Bengali poet Subodh Sarkar set to release his new book of poems on Poila Baisakh

Sarkar has come out with a book of love poems for the first time in four decades
Subodh Sarkar has also started writing his autobiography, the first volume will come out later this year
Subodh Sarkar has also started writing his autobiography, the first volume will come out later this year

Sahitya Akademi Award winner, Subodh Sarkar has come out with a new collection of poems called Notun Premer Kobita this month. The poet who is also a reader of English Literature in a city college will be launching his book this Monday at Signet Book Shop, College Street. We caught up with the poet, a few days before his launch to talk about his latest book and his upcoming projects. Excerpts…

Tell us about your new book

My new book is called Notun Premer Kobita- a collection of love poems that were written last year. It is a remarkable milestone for me because I have not written so many love poems before. I am usually considered a poet of protest and have been writing in that genre for the last four decades. Readers have always found me writing about poems of social injustices and inequality.

But this is the first time that I have written a full-length book of love poems. The reason I chose to veer towards love- is the trauma- that the world as a whole is going through right now. The kind of atrocity that has been prevalent these days has provoked me to write about love poems. Love poetry can heal the wounds that we, as a nation, have suffered.

<em>Notun Premer Kobita by Subodh Sarkar</em>
Notun Premer Kobita by Subodh Sarkar

My love poems do not represent love, just as an emotion between a man and woman, or for nature or as a soft, tender and pure emotion; but as a love of a universal kind. I connect my personal love with love for my country.

How have you ideated the concept of ‘love’ in this particular collection?

I have connected love to different elements which form a part of our everyday existence, and shown, how love is connected with the time we are living in; love as it is connected with the country and the nation. But my poems are not weighed down by heavy ideas. They look simple but they are contemporary and yet timeless. My poems go beyond love.

You have written both poetry and prose. Why do you prefer to write in the poetry form?

I have dedicated four decades of my life to write 34 books of poems. Poetry doesn’t sell and it is not such a fortuitous proposition, as a career or a profession. But it gives you the freedom and liberty to write about your country- in metaphors and similes, rhythms and different formats.

I enjoy the freedom. The kind of poetry I write provides me with the power to free myself- to create anything and everything through my imagination. Whenever I have attempted prose or fiction, I haven’t been satisfied with the output, as the work turns out to be more realistic.

<em>Subodh Sarkar is known for his socially relevant poems</em>
Subodh Sarkar is known for his socially relevant poems

Do you think your love for poetry is inherently related to some of the core interests?

Apart from poetry, I love observing paintings and artworks and I feel, both of them are related. Both poetry and painting come from the same place of origin and are almost like siblings. I find painting very close to my heart and I visit exhibitions regularly, to discover new forms of painting. Through poetry, I can speak volumes and the ability to talk freely about my time and myself.

Spoken word poetry has become quite popular with the younger generation these days. Would you like to comment on it?

I have attended a lot of poetry meets and sammelans all over the world- whether it is France, Australia, Germany or Russia, to celebrate poetry. I am glad to hear that it is catching up among the youngsters. It makes me happy to see that they are organising so many poetry slams and open mics to celebrate their creative freedom.

Poetry cannot give them money but it is above and beyond money. Poetry is a kind of search, a search for self and a desire of a young mind to grow every day- with a new poem or with an old one, translated into a new form. Although W H Auden would have you believe that ‘Poetry makes nothing happen’, I believe otherwise.

<em>Subodh Sarkar has given poetry performance at various poetry meets</em>
Subodh Sarkar has given poetry performance at various poetry meets

Which poets do you admire?

I personally admire Pablo Neruda, Subhash Mukhopadhyay, Birendra Nath Chakrabarty and Sunil Gangopadhyay. They are like a lighthouse for me. They have created me and I always believed that without these poets- I wouldn’t be here today. That is why I believe that poetry has made a lot of things possible in my life.

Have you read any new poets?

I recently met two poets, one from Alipurduar called Souvik Dey Sarkar and another from Bankura called Swarup Chanda. A lot of good poets are emerging from the villages and districts these days. I hope the poets of the new generation like them will explore the new concept of Bengali poetry and new nuances of Bengali language.

Tell us about your future projects

I have started writing my autobiography. It will begin with my present situation and go back to my early days. The first three chapters have already been written and I hope I will be able to complete the first volume by the end of this year.

What is the role of literature in social change, according to you?

The most important function of literature or poetry is to raise a voice of conscience. When a person reads literature or poetry, he or she is transformed. A reader, who is transformed, feels powerful and bears a voice which speaks truly, through the voice of conscience. It doesn’t happen always but sometimes it does. Literature teaches you a lot of sensibilities and this is a time when we should revisit our sensibilities. Sometimes it is embedded in our system and we have to dig it up.

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