Debasish Lahiri’s first book of poems, First Will and Testament is a testimony of the poet’s astute mastery of the poetic self with a rich feast of themes and idioms. The poet takes us to a virtual image gallery and a whirlpool of human experiences from abstract to sensuous and historical to artistic loops. He digs out meaning out of dry and flat terrains of life’s course. Lahiri is a bilingual academician who hails from a rich literary tradition; a splendid member of a multilingual family.
The haunting presence of the metaphor of death invests his poems with a sense of uncertainty, a sense that is non-negotiable by everyday reason or wit. The fugitive nature of time always chants a sweeping sense of absence:
“In my house
Everything deserves to pass away,
Being my house,
Because everything passes away.” (‘Home’, p. 31)
He speaks for the mystery of love, the mystical element embodied in the man-woman relationship. His poems record and celebrate blue whispers of hearts, immaculate, the innocence ingrained in our sense of mortality, in the immaculate sense of things already passed by:
“Nothing reaches an end.
The trickle of ennui down every day’s brow
Refuses to drop.” (‘Suicide’, p.35 )
He is truly, a poet of note. Lahiri displays a strong sense of metaphysical mysticism in his poetic lines for invoking the maximum emotive impact. In the poem,’ Suicide’ the poet says,
“There is no end to life
Without the end of meaning.” (p.35)
Tanure Ojaide in the introduction rightly observes, “He makes the reader see light out of dark, life out of death, happiness out of sorrow, and vice versa.” The poet blossoms the vases with poetry from the poetic outpour of emotion, different shades of life, lived thoughts, loneliness and isolation.
Mysticism is the art of living and it is the self knowledge that subsumes knowledge of the virtual world. In Lahiri’s poetry ancient myth, legend, and history have been wedded to expose our past glory. Legends, mystery, myth, culture, historical background form the nucleus of his poetry.
The melancholy mood is due to his unhappiness and miseries with the outside world. So the poet blooms the vases with poetry from the remnants, graveyard, hunger, alienation, loneliness and isolation and detachment. From capsulated idea to idea, from master to silent slave, solitude to alienate his identity transmutes the easel of his poetry. So from night to night, the window of hope is the material of Lahiri’s poetic fancy. He invites and embraces ray of hope in ashes of pains, melancholy and misery and ‘the beauty of a night spent sleepless’ as he wants the graveyard to flower without its corpses, and the ‘old poetry’ to shine without its shadows and he wants his hope to hover like a butterfly over a garden. He travels though a ‘long journey away from words.’
“Every word is a quest,
Never ending(.)” (‘Parergon: Night’)
The path to beauty consciousness is strewn with many distractions and is tough to tread. Lahiri brings home the need to go back to the roots; ‘blood-knots of sound’. He is a committed poet and his thoughts are all-encompassing. He seems to be a poet of the ‘seven seas’ and ‘five deserts’. In the poem, ‘Old’ he exclaims in utter ecstasy , ‘ The wind is a door tonight.’ ‘Door’ is a recurring image for Jayanta Mahapatra, one of the leading contemporary Indian English poet. The word ‘door’ haunts the poet with several interpretative possibilities.
A good many of the poems collected here provide very sharp social critiques:
“The wound, now a year deep,
Spreads like the carnation
Of last year’s bloom,
Unlovely and well-remembered.” (‘Clock Symphony: F.J.Haydn’, p.89)
These simple lines bring forth the emotive feelings of Lahiri’s poetic self effectively and succinctly. I enjoyed reading the collection with sheer vigour and sincerity with which the poems explore variegated mosaics of human life.