Gauranga Mohanta’s three collections of poetry titled Adhiprantar Jure Chhayasarir (A Shadowy Figure Pervades the Agonized Prairie, 2009), Sunyata o Palakprobaha (Voidness and the Flow of Feather, 2012), and Trogoner Gan (Songs of a Trogon, 2016) are the focus of this discussion. Of these, Adhiprantar Jure Chhayasharir is his debut publication while Troganer Gan is the last one to come out until December 2016. Poems written in the time span from 2009 to 2016 reflect the coming age, remembrance, discovery, and an inquisitive mind to explore the unknown. His poems are like humans—sometimes transparent and in other times opaque!
In Mohanta’s poems, there are forests and villages. But these forests do not call upon a wild ambience nor do they coax someone to be an escapist; instead they open up a reader’s third eye to see the darkness of jungles in cities. On the other hand, his villages are not mere rustic locales; redundant, they mirror the pastoral. And in the middle of these two extremes, there stands a different domain—a lone galaxy. His imagery and expressions from the very start follow two oxymoronic paths and arrive at a touchdown fully unknown. However, in interaction between the probable and improbable, there emerges a surrealistic space and time. While the city ructions remain absent, the images get fully pregnant with sylvan silence and quiet.
A silent trip, which is ambivalent and twisted, becomes recurrent in his poems where life appears to be an inward glance, remembrance comes to an end, poem takes the charge, and memory becomes a sagacious ally. Since Mohanta’s poems are self-acknowledging, Bradford and Birampur are not mere a space; they are time as well—Utopian time! At the moment of exit, he says:
‘When the setting sun sinks into paddy field, Antarbrita, I shall go to your home passing the glimmering yellow’ (Syamal Antargriha / Verdant Inner House).
Mohanta is a seeker and his seeking is seen in following lines:
- ‘The oak view that takes the roving light into another scene, I seek the fragrance of that mysterious power’ (Abhibasi Jal / Expatriate Water).
- ‘I run after geyser, the air rains icy cold water of the Rongbuk glacier on my sinews’ (Pakhiparimal Shish / Redolent Whistling of a Bird).
- ‘When my trembling sight expands on the wide road of Birampur, you arrive with the zing of a Chinese spring flower’ (Sunyata O Palakprobaha / Voidness and the Flow of Feather).
Mohanta’s poems reflect his intense personal experience where social organizations and laborers are symbolic representations. For this, he hits the road or steppe for a word or solitude not for mankind or the state but for himself. In his works, words are equivocal bearing no meaning, as there exists no meaning in life itself. There are desires for existence, memoires of broken dreams, cessations, and all kinds of cravings. They represent helplessness of a person and voidness of a naïve soul. This poet has confidence in himself and reading his poems is an experience, which gives a feeling of walking lonely in a desolate steppe for long in a sad mood where a natural flow of wind is halted due to lack of a criterion for immaculacy. It happens also because mathematical certainty is a sham, ultimate experience cannot be felt via brackets of times, and the future is not clear as daylight.
Many things have remained unexpressed in Mohanta’s poems. Freudian constructs, as reflected in his poems, seem to have intertwined with human life as dogging shadows, which appear to be a never ending mystery. State exists in his poems in an utter clandestine way and so does the ever changing relationship between power-structure and production. Even love comes into scene among all these! Sexuality seems to have squeezed as well as a foggy awning with all its intensity and secret desires. All these items are wreathed together by the string of personal experiences as if the poet is constructing and deconstructing his own biography. However, to customize an autobiography as per others’ expectations is not free from doing and redoing, as there remains incompleteness at all times. Therefore, the ‘self’ that we find in his poems is Lacanian and for that reason always on the go and incomplete. The subconscious in his works is constituted of loneliness, solitude, cessation, existential crisis, secret love affairs, and unmitigated desires, which constantly knock at the door of the conscious to emerge in symbolic expressions. Yet, his poems are not merely confined within it; instead, he takes recourse to history and self-identity to deconstruct the human psyche and the city life establishing a new knowledge denying limitations.
He has denied the world confined in space and time and created one which is as symbolic and intangible as an intergalactic telegraph message!
