Book Reviews

The Grass-Flower

“There is a door in the heart of man which never opens.
Or if it does at times, we are not aware of its opening.” 
- Jayanta Mahapatra

Poetry is a  feast of things to sensitive minds. There are as many definitions of poetry as there are poets in this world. Emily Dickinson said, "If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry." It creates vibes of thought and feelings to a reader. It resonates in the mind for a long period. It is an outburst of ecstasy in a language that befriends human ears.

Ramakanta Das follows a great legacy writers from Orissa: a land of writers and mythological associations. Jayanta Mahaptra, a doyen bilingual poet, happens to be the mentor (direct / indirect) for all distinguished English poets from the land of Sri Jaganatha since 1970s. For Jayanta Mahapatra, his roots lie in Orissa and there lies  his past and in which lies his “beginning” and “end”. Many poets from the eastern India followed the footprints of the great bilingual writer.
Ramakanta Das’s early education and familiarity with English poets contributed  a lot to his poetic inside and he is fully aware of it. He has emerged as a superb wordsmith tinged with sweet cadence and rhythm. The Grass-Flower is a brilliant poetic announcement of a poet who believes in ‘stoic silence’. P.G. Rama Rao in his Foreword candidly exclaims, “The Grass-Flower would qualify for the top shelf in Indian poetry in English.” The book is a veritable  image gallery streaming from various sources  and a reading wonder!
For Ramakanta Das, poetry is an imaginative awareness of experience of life’s daily acts:

Tear is generated
Drop by drop
And when it sheds
It sheds to the very last drop. (p.58, ‘Futility’)

His poems like ‘Nirvan’  and  ‘Draupadi’ are rooted in our mythological and philosophical heritage that we imbibe generation after generation.This poetic outpour reflects Ramakanta’s close proximity with the mother tradition. Indian-ness  shines with its true colours! The same trend spills  over white pages and glitter with dignified images and inter-textual references.It invites a reader to sit and enjoy reading the poems seriously.

Ramakanta’s poems in this collection usher in a whirlpool of fresh ideas and a new zeal for life and joy of living where positive vibes attract a sensitive mind:

“I have loved
And will not part ways
With the tired-setting sun (.)” (p.78, ‘Dawn’)

Open-endedness is the soul of poetry. It leaves the interpretations open. Ramakanta searches for a Gangotri somewhere beyond the physical canvas. Some of his images like “tough hands of Autumn”, “fatigued soul”, ”a season-less time” really move our hearts.
 Ramakanta,like other postcoloniual poets, doesn’t hesitate to use Indian words and expressions to use Indian sensibility to the maximum. We may quote a few to justify our claim:
Arjun, Gulmohar,Tanpura,Yamuna,Yashoda, Tulsi plant, etc.
These words and expressions contextualise his thoughts appropriately. It is a true facet of expressions by a bilingual bard for whom the mode expression belongs to his personal faculty and choice. English has been Indianized and Sociolinguists have described that with critical parameters effectively and adequately. Code mixing is a regular pattern in contemporary Indian poetry and Ramakanta is a great follower of this glorious trend. India has a rich literary tradition where Ramakanta is a splendid member. 
A poet is a meditative man who senses even small and  changes around him. For him, withdrawal and renewing is a constant process. Simple images grasp deep meanings:

“I have seen roses
Changing their colours,
Winds their direction (.).” (p.68., ‘When Horizon Closes In’)

The poem is marked by carpe diem motif. Beautiful things fade as no one can ask Time to wait. It sweeps away things on its way. Poetry captures this fuzzy zone of fleeting habit of objects. We are just party to it. We are reminded of Bibhu Padhi, a famous poet from Orissa when the poet signs of pain, it is a poetic outpour in sonorous idioms:

“A small thing is
Remembered, and stored
In the heart’s dark (.)” (Bibhu Padhi’s “Migratory Days” ,‘Departure’)

Mysticism is the art and science of living perfectively and it is the self knowledge that subsumes knowledge of the world. Poets connect minds! Ramakanta is an honest artist who writes in a simple language; easily understandable.
Waiting makes man introspective. Poets of different generations have been writing on this. ‘Waiting’ for a poet is a vivid event in life. Ramakanta Das in his poem, ‘Waiting’ vividly expresses his patient waiting as a vivid construct:

“I know not why
I wait everyday (.)” (p.79,  ‘Waiting’)

There is a meaningful silence prevails in some of Ramakanta’s poems like ‘Stoic Silence’, ‘Love hurts’ and ‘Time’. Maximum use of liquid consonants in these poems adds a special flavour to musical appeal of the poems. His control over language is like a competent master and the wordsmith. The production of the book deserves mentioning separately.
As a whole, this timely  collection is a significant addition to poetry in English by  Indian writers and it deserves accolade worldwide. No one can deny this  Sunrise somewhere!


More by :  Prof. Jaydeep Sarangi

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Views: 3327      Comments: 3

Comment Poetry is a feast of things to sensitive minds, yes indeed, and Mr. Das' poetry is the sumptuous one; being a regular reader of his poetry i can safely say the review is very comprehensive encompassing all the major areas of his poetry composition, especially the reference to the feeling behind his meaningful abstractions - silence, waiting and the musical touch with special liquid consonants as well as the code-switching. The book offers a pleasure read, and your review is a good testimony to it...

Shahzia Batool Naqvi

Shahzia Batool Naqvi
19-Dec-2013 11:23 AM

Comment I always loved Mr Das work to The Core. And This particular review makes his work more interesting. Keep your readers awake by your spectacular work.

Deepti Agrawal
16-Sep-2013 08:17 AM

Comment Lyrical delicacies served in a plate...and a thought-provoking review :-)

Shamik Bhattacharya
14-Sep-2013 03:19 AM

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