The coveted Sarala award from IMFA Charitable Trust for the year 2016 goes to the book,Jeje Dekhinathiba Bharat (An India that Grandfather has not seen). I am merely receiving the award because of the coincidence that I am the writer of the said book. Of course as the chronicler of this book, I am delighted. I do not think that the author is left with any option to remain silent as it is a tradition to say a few words on this occasion.I want to express my deep appreciation to the institution and the committee bestowing upon me the award.My speech will be as brief as possible and it will never be a burden on you.
What would you like to listen to me?Some of you might be intrigued to know about my creative journey. But, do I have the ability to satisfy so many erudite people present here? In my robust assumption—every individual is a poet from the time of his birth.Someone writes poems and another hums a tune in solitude instead of writing anything.But both of them experience similar feelings in their hearts.
Delighted anindividual moves beyond all prejudices, and in remorse he is completely shattered instead of scribbling out hisstate of mind. A common man can’t write the day to day experience of his life. But a poetnormally doesexpress it.But, does he really express itunequivocally? A poet only knows how helpless and undone he feels before giving birth to a poem.
Being dovetailed for more than forty years with poetry, I have reached to a conclusion that a poet would never bask in the glory of a poem if it doesn’t come to him as the grace. I do not have the knowledge as to how others have written or have been writing. But, I have got many lines of my poems from the citadel of my dreams alone.I have witnessed the lines of poems floating before me like waves of electro-magnetic field while strolling, stuck in traffic-jam, under showering,hill-walking, eyeing the waves of the ocean or ashen sky laden with rain less clouds.I move, at that time, beyond myself and confront the void. I feel absolutely of my own amid all sorts of hullabaloo. I feel deaf in spite of so much noise and cacophony around me. My vision goes beyond all the scenes surrounding me.
I have been overwhelmed and bowed down in gratitude before the said godsend ‘inspiration’ watching as to how it takes shape gradually as text of poetry. Because,it has empowered me to express this peerless and intricate feelings with the help of the diction conversed by my semi-literate mother and illiterate relatives. It has worried me day in, day out that what’s the heck of a poet am I if my readers were deprived of getting the feelings from my poems that I have seen, heard and experienced?
A depressive sense has all along inspired me to remain humble while choosing the diction of poetry. From the beginning of my sojourn in the domain of poetry, I have ruminated to take a different path keeping the poems of my great predecessors in memory. In form and in content, I have strive to be of my own in spite of shouldering my tradition with me. In my first anthology of poems ‘dhana saunta jhia’( A Girl picking Paddy) I have tried to employ the wiles of singing by a lonely man while walking through the dense dark night to shoo away his sense of fear. I was never been under the illusion or in falsehood then or now that most of the poems in this anthology would be termed as ‘excellent’.
Ten anthologies of poems of mine are published so far. The poems appeared in these anthologies are nothing other than my autobiography. More or less,all these poems bear the signature of the incidents either happened or happening orkeenly waiting to happen in my life. Protagonists described in most of these poems could be I or someone entered into my life either directly or indirectly.Whatever requirement is necessary for its structural finesse I have only added that tad amount of fiction into the facts. The protagonist-wife you confront in ‘Dharmapatni’ (Wife) anthology is absolutely my life companion. But, poetry is such a water bowl that the body, mind and soul of the companions of all ages and all times could be reflected.At the same plane poetry embraces myriad contrasts: she belongs to ‘megha’ (rain cloud) and ‘simanta’(horizon); courts ‘alingana’ (embrace) and maintains ‘sudura’ (distance); makes public ‘prakatita’(appearance)and covers up ‘aprakatita’(disappearance); allures ‘mokhsa’ (salvation) gets trapped by ‘mohapasa’ ( mundane desire).
Knowing fully well I have made myth and allegory as the subject matter of my poems. Locating the hypocrisy of the power that is ingrained in our history, it has become more staggering.In the backdrop of eternity the myth dazzles the changing life of human being that passes through myriad adversaries. For this reason myth has acted as trustworthy scaffold in poetry of all ages. The uniqueness of a myth is that it never exhausts itself expressing about one incident or character rather it leaves wide space to be expressed in the works in future. Being fully aware of it that the foxy contemporaries do not comprehend the myth copiously, I have written a long poem ‘Basusena’ taking the life and times of ‘Karna’ into consideration. Though I have been a victim of willful rancor, but this poem has offered me widespread recognition as a poet and it has been treated as a classic in Odia literature. I’ve made new experiments in relation to time, society and ever-changing human being in my poems such as ‘sakhichandra surya’ (the sun and moon as witnesses) and in ‘Jeje dekhinathiba bharat’(An India that Grandfather has not seen).
Each poem of mine is a bundle of dissatisfaction; hence each poem of mine is a fresh beginning. My endeavor is to plug the space whatever is left out. I have committed to tread upon the domain of poetry what has not being done to date nor have other poets accomplished yet. My poems are not the mere chronicles of the human experience; it is committed for its elevation and transformation.
What’s the role of a poet? Sometimes, this question lands on the minds of the people.Sometimes we get a topsy-turvy reply to it or this question gets diluted by big-mouths in literature. Staying for longer period with poetry I have realized one thing that if the time has bestowed the burgeoning responsibility to anyone on the planet, it is the poet alone. It is not imperative for him to walk on the ‘edge of sword’ but over the ‘hair of the mare’. In each zone of time, it has been observed that those who are great poets are anti-established in their core. For its requisite and gratification the establishment conspires and sets booby-trap to silence the voices of anti-establishments. But a poet, all along his life,has to keep his poems aloof from this conspiracy by paying the price for it. This vast purpose of the poem has always been ingrained in my psyche and I am committed for it. The deep-seated lines of great poet of our time Pablo Neruda has been ringing in my mind incessantly:with blood and darkness poetry is written; poetry should be written.’
Each alphabet and syntax of my poems oscillates through the deep breath of Bhima Bhoi. It’s not vital whether we are familiar or incognito, but it is significant to take the note of it that a period of great poems has been actively engaged since a century in different languages of the world. In the second decade of twentieth century when ‘objective correlative’, the poetic principle of TS Eliot was doing rounds , Sri Aurobinda, a great saint poet of East expressed in his ‘The Future of Poetry’ much before Eliot that ‘poetry is inspired selection of words’ and ‘unusual bringing together of words’. There could be poetry defying the mind governed by intellect and the possibility of appearance of similar discovery in poetry.Let me take an example to corroborate this view. In the poem ‘Marriage’, eminent poet Nissim Ezekiel describes, where a couple moves past silently, ‘wordless they walked like a breeze’. Could this line be constructed more elegantly? Perhaps not.
In 1917, Aurobinda had said that the future of poetry will be mantra in which the music would be humming.In a letter to KD Sethna, he wrote:The future of poetry is a word of power and light that comes from the mind, inspiration or some very high plane of intuition.Its characteristics are a language that conveys infinitely more than the mere surface sense of the words seems to indicate a rhythm that means even more than the language and born out of the infinite and disappears into it. Let this conception of great poem be with me and with my peers who believe in it. Of course, it is the hymn of our core of the heart.
On the occasion of receiving the coveted Sarala award I would like to give my tribute to all intimate readers of my poems. Once again, I express my deep gratitude to you all for patiently listening to me.
Thank you! Namaskar.
(Translated from Odia into the English by Manu Dash)