on your feet,

how much further will you go?

does a road remain to be travelled,

even as life comes to an end?

life is the only truth of life,

there’s nothing beyond that,

Come back , Oh Sanyasi,

come into the world of desires,

remove your attire,

shed your tears for the smallest griefs,

hold the child in your lap.

come back, oh Sanyasi,

so much forgiveness remains to be asked ,

life is coming to an end,

the boat is rocking ,all by itself
on the shallow river shores.

Poetic madness

Neera, when you looked up at me, and smiled,

it seemed as if a hundred windows opened out to the sunlight-

Your bindi, a little smudged,

as if fading into the distant horizon,

and the 'kajal' in your eyes-

Was it there? It was'nt!

Neera, I met you for three minutes at the busstop,

yet, in my dream.you stayed for eternity,

How easy you sat, and yet,

Now, more than a year has passed,

and I still remain so restrained!

It's sheer madness,I know,

I shake off my dream,

and walk down to the distant bus stop all alone!

An insult and a reply to Neera

Standing on the steps,why did you laugh ,three friends remained witnesses,

Standing on the steps,why did you laugh ,three friends remained witnesses,

Standing on the steps,why did you laugh ,Neera,why did you laugh,why

as if in sleep,a lightning struck suddenly,as if on the steps,

Standing on the steps,Neera,you laughed,three friends stayed as witnesses

Standing on the steps,why laugh,why witness,why friends,why three ,why?

Standing on the steps,why did you laugh,three friends remained as witnesses

I touched your hand,after some seven or eleven months, that hand

a little lean,not cold,nor warm,more enigmatic than the past

like the ripples of laughter -a bloodstream,a hand so much my own,

but for the cigarette,I would have breathed its fragrance,embracing with both my hands

but for the cigarette,I would have breathed its fragrance,embracing with both my hands

not that of face or hair,by touching that hand,Ican perceive everything,I

am greater than all other doctors,by touching a hand,I have got in the distance

a bhramar in my words,an echo,emptiness of flowers-

of flowers?or of crops? A train whistles under the balcony,as if

a ticket has been bought in jest,I’ll go abroad again by sea or river…abroad again,

that hand sitting by the window of a train,will wave a handkerchief.

I have come on the road, its not cold any more,my breath without a body, a taxi

speeds to the Heavens,a throated laugh floats in the magic evening,

not a drop of vapour in my head,a semi-wakeful sleep,so wonderful, in my eyes,

sleep!I remember sleep,you,sleep you,sleep,standing on the steps why sleep

do you take a bath before going to sleep?Neera,you,in my dreams,it was as if like this…….

Or a song?The mirror in the bathroom is like a terrible memory,

Do you rememember- in the bus stop? in a dream within a dream –in a dream,in the bus stop

We have never met, all that is poetry! the kind of deep sorrow

That we have felt today,yet where is it?that real sorrow of all sorrows,

Like an apparition ,sorrow takes hold of men,

there is no sorrow in the road crossing,Neera

opening the locker of your heart, a little sorrow to me, opening the locker of your heart,

if by touching the hand one could get,touching the hand, in that faded book then another poem

Or the sorrow of not having sorrow….Love is not bigger than that!

Not Art, it's you, I want.

Fingers are carved in sculpture,

that is why, the entice,in your beckoning hands,

why did you call me to the sandalwood grove

suddenly,in this lonely,twilight hour!

I have come so far ,on a long puzzling road,

life is such a whirling lane,

stumbling every now and then,

I no longer remember,

those light-winged days of my youth,

Neera, do you still wish to play that game !

You are not a statue made of stone,

a soothing glow,

you were a rootless tree,

I was then the wild strummings of restlesness

in a whirling storm,

yet, I had desired your arms,

not stone, not art, Neera

with your breeze-washed feet,

you are only a woman in a woman,

not a lady, but a babe,

in your nape- the essence of all playfulness,

in your trembling breasts

my ears had heard the sound of your awakening,

My hands- not a killer?s, not a poet?s,

hands just wet with sweat,

my eager eyes often made a mistake,

not a lady, but art,

as if you were installed on a dias,

do you wilfully want to turn to stone?

