Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Grass Flower by Ramakanta Das/ Authors Press

Reviews, Vol. I, Issue I
Autobiography Of A Heart

Poetry may not always reveal all to you, but it must ring in a kind of feeling that evokes reaction in the reader’s mind. The reader is left to interpret the colors, shadows and finer strokes of the brush on the canvas. ‘The Glass Flower,’ a selection of 51 poems by Ramakanta Das, provides food for thought and a feeling of satisfaction. He is a master craftsman who plays with ideas bedecked with words and challenges the readers.

‘The Grass Flower’ by its subtle title, is bereft of any self-aggrandizement: it is the humblest natural creation, but poets can rightfully claim ‘To see a world in a grain of sand/And a heaven in a wild flower.’ It’s advantageous to lie low and record your observations of the world around.
The collection is an autobiography – an ‘autobiography of a heart’ as we find in one of the poems – or is it the ‘unfinished autobiography’ or the ‘unnamed autobiography’ as claimed elsewhere? A poet cannot pen an autobiography that has an end to itself – it must carry on with newer thoughts. And so it is: ideas, thoughts, emotion, wit and logic are intertwined with words to make each of these poems.

The language of his poetry, Ramakanta writes, is

the silent language of the heart:/a language devoid of any grey matter/and philosophical hues.
(Soliloquy of my poem)

Still, the simple, unencumbered language carries the weight of great philosophical thoughts. He takes upon himself to examine and explore human existence in a very nonchalant way. It verges on the ‘theatre of the absurd’:

Quite often i find it funny/and deeply ridiculous/to un-knot and tidy/the same beaten moments/that lie like a heap of tangled threads/with no visible beginning or end. (Autobiography)

His wit never fails him: it adds to the spontaneity of his words. You cannot but love the man who has the courage to bare his heart open and learn the hard way:

And he further added,
“These curls of steam are cycles/of birth and death,/you didn’t know”?
I said, “No, i didn’t know,/now that you said,/I know.” (Ah! You didn’t know?)

Life is an Enigma: the Alpha of life melts into the Omega of death. Is there anything left? The sensitive soul cannot but ponder whether its whole existence is meaningless. The poet makes minute observations on life, death and rebirth; yet he does not part with his intrinsic positivity. ‘A cluster of fireflies’ draws a visible curtain between the living being and the dead, but unlike Emily Dickinson’s famous fly that moved “With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz/Between the light and me” until she “could not see to see,” Ramakanta is

thrilled all over again/by the warm breath/of an imminent ecstasy,/heralding my rebirth.

He picks up the oft-repeated imagery of shadow to portray death but moulds them in a more nuanced language. The sheer optimism and his realization can only be examined in the philosophical realm; the poetic vision cannot be lost:

Strangely enough,/the urge to come out of the shadow/has given way to a desire/to languish in it.

It may seem to be part of ‘romanticization of death’, as the great Romantics had long claimed, but his unflinching faith in the ‘light divine’ makes things different. He is more akin to the Sufi philosophy of death than the western thoughts on death:

I look forward to/a splendid metamorphosis/of the shadow like the one/under the great Peepal
for a shaft of light divine/that enlightens the universe. (Shadow)

The poetic play of life’s chiaroscuro continues in other poems. While he cares less for the life-giving rays of Sun, he does not forget “to keep the shadow in good humour.” The logic is more metaphysical:

for, i know the shadow alone/has the celestial potential/to eclipse the Sun. (Sun and Shadow)

He confronts the Enigma in a sort of submission and rare revelation and it completes the cycle:

no more/can i differentiate between the hue/of the rising and the setting sun,/for they look so similar/against a dissimilar horizon. (When Horizon closes in)

Some of the poems in the collection seem weaker and weather-beaten (“Please...,” “Remember Me”) but words of wisdom cloaked in masterly imagery, transferred epithets and mythical allusions will ever be remembered - “They'll never fail you,” as the poet rightfully claimed in the preface:

Time crawling/like a soiled infant/on the earthen floor/of their neighbour’s courtyard. (Time)

The eternal wind/tells me the timeless saga/of its grand entry/through the decorated portico/and a definite exit/through the back door. (The Wind)

The chest torn apart,/the wheel of arrogance/submerged under a bloody bog/and the royal thigh broken. (Draupadi)

About the Poet
Ramakanta Das has done his Masters in English Literature from Ravenshaw College , Cuttack .Odisha. He taught at a degree college for a few years, before joining as an officer in the Parliament of India. At present he is working as a Joint Secretary in Parliament of India, New Delhi.
His first collection of poems, Passionate Musing, was published in 2005.His second book of poems The Grass Flower was published in 2010. Canvas and Colours is his third book of poems published in 2012.

He is very passionate about poetry as a form of literature. His poetry is intense. He writes about his everyday experiences, but they take on a very aesthetic appeal as he expresses those using highly poetic images and diction. His experiences, when put into words, get transformed into a completely new being with a life of their own. Needless to say that his readers easily identify with the emotions expressed in his poems.

Nature, its varied beauty, is an unending source of inspiration for him. While reading his poems, one can actually experience what he describes- feel the fragrance, hear the sounds, see the beauty as he relates it and relates to it.

He also writes about his innermost feelings. His poems offer a glimpse into the mind of this sensitive man, the way he perceives life as he comes to terms with what it has to offer or through his interaction with people he encounters or through his observation and reflection on things happening around him- the little details which the onlookers sometimes fail to notice.

Reviewed by Dr.Sumanta K Bhowmick, 
Joint Director, Rajya Sabha, PARLIAMENT OF INDIA, NEW DELHI.

About the Book
Publisher: Authors Press
Cover: Paperback
ISBN 13: 9788172737733
ISBN 10: 8172737734
Year: 2014     
Pages: 80
Price: 195/-

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