Love, sexuality, and eroticism have emerged in his poems via symbols and imagery. However, he has not remained merely confined within a probable Freudian equation; on the contrary, he has crossed the realm and stepped into a world of the real and the surreal. In the images, all matters and incidents are indicative and emblematic. His poems are prone to privacy and abstraction, which reflect the velocity of counter logic, counter realism, and counter feeling where Freudian subconscious takes off and flies away to the depth of a worldly address. Freud once remarked that wherever he had gone, he found a poet already sitting there. Therefore, secret signal is poetry’s future, as life is symbolic. A symbolic representation of the subconscious desire stands firm in his consciousness. If that is what it is then what is it that Mohanta wants to say behind the scenes? If pried into, it is found that the poet is uncertain in his hunt. He is Lacanian in seeking the world behind symbols. Lacan says that love is being sought what is not found in the world. The secret desire of Mohanta is unidentified and arcane, which remains a ‘void’ by the end of the night. Yet, he is not that postmodern who would brush away everything as illusion and chimera. Mohanta’s poems are arcane but not spiritual.
Where person to person contact breaks down, his poems come up with the presence of an absorbed existence. The poet has created his own space and time by shredding these two properties denied the humankind caught in it. That is why his poetry has created a myth of its own overshadowing time, space, and history. In question of probability, life is limitless and so is Mohanta’s poetry. For this, his poems portray a constant progress from the existence to the non-existence. He has not wanted to break off all relations; instead, he has discovered a new formula for cohesion, which no doubt has added a new dimension to his poems.
Mohanta’s poems could have ended at any point, which is very similar to life itself, as it has the property to start or end at any point. His poetic images are unbelievably sensitive, deep, and every now and then quite complex.
Verses in his poems are at times aphoristic. For example:
- Sensitive life is not strategic; it cannot get back to the point of origin due to the touch of technology (Jiban-plabitar Kathokatha / The Tale of Ever-flowing Life)
- Waiting radically changes a being (Brishtir Alokmoy Pakha / The Luminous Wings of the Rain)
- No darkness can envelop a festival (Rajbari Camp)
- Although mask helps get rid of a sun-blazed society or detective agencies, it doesn’t help keep the conscience (Mukhos O Mrityu / Mask and Death)
- Burnt with deception the wailing of the clouds raises an unbearable echo of chorus in tufts of our thin hair (Sunyata O Palakprobaha / Voidness and the Flow of Feather).
- Depression is often terminal—its sublime roots ooze through all scenarios (Drisyer Pechhone Drisya / Sights Precede Sights)
- To comprehend the full meaning of something meaningful is impossible (Nadi O Snanswapno / River and Bath-dream)
- With our death, numerology ends; there is no chance for it to be publicized across generations (Sankhyapadma / The Numerological Character of a Lotus)
- Shadow is important to highlight the brightness of blood (Machher Soundarjochhaya / The Shadow of Fish Beauty)
- Gray eagle looming in the horizon will bite into our tasty body; I will only watch that to happen but won’t get any time to explain (Andhakar O Trogoner Gan / Darkness and the Song of a Trogoan)
- Humans are basically a non-parochial being (Jhalaikara Akash / The Sky Wielded )
Many words in his poems have stood up and meant something beyond their regular dictionary meanings. First of all, in general, a poem’s metaphor, symbols, imagery, and allegory give birth to a particular space and time. Where do Mohanta’s poems stand in that perspective? His poems’ surrealistic imagery and the element of personal experience land us on a colorless, shadowy world that stays apart from the known one. If that is true then can we consider his poems standing in terms of memory line or as a man living in the riverside? His poems seem to be tragic, pensive, and stoic yet serious. Darkness in them emerges in different colors, depth, disappointments, and probabilities.
