Book Reviews

Intense Cerebration

Mohanty Bijay: Moored to the Shadow, Writers Workshop, Kolkata, 2012. Price Rs.250.00

A trained engineer, Bijay Mohanty walked into the Audit and Accounts Service and intellectually emerged as a distinctive poet. His poetry defies labelling in ‘isms’ like Dadaism, Surrealism and many an other ‘ism’ of English and European poetry. He is a totally indigenous poet expressing himself in English. It is strange that matters of designing and execution of building/making activity should lead one to write with deeply intense cerebration and expressive eminence. Readers, mostly new and youthful ones, may consider these as emanating from middle age blues. Bijay convinces the serious reader that he is a self-disciplined litterateur, psychologically an avid thinker and a poet par excellence. son of a committed freedom fighter he imbibed the desire to discipline himself by thinking as per his heart’s dictates and expressing not with any delicacy but with power and gumption.

To begin with, the title a trope of a bark anchored in the shadow (not shade), is highly meaningful. The poet thinks of shadows in the sad, painful, surrealistic actualities and describes himself as one moored to his shadow. He goes beyond poetry and thinks of painting too. The painter’s mind paints and goes on painting. Here is his averment:

A shadow is infinitely more
Fearsome than the Cubists
Brush. It hides an awful lot.
(The Visit of my Cubist Friend…p.58)

This poet’s work reveals his intense mental activity impressively called cerebration. It is so intense and tightly squeezed that it leads one to Eliot’s Waste Land which was understood and appreciated when explications came out. Sometimes poets need explicators. Waste Land is linked with Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough and Jennie Weston’s From Ritual to Romance, Arthurian legends and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and helped readers to understand and appreciate Eliot. Perhaps in the coming years the poet himself would do something to unravel the mysteries of his thought processes.

Introducing the poet the Writers Workshop wrote that the poet is an interested traveller also. The poem on ‘Hirapur’ is about the choushast yogini temple, a national monument, now between paddy fields with no way to approach for any conveyance. The mesmerizing site for any one and to the poet with his imaginative mind in particular is not revelation but expansive cerebration.

I have flown with the crow and
Now a Goddess crossed my path
…. ….. ….. …
When I crossed her piercing
Suspicion she simply pointed
A finger. What more one needs?
A direction is as good
As salvation.
(‘Hirapur, p. 122)

Once, in the distant past, a devotee resort of Shakti worship, vaamaa chaara, and yoni puja (we were told that there was human sacrifice too) the hypaethral temple is the site which makes one think of the enigmatic mystery of the man-divine intimacy and harrowing experience not of the life here but of existence later.

One of the concepts that befuddle man is TIME and the poet Bijay talks of it. After wondering as to how he should measure it, he says conclusively:

Shall I measure you at all?
Despite all the hype
About the power you hold
You are only a reference
From point to point
From one catastrophe to another
One joy to the next.

Why should I bother about you at all?
(Time, p. 104)

The two poems ‘Father’ and ‘A Man’s Life’ are about the poet’s parents, their remembrances. They draw tears more painful when they don’t come out.

Tears would not come
Like the enlarged prostate blocking
His flows toward the end
(Father p.90)

This is a harrowing memory of the remembrance of the father’s suffering. Mother theme is there in ‘A Man’s Life’:

Poor mother, never learns
The ropes of living,
Never learns that the ends
Of the rope are tied in one place
The loop has neither a beginning
Nor an end.
… …. …. ….
Poor mother! She is
No longer an actor
Only a schizophrenic spectator
In an absurd drama.
(A Man’s Life, p. 93)

The poem is a scan of the poet’s mind:

A man’s life has ceased to be
An act on stage. It has become
The stage itself

Mind is an important and recurring theme in Bijay’s collection

Not much difference between
The neural network and the
Network of grass roots, said
My Doctor. …
…. …. …
… we have cobwebs
Blind alleys, cess pools
And littered streets
Inside our mind.
… …. ..
I wait for the day when
I will sprout green
Instead of black.
(Lost in the Grass, pp.16-17)

The degradation and the squalor of the present times is all bad blood and ‘syphillization’ in modernity. The poet is both angry and helpless. He regrets:

Old or new, Gods have
Left long back. Now
Only the priests and the
Patrons remain. To haggle
Over the carcass.
(Old Temple, p.19)

The same is the feeling in the poem about Puri:

I stand before you with
Sin as the only offering
While the priest already high
With the power of your proximity
Asked for a few more coins.
….. ….. …..
… If I fall sin and all
I am afraid, a bit of the sin
Might blacken your indifferent face.
So I am holding forth
(At the Lord’s in Puri, p110)

‘Barrenness’ is about the dilapidation of morals and values. One can’t help thinking of the waste land.

Nothing will ever grow
On this land. Nothing of worth.
…. ….. ….. …
Let the barrenness of silence
Last forever. Nothing ever grows here
Nothing ever will grow. Only the
Crop of silent sighs and tempting waves.
(Barrenness, pp10-11)

There are seventy-five poems in one hundred and thirty-one pages. A hardbound book it would stay long. It is not possible for a reviewer to be a serious critic too. But the work demands and deserves appreciation. The poem ‘Curls of Space’ is very beautiful and can immediately be identified as the poet’s best. Hence it needs to be quoted in full at the end:

A woman on her side
Is a space curled up.

I lied in my own curl
Deep within a reason
Crippled in its wrinkled beauty

Should I make an effort
The petals might open up
A bit, but the space doesn’t

It merely curls upon
Itself making another petal
Until you are tired

And the woman turns on her side.
(Curls of Space, p.35)


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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