When I write about Kiriti Sengupta’s poems, I don’t write about Kiriti Sengupta’s poems. I mean I do write about his poems but in a very different way. His poems are like beads of pearls which have spilled and fallen on the floor and hurriedly rolled into dark, hidden spots of the room.
So, I am actually searching the room for those apparently undiscoverable spots. And the book that I have in hand is a trilogy titled Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral. His book is the room in which I am searching pearls of wisdom and while going through the prose pieces I come to a word which ends a paragraph, and this word ends with an alphabet, say “s,” and in the interstices of the curves of this letter is lodged a poem, secretly flashing its presence for me to read.
I almost feel it is not Sengupta’s poem, as if someone else has jotted it down in his book. The trilogy, as the term suggests, comprises three books namely, My Glass of Wine,The Reverse Treeand Healing Waters Floating Lamps, but unlike a conventional trilogy they do not follow a common narrative spread over time, except for being like excerpts from a memoir. The first two books are predominantly prose work, but never prosaic, and the third is just poetry.
A few of the poems in the first two books are repeated in the third, but they take different forms from their earlier avatars. It is as if the poet himself has discovered a nuance that had remained hidden in an interstice earlier. I am tempted to quote two versions of one poem here to explicate my point: I have seen my mother Preparing Ghee out of milk. She never used butter to clarify it any further! My mother used to boil, and store milk in large quantities for days; upon cooling there was a thick layer of screen, she separated carefully. Layer after layer the screen when filled the storage pot, my mother put it on the burner slot.
I do miss the aroma nowadays. The smell was so organic; I do wonder why we never termed milk aromatic! Ah! Those granular residues that took us to the heaven, Ghee is pious, and incorrigible! (My Glass of Wine, p 27) I have seen my mother Preparing Ghee out of milkShe never used butter To clarify it further Shed boil and store the milk In large quantities for days Once cooled, shed separate Thick layers of yellow frothLayer after layer she filled The storage pot, then put it on The burner, which filled The house with aromatic milk So organic is my memory The granular residue lifted us to heaven Ah! Pious Ghee, and incorrigible (Healing Waters Floating Lamps, p 133) Comparing the two poems it is evident that Sengupta has toiled with the two versions, changing the centre alignment to left alignment and changing words, phrases and enjambments in the poem.
In the second version he starts each line with a capital letter but dispenses with punctuations. The poem turns from that of four stanzas to that of three stanzas and there is an economy of words too as the line count decreases from 18 to 15. It is this condensation of thought that is the hallmark of Sengupta’s poems.
In the two versions of the poem “Scratches Only Are Human” and “Scratches Are Only Human,” apart from the title, there are very few minor changes but those few changes are significant. It is this preoccupation with intimate detail —editing poems to bring in more clarity of thought and expression that makes Sengupta a fine craftsman of his trade.
The prose of the first two books is more like prose poems but without the complications of language or thought.
They are simple thoughts, expressed simply, taken from the author’s life and showing his growth and development as a poet. The first two volumes put context to the poems that follow. It is autobiographical and provides a smooth intimacy of the world of Sengupta.