My Heart is an Unruly Girl
My heart is an unruly girl
Do not teach her any lesson
Books and texts are all torn up,
Rubbing with her spittle
She is expunging her deep destiny
On the blue grammar-pages
Scribbling boys’ names
Even pictures — oh my!
My heart is an unruly girl
Come on, how will you punish her,
Do You Know How to Swim?
I can give up wearing jeans
If you say so, by all means
I will easily be another woman
The girl who loves you, she can
Never be with unoiled short hair
(you told someone somewhere)
Well, I will be unknown to me
From tomorrow, if you be
With myself, at your feet
I will undress and spread out
my blue Dhanekhali —take it
I will blow in the wind all my manly quirk
I believe it will work
If I can become a stream
Boy, do you know how to swim? ….
In between your and my love
There grew a civilization of dumbs
So delicate to touch
It can be shattered into ruins
If we only sigh together . . .
I tell my man about my lover and cry
I tell my lover about my man and cry
My love knows no beginning or end —
It’s beyond where times fly
I am adulterous, o yes,
But I never ever lie
Full Moon: An Untimely One
Ever since that afternoon,
Even the pale moon looked to be lost in a trance
She — who had stopped menstruating
From the eighth day of previous dark fortnight
At the corner of her mouth, traces of drug,
Or poison, still can be found
What made her think that inside her bloodstream
Still she could take such a chance
With a faint retching sound, the entire roof was
Flooded with vomit, moonlight
Warm milk filled her ancient breasts that
Aren’t anymore that round
The Dark Fortnight
From the west to the east, inside my head
The moon floats . . . the moon sinks . . . dead . . .
Putrefied moonlight sticks to its frame
Even today. But the moon is not to blame —
It’s me who have chopped it to death in my brain
Insanity splashed, and my skull got stained . . .
The girl, who stood setting her feet in her own vagina
The girl, who bent her spine with her own two hands
Today, she has been able to
splatter out metal from her body
The ailing womb, made of gold, is being displayed
in the stationery shops.
This is her day of liberation; this is her festival of blood
Her lips have become a butterfly,
wings smeared with mica-dust
It flies off to settle on her two blind eyes,
on her fragrant brains,
Ten rivers start fidgeting in her fingers . . .
Her shank and elbow ask each other:
Where is she? Where is she?
She has fallen asleep resting her head on her own breasts.
Everything else apart from this,
everything you love to fiddle
These breasts, this belly,
with a slit-like wound in the middle
Where the germs have dug more intricate bends and turns
You may take all its pus and blood.
The pain is what I’ve earned.
There are much more . . . the navel taken off
at the middle of the night
The nipples, pubic hair, the armpits
where you planted your rights
The skin where your teeth and tongue
embossed a blood-red seal
Please tally the balance, see how each stanza fits the bill.
Check it out whether there are any flaws left somewhere
Call on witnesses if you want, I will strip naked I swear
I wouldn’t hide even the smallest nevus from your lust
You’ll get everything you wish.
But the rest that’s lying on dust—
Picking that clean from my own body, mind and soul
Fiercely I guard.
You can never ever have me as a whole.
Left and Right
Don’t want to call. Still . . . please wait a bit.
Worship hall to your right, to the left is a red-light street.
Which one do you desire? Think man, think real hard —
Here are the two worlds smeared with menstrual blood.
Don’t want to leave you. But that’s the inevitable course.
Alter of Goddess to the right,
to the left a colony of whores.
Where do you desire to go? Think man, think, and tell me
Where would you find your
blood-smeared happiness’s key?
Don’t wanna tell you. Yet for truth’s sake just let me tell
You’ve heaven on your right,
on your left, well, you’ve got hell
You think you can manage both the side? Very smart!
I am your Goddess, man, believe me, I am your Tart.
A Post War Poem
So many times we have been devastated
See, yet we are not used to it
Still it is so painful, how we suffer every time
From every ruin, see, from the death
We are returning to our time of birth
Returning with much labour, crawling
So many times, so many times we die
See, yet we do not believe in death
In the war-field, we grope for faces, fallen faces
O faces of my parents, faces of my children,
come on, wake up
The war is over. Before the next one
We will make homes again
Will fall in love once more—
Burying weapon, will grow corps
In the fields up to horizon
So many times we’ve been burnt down, drifted away
Still we do not believe in ruin
We never forgot after all the destructions
How the civilization goes on
How mankind wins . . .