Not in your heart, in your feet,

in your toes, thighs, not of flesh, not your?s, Neera,

as if a sculptured art,

as if someone had desired your beauty to be eternal

as if someone had desired you to be displayed in a museum hall,

caged in a prison of pride,

in the exile of flattery and praise,

you too have conceded,

your tender feet have agreed to turn to stone?

Why did you call me to the sandalwood grove,

suddenly in this lonely twilight hour,

will I return ever again?

so many thorns lie strewn on the way back,

and even if I do return,

with my old attire,

for that enticing gesture,

for whom?

feet of stone, semi-moulded art, or woman,

my Neera, or one just short of becoming a sculpture,

no its you I want,

not a statue, I want you Neera,

bring your true self to me ,dearest,

let the restless lights play on your body.

For the coming years

Grandpa had once given me the Upanishads,the cheaper version,

I hadn?t read it well,

It?s so long since it got drifted away with the floods.

Father had once given me a copy of Nesfield?s Grammar, and Tennyson?s poems,

even those pages have been made into packets by Chanachur hawkers.

In fact, I am quite an expert on the subject of chanachur now,

I know how the salt retains its moisture, how impure the- oil,

why one has to wear a kurta at a marriage party

and why ,at an interview- a coat and tie !

Two conflicting civilizations, had hit me hard in adolescence,

that is why, at the end of the day,I had joined the procession,with a blooded face,

The darkness of the skyline had beckoned me so many times,

it was not easy to fall in step, with the man at my side

with such complications at every step.

yet, even standing away, on one?s own , had invited such despise,

while singing patriotic songs-

I have seen the country drown in a whirlpool of sand,

while trying to go global , I have placed my hand on the shoulders of someone

who later raised a barbed wire on the international borders!

Yet, where the shores are breaking -I have sat for long,

a lightning had flashed like a whip in the sky,

and the waterfoams had raised their claws.

Again in the golden light of early dawn ,

everything seems so peaceful ,

I feel a longing to reach out to men ,

I am unable to find my way back,

I don?t see any familiar face.

At the twilight hour of the twentieth century,

is it then ,that the whole world is way-lost?

For the coming years, I shall leave only a few teardrops ,

In fact,all this is by way of talk alone,

tears are found nowhere except within the lines of poetry..

How I live now

Nikhilesh,come and see how I live,

Is this a mortal?s life,or the last gamble of a skeletal priest?

Every evening,

A breeze starts whirling in my chest,and blood neglects my heart,

I keep sitting like a dog at others? feet-

To see the dog in them!

I do not laugh out in anger,

I walk like a bug next to a bug,

I fly like a mosquito next to mosquitoes,

In intense darkness,

I have dived deep inside a woman,

and lighting a matchstick, found that I have no home in that village.

In my dreams,I have dressed up like the son of a lord,

And visited the theatres,

I have blown off scenes like flower dust,

There wasn?t such a perfume in my sweat ,that could have flared me up!

Nikhilesh what would you call this?

I have pierced nails into my hands,

To see if Jesus had suffered much or not!

I have bloomed like a flower next to a flower,I have loved her not,

I have wiped off my ancestor?s name ,like tears of sweat from my forehead,

I had fallen asleep in the crematorium ,instead of falling dead.

Nikhilesh,this is how I live.

I gained nothing by swapping my life with yours.

Is this a dive into the rivers,like those childood days?

Or a few minutes flutter like changing glasses?

Or lying late at night ,next to a copulating couple,

A wish to be born again?

For there is not much time left,

Even that mark of broken plaster on the wall is very dear to me!

A little attachment still remains, on the northerly breeze

blowing next to the fallen tree.

I step out from wrong names and wrong dreams,

And find that the moths have destroyed the heap of letters,

Yet, I can easily call yellow by its name.

I had pledged everything that I had once ,and desired a moment-

A zero hour of my own,

I had no desire to let you know of this special thought,

But the cold keeps creeping in even more,

at night ,I had never felt such an intense thirst,

everyday,I grope in the dark ,and find three rats,

Not rats but ?Mushik?,

Is it then that the Sanskrit shlokas are waiting nearby?

