My World and Words: Lopa Banerjee

Lopamudra Bannerjee
There are people whom I have known or met in my life’s journey who have sought writing, but for me, writing has sought me. Today, in the 40th year of my life, when life has given me the bounty of poetry and language, enabling me to break some shackles in my own small way, allow me to describe myself as an Indian Diaspora writer and poet in the US with my humble roots in Barrackpore, a small suburban town in the outskirts of Kolkata, India. Words and their nuances, the strange concoction of images and narratives had sought me, invaded my private space since the days when I had been a closeted poet way back during my college and university days in Kolkata. Today, with three published books of my own and quite a few anthologies and various online publications, writing is still my innermost sacred space, the intuitive and evocative reality lurking in my senses during unexpected hours when I try to make sense of the hubris of life around me.

Many moons back, during my most trying times, when I was only an avid reader of literature and when my writing only constituted of occasional scribblings in my diary pages, my most favorite quote was by none other than the phenomenal Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” The quote had inspired me in various inexplicable ways even later in my life when the baggage of my own emotional and metaphorical truths was too hard for me to bear, when I absolutely had to pen them down through the devices of poetry, stories and essays, being not only my means to attain self-identity, but also the medium of healing myself. This quote had practically been the midwife to my first book ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’, a memoir where I am on a quest to seek my self-identity, ten thousand miles away from my hometown in India. I know I will carry the sparkling truth of this quote as long as I might live to write.

In my poetry book ‘Let The Night Sing’, some haunting emotional truths have shaped my journey as a woman and a poet, which have taken the form of some autobiographical poems, and some poems composed after experiencing some startling universal issues around me. In a strange, cohesive way, the journey of the anguished spirit of the ‘Nirbhaya’ girl, the journey of Malala Yousufzai, the journey of child brides in Syria, Africa, the journey of the children of the sex workers in Sonagachhi, Kolkata have merged and mingled with my own journey.

All of the poems have emerged out of angst, elemental passion and the urgency to share our stories as women, as humans with languid wants and deep, raw wounds. I would also, in this connection, say that my immigration and uprooting has shaped my self-identity as a writer and poet in several ways. The transition from the sleepy suburban town of Barrackpore to the bustling metropolis of Kolkata and Delhi, and then eventually, to three states and cities in the US have left indelible imprints in my mind in one way or the other, and in some way, they crop up in my writing, unassumingly and unknowingly. Here, in the city of Dallas, Texas, I have recently found my place among the Woman-of- Color (WOC) poets, and in every poetry reading I give here, I strive to touch base with my Indian roots, for I have discovered that my journey can gain greater momentum only if I find my voice and my space in the poetry and artists’ community that is built around a distinct ethnic, cultural ethos, a cumulative celebration.

It is damn lonely, the life of an artist. You will have zero tolerance for pettiness and sometimes the life you have known before will seem to slip away from your hands like a fistful of sand as you will strive to live on, only in the salt and brine of your own art. Not that the process of creating this art will matter to most people around you, but that is the whole magic behind its creation. Let them know somehow that it is not the literary meets, the launches, the awards, the accolades and the art aficionados who will make you or mar you or solidify your inner fabric, but the fact that you can upset still, unyielding air which will be the only wind beneath your wings. Over the years, the more I have been aware of this lonely journey of mine, the more it has bruised me, agonized me, ate away my sanity at times, the more I have eventually prized it as my only catharsis, my only ticket to an invisible coronation!

Lopa Banerjee
Author, Poet, Editor, Translator

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