About the Poet
Mandakranta Sen – Life and Works
Of the young Bangla poetic voices who sustained themselves through the difficult couple of millennial decades, Mandakranta Sen is in her own class. Breaking off from the MBBS course in the middle of the final exams, she veered around and salvaged her spirit, devoting herself entirely to the Muse. She broke through the poetic forms in currency in the Bangla poetry of the late 1990s, creating her own poetic idiom and holding on to it. Her lyrical, straightforward, power-packed-punch-like takes on sexuality and the body set the tone of an important aspect of her poetry. Never the one to chain herself to the middle-class value-systems as evidenced in her poetry, she represents the aspirational, freedom-loving individual with her own space in society. With twenty-four poetry-collections, eight novels, two short-story collections and an essay-collection, and many awards won, some of them like the Ananda Puraskar, Krittibas Puraskar and the Sahitya Akademi Golden Jubilee Youth Award top-rated– all within a span of 16 years– she has set an impossible record for anyone to break. She edits the Bangla literary magazine, Brishtidin, leading the sensibility of an entire generation. She is also a playwright. She composes lyrics and sets them to music, creating her own songs. She translates poetry from Bangla to English, and also into Bangla. She designs book-covers.
She has visited Germany thrice: first, as a member of the Central government’s Writers’ delegation, in March 2006; then again, in October 2006, to participate in World Poetry Festival POEZONE 4 organized by Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut, Heidelberg; and in January 2008, to take part in the International Rosa Luxemburg Conference, Berlin. She participated in Marché de la Poésie, Paris, France, in June 2008, and also in Bangladesh’s National Poetry Festival, Dhaka in 2000. She visited Dhaka again as one of the jury members in GEMKON Literary Award 2014, Bangladesh. Represented Bangla language from India at World Poetry Festival, New Delhi, in 2014. She has also has been a jury for BAL SAHITYA PURASKAR (National Award for Children’s Writing, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi).
I have tried to bring out her foremost concerns through an interview conducted over email.
A.J.Thomas: How do you find the Bengali poetry of the current generation, when you compare it with that of the pre-millennial crop of poets, especially those who responded to the Liberalisation / Globalisation agenda that began in 1991?
Mandakranta Sen: They are desperate. Desperate to be themselves. Brave enough not to follow their so-called thumb rules of poetry set by fore-runners. Women writers are bursting with words. They are particularly digging inside themselves to understand their inner strength. Sexual liberation is very much there. No social norm or personal taboo can hold them back as far as today’s acclaimed true poetry is concerned. In this era of globalisation, the good thing is, the poets from remote corners are getting their share of recognitions in the so-called mainstream (our literary magazine Brishtidin is working in this field). Young poets are experimenting with neo-surrealism and magic reality and are well-received by intellectual readers. In a nutshell, Bengali poetry is thriving. And I must add, there are numerous serious little magazines to nurture them. They give the poets space for experiments.
A.J.Thomas: Can you describe the mould you’d have found yourself in, breaking which you came out and cut your own path in poetry?
Mandakranta Sen: I always speak up the truth I believe in. It has been always my identity. My poetry, I believe, developed from one content & form to other as I leafed through my life`s pages. I feel I am being trained by my own soul to explore it more and more.
A.J.Thomas: Now a personal question.( I have heard you discuss this informally, but I’d need your answer formally). Why did you quit the medical profession, leaving in the middle of final exams? Was it because you didn’t want to be a part of the ‘doctor/lawyer/engineer’ profession-fixation of the middle classes? Or, was it the conviction that you must dedicate your entire attention, and care, to poetry and the fine arts?
Mandakranta Sen: Yes to both of your questions, and a few more infinite reasons.
A.J.Thomas: The theme of the Samanvay Festival, and the Poetry Blog that is going to be there for a long time as its part, I hope, is ‘Insider/Outsider.’ I look at you as an insider of ‘Bhodrolok’ to begin with, got your cultural moorings from there, and then broke out, leading a modern, individualistic, rationalist/sceptic-aesthetic and socially sensitive life, giving expression to the myriad shades of experience that you go through. Please correct me if I am wrong, and also, supplement me with more details, with your own arguments and augmentations, if possible:
Mandakranta Sen: I have a parallel world inside my head. Maybe, she, who writes sitting in my brain have all the answers. My commitment is to try to pen it on paper or type it on my laptop. Sometimes I feel words are carrying me I do not know where, they just chase me to everywhere I go. It`s the words themselves who metamorphose me from one identity to another, keeping the pivot of poetry unmoved.
A.J.Thomas: What is your message regarding the full creative freedom of expression of artists and common citizens alike in a secular democracy like ours?(Your returning the Golden Jubilee Award of Sahitya Akaademi has shown that you do not agree with the culture of intolerance that’s sweeping across the country. However, your specific message could be carried here, in this Blog.)
Mandakranta Sen: No one can stop anyone from opening their mouths unless and until they are vocal abuses. We have our constitutional rights to voice our opinion, opposing what is one dreadful kind of intolerance. But more than that, intolerance is dictating what we eat, what we wear, how we live our lives as peace-loving citizens: otherwise we must be punished, even murdered. This intolerance is pervading all across our country (and the whole world, for that matter), whose fate is going to be utterly disastrous for our civilization. Though how intolerant those people may be, human beings who are suffering will inscribe all their brutality through our writings, and this protest will be the history of our present dark times, the history our children will read under broad sunlight.
Poet Bio by A.J.Thomas, Poetry Editor, Y Blog