Nothing but words of sin and sorrow ,at these wrong times,

Come to my mind,

Within my worship and female homicide, a siren goes off!

When my hands begin to work on their own ,it seems they are real,

Nowadays ,my eyes seem to be real eyes, for a moment,

There are not many truths like this ,in the world ,anymore!

My midwife Ma

My midwife Ma is sitting on the footpath of Sealdah,

Her hands stretched out in front of her,

Her lips -at times moving,

Anyone would think she is a day-blind, useless non-entity,

A seventy two year old refugee woman.

The day I was born

She had picked me up from my moribund mother?s lap

And held me close to her chest.

I had suckled at her unripe breasts,

I had sucked in her blood everyday,

Lying close to her rice powder odoured breasts,

I had wailed like a hawk,,

Sometimes, ,with her feet stretched out in the sun

She would massage oil all over my baby skin

showing such ostentatious excess.

Later, I had heard those tales-so many times

from my mother and my aunts.

When I had that virulent attack of cholera

she had bathed in the cold waters ,on a dark Amavasya midnight

and plucked the leaves of the Gandhabadali plant,.

It was she who had placed offerings of Amlaki at the Satyapeer's Darga

Shoving a hand in my pocket, I was now ,trying to find a ten-paise coin

instead of the four-anna bit,

The day-blind old lady kept wailing-"child , give me two paise please!

Oh my midwife Ma, you were the first to open my closed eyes

and sprinkle rose -water drops

You were the one who had first shown me the worldl

Oh Midwife Ma , what kind of world did you show me?

Old lady, oh cursed destructive woman,

Why did you keep me alive?

How much more would I have to lose?

The Offerings

Come, take the look from my eyes,

Take my morning happiness,

Take those favourite words since childhood,

Take the flying swan in the wind of success.

Come , take those secret adolescent shivers,

Take the love like a mountain lane,

Take the letter from a foreign land,

Take the garland made of sunshine and rain.

Come, take the immortal handkerchief ,

Take all promises like flowing streams,

Take the melancholy of the ink and pen,

Take the hands begging forgiveness,

Come take the molten fire in my heart,

Take the ambition like a whirling nor?wester,

Take the resplendent failures,

Take all the treasures of a tattered suitcase,.

Come, take the beckonings of the forests,

Take the opening of endless doors,

Take all tears from the eyes,

Take the holidays,

Come take the compassion saved bit by bit,

Take the remembrance and forgetfulness,

Take the moment of death,

Take the flag of the Heavens?..

Would you give something?

The poet

If you see a poet, he seems to be a cautious sparrow,

yet , his heart is like a soaring hawk

oh, how confusing!

Let the poet be suddenly picked up and thrown into the deep sea,

he would still float on his back,in the tiny river of his childhood,

he will swim in his dreams.

Try entertaining him in a five star hotel ,

just see the way he holds his glass,as if sipping tea from an earthen cup,

laughing ,silently,by himself.

The poet is walking in a procession, yet he seems so solitary,

He is smiling and talking to everybody assembled at a wedding party,

actually he is not saying anything.

A tiny speck of light guides him in the dark,

he keeps looking toward the left, and sees the right, as if squint- eyed,

he stares mostly at the walls!

The road is his mirror, that is why, he cannot see himself,

he keeps his finger dipped in the waters, but those waters are not levelled ,

his chest bursts with thirst.

The lady by the window of a bus- he seats her next to the waterfalls ,

Breaking and making a heaven every moment, as if turning over a page,

he knows the Hell as well.

A mountain peak in a narrow lane, surrounded by a labyrinth,

his house is over there, a deafening noise constantly in the air,

he stays, unseen, in its midst!

The number of times a poet stumbles is not recorded anywhere,

a life full of errors ,he is the Supreme fool on this earth ,

even the Gods fear him.

There is such a deep preoccupation in his silence,

when it seems he is absorbed in writing, actually he is sleeping then,

please forgive him !.