There is an unassailable gusto that invites a reader or a sensitive mind to Basudhara Roy’s debut collection, Moon in My Teacup. She reminds us of the literary, social and psychological tradition of Kamala Das and Mamang Dai.
Like her counterparts in contemporary India, her poems glitter with a rare sweet touch of clarity and modesty that mark her poetic idioms subtle where the corpus is an engaging discourse. Poetry for her, writes Basudhara in the Preface to her debut collection of poems, “has always been a companion, not of life’s headlong activity, but of the rustle of its quieter moments when the clarity of prose is defeated, silenced and overwhelmed by the need for figurative explorations of experience.”
Poetry, for her, is neither art for art’s sake, nor mere cathartic self-expression but an intense and intimate act of communication.
A poem, she believes, is a brainteaser that blooms or withers by its ability or otherwise to communicate emotions to the reader. An avid admirer of Robert Browning’s dramatic monologues, much of Basudhara’s poetry envisages a dialogic mode wherein she attempts to document the temporal and emotional tension of some definite, significant moment that even as it stumbles towards its annihilation, yields to poetry.
The realm of poetry, for her, begins at the point where prose, if not necessarily fails, certainly falters, and so the question of poetic language occupies much of Basudhara’s attention as a poet.
The language of poetry, she believes, is different from that of prose not merely in its connotative abilities but also in its reflexivity in drawing attention to its own communicative (im) possibilities.
She experiences poetry as being perennially occupied in the process of communication, of saying, unsaying, and nonsaying. As a poet, she takes to writing overwhelmed by the fragility and vulnerability of emotive communication in the everyday world, and by the inevitability of it all. She hopes, through her poems, to unsettle received meanings, to bring new experiential truths to the table, and to build a few bridges across time, allegiances, and empathies.
Many of Basudhara’s poems are short and anecdotal, but just because they tell a story is no reason why one should regard them as falling short of the poetic and enigmatic. Basudhara is a sensuous mystique.
She gives us surprises. She writes from the seat of consciousness and makes us a lover of her poems. Some poems show the poet’s vast lore of life and its variegated shades and twists.
Poems in this collection are not just the experiences and realisation of life, the poet rather moves towards aesthetic celebration of the self and relations. The job of the poet consists of placing the objects of the visible world in an unusual aesthetic position, which strikes the soul and gives them a joyous force.
Poetry comes from the highest happiness or the deepest sorrow of the mind. Poems in this collection are record of deep seated questioning minds carrying reverberations within. Basudhara creates a land of mythic romance where coy fairies descend to dance in tunes, Basudhara has magic rods in her lines.
She makes us forget the chronological journey of time. We become part of her amazing lines. Her poems capture fractured realities of daily existence in a soothing cadence At a close view, there are perhaps some common threads running through the poetry collection.
Some of these are: a feeling of cultural uniqueness, sensitivity to nature, an indefinable sense of longing and absences, and much angst, both personal and social. The poetic canvas is ever where a new light lays open things. Feelings we extract from these engaging lines guide our boat in mid river.
In the poem Inspiration she mentions, “The poet is successful in keeping the usual doors of escape shut and sealed”. Basudhara has words and images for occurrences of daily human acts, small and big. For her, history chose to smell nothing but the stench of burning flesh. Acts of history are nothing but the barbed wires running through streams of blood.
She sounds very distinctive here. Basudhara’s is a search, the shore of which keeps us alluring. Her memory makes figures and shapes, and tirelessly seeks the sun. The poet successfully records twists and turns of the heart, never lets us forget this world we live in.The primary function of poetry, as of all the arts, is to make us more aware of ourselves and the world around us.
For her, the art possesses harmony and proportion. History is nothing but all liquid narratives of pain. Basudhara traps her readers through her beguiling poetic tentacles. Her images unlock our hearts, and she brings out the “helpless, pathetic, and vulnerable”.
Ecological crisis, gender stereotyping, patriarchal hegemony and contemporary socio-political situation are some of the other prominent issues that find voice in this collection. But, the poet is not rude at anything.
Her cadence records shutting windows, chimneys, doors and keyholes. We hear gentle clicks. The poem is a structure of signifiers, which absorbs and reconstitutes the signified. It unites sensibilities.
The mosaic is unique and varied. In the process, we get acquainted with some wonderful works of art and verbal felicity. Writing poetry is a night clearing act. Baudhara uses several nocturnal images to substantiate her affinity with the moon. The night carries itself far into the day.
In her poetry, the moon makes us sun-bound.
Basudhara adds power to contemporary Indian English idiom. She maintains the fact that poetry is the fusion of three art forms: music, storytelling, and painting.
They sparkle all the more bright. “Poetry is music set to words”, says Dennis O’Driscoll. For her, the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing. “Poetry is language in orbit”, says Seamus Heaney. Poetry points to nothing but itself. For Basudhara, the poetic image, which is the myth of the individual, reigns in the senses. Time speaks in volume.
We cannot limit our views within textual productions and its readership. Basudhara’s unfurls a rich mosaic from aesthetic production to identity empowerment. She gives a beautiful image of a “kite” in the poem, Journey to relate the identity of her selfhood in the ocean of networks, Poets’ voices need to be heard and they should be accessible to the maximum readers because as William Blake said, “Poetry fettered fetters the human race”.
So it is imperative for poetry to be unfettered, to be accessible to as many readers as possible. Basudhara cannot rest until she translates whatever moves in her —into poems.
This inner movement is a rare fabric of impressions and experiences. Basudhara’s short epigrammatic poetic lines are sheer magic, which consists in awakening sensations with the help of a combination of sounds.
Some poems are serene and distinct. The poet prepares us for the art of creating imaginary gardens with the help of images and symbols drawn from streaked antecedents.
In some of Basudhara’s poems pain is its very own prayer. We smell a terrible sound of weeping! Weeping in delight! Basudhara’s poetic outpour transmits a synthesising energy among the readers and it works like a healing touch, “tender, urgent, unrelinquishable.”
This collection takes us within. The inner world overlaps with the outer on the speculative. The poet’s sincerity is genuine and feelings are unfathomable. To me, only a few contemporary Indian English poets can draw the palpable and the negotiable so effectively and that too with economy of words.
The reviewer is Principal, New Alipore College, Kolkata