Arte de Garte once said that abstract form of modern painting and art had made him incomprehensible, hard, and distant to the humans. There occurred dehumanization in case of art, which has made people distant in the line of understanding it. Although Mohanta’s poems are abstract, polygamous, yet they are not distant from the mass. Abstract form has turned poetry into symbolic and polygamous. For this reason, modern poetry is personal without social lessons. Before capitalism and industrialization, social instruction in poetry was a must. Because no one is certain about the meaning of life—all is relative. Meaningful and meaningfulness all are psychological. Life is personal and anything, which is personal, is political. Abstract form gives freedom to poetry but at the same time it often makes it uncertain and indefinite. That is why Mohanta doesn’t have any option other than becoming abstract, as he says: ‘Behind all these scenes, there exist more scenes’ (Drisyer Pechhone Drisya / Sights Precede Sights).
The struggle and deprivation of the working class are prevalent in his poems. The supernatural and magical imagery make his poems introspective and usher in the supra-reality of the philosophy of life. The man who lives on the borderline of darkness appears in his poems with all conflicts and the panorama of reality is evident in his poems. That is why he looks for darkness, surprise, and the abashment in his works and because of that an all-encompassing preoccupation has brought human life that hangs in the void of uncertainly in his poems to the yard of surrealism. There exist the human adversity and affliction and the struggle and the resistance.
Mohanta’s poems, which are usually pregnant with a secret inclining, often leave us swinging on an impassable periphery. Although it occurs that Frost’s imagery has heavily impacted him, yet he has retained his individuality. Via his poems, he touches on feeling, emotion, tradition, and imagery. He is quite different from Jibanananda in immersing in his feeling, faith, and thought. His imagery is indicative of an unknown and arcane world where symbols play a vital role.
Although Jibanananda didn’t deny his time and contemporary politics, yet he was far away from them; politics appears in a surrealistic form in his works. To a magpie-life, politics is irrelevant. That is why a society disheveled by communal riots doesn’t show up in his feather-falling songs. But in Mohanta’s Trogoner Gan, there appear refugee life, war, and images of movie clips. By engraving a lithograph of nature, he rather emphasizes on intuition than consciousness. In Jibanananda, in some cases, human beings are caught in the vortex of fate; whereas, in Mohanta’s works human beings are submerged in the depth of feeling in-lining with an infinite self. His works seem to have crossed the geographical boundary of Bengal and reached the land of unconquerable Hun-cavaliers. His statements in the poems are conclusive. Tradition and sensibility have come up in here in this way: ‘Since I know that ferrous lighthouse won’t be built, I keep countless earthworms in my brain—they become healthy by drinking my densely ecstatic memory and dreams.’
In the poem dedicated to Dr. Benoy Kumar Banerjee titled ‘Alokshya Lithosphere / Invisible Lithosphere’, he pronounces: ‘Once I hid some rain-drenched crystals on the south side of the Shal pond, now I need to wash them up in tears’. This utterance of the poet makes the ambience sad. It indicates that he is not a Platonic empiricist; rather he is prone to welcome the shadowy supernatural in life. No ideals are perceptible in his poems, not even in Bradford or Birampur. The shadow behind the matter is seen in his poems, as in accordance with quantum space theory, even in life, life is subjective and mental. Emerging from the Newtonian concept of time and space, his poems moves forward to Einsteinium stance of space and time. That is why like Lord Buddha, Mohanta thinks that void is all pervasive. But there is further exploration of this life devoid of glory and God. Accepting no nirvana in life, he announces that matters that count are sense and feeling.
In his poems alongside Asian imagery we find American ones. Beside a Chinese cavalier at a mountain foot, there appears an old oak tree in American Forest—the imagery is a fusion of the domestic and the foreign. Eroticism in his poems is like a letter inside a symbolic envelope. It has arrived in Freudian secrecy in the form of telegraphic message.
Some tales sporadically appear in his poems. However, these tales need to be discovered by adding the seemingly unconnected areas in his poems. In the first three poems of his second collection, the stories of refugee camps have become rife. In the poem titled ‘Rajbari Camp,’ there are images of insult, shame, glorification, and pain. In ‘Aguner Palasmudra O Swades / The Fiery Palas Posture and Homeland’, we see how domesticated men and women become refugees. However, these poems focus on description rather than opinion. That is why the mechanism that drives people to be refugees remains latent, which demands to be explored. Politics lies there in clandestine form. In refugee life, ugliness is a reality and so is the distortion of psyche. We exist in a dialectic relationship between the world outside and the world inside. That is why, Mohanta says:
‘As much green is the heart so much it is full of emptiness’ (Protaranagahan Ratrijal O Sunyata / Deceptive Night-water and Voidness)!
