Friday, June 29, 2007

from Random Descent

Jayanta Mahapatra is a poet I turn to often. If you haven't read Random Descent, do. 'Predicament' is characteristically bleak, speaking of beginnings that never complete themselves and endings that, if they come at all come when one is not looking and in silence.

Jayanta Mahapatra

Dear Runu, everything moves here
but nothing really comes.
The children play their games,
but they belong somewhere else.
In the mirror the image stays:
the sky, the street, the park.
The branches ache, heavy with fruit,
the birds vanish, ageing with silence.
But as always, nothing comes.
The geckos chuckle on the walls,
mushrooms sprout on damp earth,
and when I awake,
it is neither day nor night.
Perhaps when something comes
I am asleep, and like a lie of living,
it keeps dancing on my bed.
It has been so since long;
all of them feel bound to say something,
anything comforting.
But they do not come, pushing
each other out of their fear.
Even an old song is lost
as it approaches this silence.
There is just the lonely mirror,
feeding on life, on shadows of the past.
And absence is like a child's puzzle
abandoned to an indifferent adult world.


Cheshire Cat said...

Thanks for this - I think Mahapatra is (or was) the best English poet writing in English. He is by no means the most elegant of phrase-makers ("lie of living"? "ageing with silence"? "geckos chuckling"?), but a melancholy genius pervades his work... His poems do not communicate so much as plead, repine, bemoan, ask unanswerable questions.

When I feel skeptical about the possibility of Indian poetry in English, it is Mahapatra's voice that re-assures me. It's quite extraordinary how he has adapted the English language to his purposes, much as R.K.Narayan did in his prose work. Words lose memory of tradition, recover their simple meanings. It is the mark of the true Romantic.

On a completely different note, what an absolutely dire review.

Space Bar said...

Cheshire Cat: He is. Present. Very unwell, but very much alive, and may there be many more poems!

I know...I looked for a better one but I thought this would make the experience more surreal...I became especially fond of 'essential son of the soil' and 'bestial home truths'.


Cheshire Cat said...

No, I know he's still alive. I just think he doesn't write anywhere as well as he used to...

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Do you find a certain echo in that line (slightly clumsy line, imho) - 'The branches ache, heavy with fruit'.
As if he played 'Tithonus' backwards - 'The woods decay, the woods decay and fall'.

On a different note, I can't agree with your friend Dipto's culinary musings.


Space Bar said...

JAP: Hmm...interesting connection. Hadn't though tof it; shall haev to go read again.

Dipta's post...this is some Cal radicality of opinion happening here? or you disagree vehemently with every choice? Tell!