In expressions, the poems are simple as if they are rural mothers wearing bangles. Mohanta, as a resident of a planet like a sensitive devotee, seems to be emphasizing more on feeling than logic. To him country doesn’t mean an organization built with political stances; instead, it is a state that exists in emotion and anticipation. Youth is a fleeting matter in his poems, as he says: ‘Youth as sweat evaporates like a piece of macket’ (Adhiprantar Jure Chhayasarir).
All sorts of postmodern skepticism have come up in his works. However, in the last count, he is not a cynic. He has optimism. Human beings and nature are not out of state power; and development is a lullaby imposed by political power. His poem titled ‘Ritwik Ghotak / An Upright Horse’ reflects the mercurial state of politics. Here we further find the symbolic expression of life caught in the shackle of state.
Mohanta’s works do not thoroughly uphold Marxist ideology nor are they akin to Bakhtinian carnivalesque, as they do not present state as a divider or the body as an overpowering holy scripture. To him state is personal while human psyche appears as an all pervasive existence with all its expanse and perversion. Humans are divided only in concept and material.
Even travel in his poems is not true nor is discovery. Life is possibly a perverted navigator’s renewed galactic voyage, which gets reflected in the poem titled ‘Bhromorsatya / The Teachings of Bumble-bee.’ This has again been reiterated in ‘Khoai Jole Vese Jaoya’ (Floating through the Khoai Water) where he says: ‘The divisive line between the worldly and the unworldly has vanished long since.’
In Mohanta’s poems, Birampur shows up as a past, a psychic time, and a no man’s land, which keeps coming back to his consciousness. That is why we see him say: ‘I keep throwing away the desolate past of Birampur tearing it into pieces like an imperishable discus.’ At one point, humans and God become one entity. His poems are like chapters of Tripitaka sans the foot and end notes. God does not appear much in his works and if He does then it is not a supernatural being that we perceive; instead we find an amalgam of memory and oblivion and conscious and unconscious.
The poet has broken down the traditional forms of poetry introducing a fact that poesy does not lie in verses; rather, it lies in symbol and aspiration. The intransitive verbs in his poems give birth to this concept that the world is drawn by an inexorable destiny that the world is a symbolic lexicon having scenario behind scenario and reason behind reason.
In Trogoner Gan, there are references to ‘fine brightness’ and ‘vibration.’ Are they same? It occurs that in penultimate poem (‘Bhasha Drisyer Brikrita Prochchhaya’/ Language, the Distorted Umbra of Sight) in the book, he is a follower of Wittgenstein, Stewart Hall, and Derrida where language is neither a reality nor an expression of an entity but there where language is a structure wherein reality walks in putting off its shoes. In the poem, his mythical conclusion is as follows: ‘In universe, sky is valueless to the dust over which we fight and exult. The value of the history of psychology of the sky has not yet been determined.’
Mohanta’s poems expand an all-seeing reality nurtured in the dark of the consciousness; only a powerful and introspective observation is important there. And there resounds the darkness of an evening-prone consciousness. He seems to be quite eccentric and innovative in discovering imagery, which is jumpy and vertical. The instant time and space, all of a sudden, become the start up of his poems and drag us to an everlasting and self-evident time. There appears an assessment of world beyond world and time beyond time. The symbolic shadow of Freudian realm emerges in his works even in broad daylight. That is why the finding and realization remain beyond one’s sense perception. The symbolic jump of sense perception coming off the state of sense perception gives us the engrossing and excitement of an introspective explorer. What we keep folded up in our breast pocket e.g. love, rejection, lust, darkness, wrapper, motivation, etc. in everyday life shows up one by one and then vanishes. Where life is requisitioned by the unknown, there gathers a secret dew on the poet’s eyeglass in silence till today.
Original text by Akramuzzaman Mukul
Translated by Dr Muhammad Alamgir Toimoor