Book Review: Aneek Chatterjee’s Seaside Myopia

Review by: Sandipta Kanti Nag

Associate Professor of English and Literary Critic

Seaside Myopia: A Book of Poems
Author: Aneek Chatterjee
Publisher: Cyberwit.net, 2018
ISBN: 978-93-88125-25-3
Price: ₹ 200 INR; $ 15 USD


                           “Seaside Myopia: A Book of Poems” authored by Aneek Chatterjee and published by Cyberwit.net (2018) sails through poems culled from different genres and styles, varying from dark poetry to poems waxing eloquently on love, relationship and sensuality. The poet’s perspective is sui-generis – to connect himself with his landscape as well as his mindscape in particular; or, we may say, to the universe and the cosmos in general. Chatterjee’s poetry highlights his startling ability to amalgamate tradition and modernity to assume a new role of a poet speaking for humanity across the national borders and the amazing plasticity of his diction that incorporates the demands of particular moods. A sensitive reader of his poems, that have emerged from “daily life and societal milieu; poems crafted out of melancholy and joy” (Preface of the Book), cannot fail to discern a poetic subtlety in Chatterjee’s poetry that makes him a poet with a diversity of ideas and inclinations, with a finely tuned aesthetics and great command over language and style. The sole aim of referring to such wide ranging critical evaluation of a poet is to harp on the richness and authenticity embedded in the poems of Chatterjee. One need not, by accident even, misread such evaluative statements as mere eulogy without its solid anchorage in “Seaside Myopia”.

Aneek Chatterjee
                             Poems included in the book eminently bear the stamp of the poet’s originality, both in terms of handling the creative medium with felicity and ease and of perambulating between the landscape and inscape with a view to mould a vision which is earth-bound, land-bound, and yet which can experience an untrammeled, uninhibited magical ecstasy of being amongst ‘waves’, ‘sand’, ‘children’ and ‘seagulls’, as in the title poem of the volume. Aneek Chatterjee’s poetry also evidences a queer and, at times, an intriguing blend of a romantic mind with modern sensibility. In the very opening (dark) poem of this volume, one comes across a queer ‘Reminiscence’ in which the poet harps on the shock of his discovery of the strange ways of the world. This poem effortlessly blends the present life to an earlier life, where a person was shot by someone he trusted. Or is it a reflection of our feeling that we get shot at every day, every moment of our existence? The shock and wound that come from societal horror of the landscape, beyond self, got eerily painted:
                           He will cross tramlines, pubs
                           and a theater, a school
                           He will enter a by-lane
                           I know very well ….

                           and shoot me                          (Reminiscence) 

Sandipta Kanti Nag
                      The poet moves easily from a dark world to the world of love and emotion. He succeeds in showing the gap between the security of the private world sanctioned by love, and the insecurity of the public life, mired with fear and crisis. Chatterjee is at his lyrical best in some of his remarkable love poems, not found frequently now-a-days:
                             Touch me, touch my heart; I look up
                             at your face, and loudly say
                             ‘shut the world and let me love
                             like an insane’, every moment n every day             (Shut the World)

We sail through magical rhymes with the poet in another love poem:

                                  My boat is ready for you
                                  Feel free to sail through

                                  the blue waters, away from shore
                                  Away from mundanity and more

                                  Away from beloved garden and film show
                                  Will you ? I am afraid of hearing a ‘no’          (A New World Beckons)

With love, sensuality takes a considerable shape in Chatterjee’s anthology, and he is equally comfortable in his portrayals:

                                   You’ve uncovered me
                                    and my ecstasy
                                    in this moonlit night 

                                    As you groan loud in joy
                                    Hillocks tell me
                                    they have been conquered in silence

                                    In a surreal moonlight                                      (Surreal Moonlight)

                 
                        If Chatterjee traverses through tradition in hillocks, moonlight, love and sensuality; he also paints with equal ease the ‘cloggy by-lanes’ of the modern world. In one of the efficient Triolets, he depicts nuances of the modern life:

                              I wanted to see light in darkness
                              But unruly mind did not want a vision
                              Carnivals dance floor fuelled me to express
                              I wanted to see light in darkness
                              Urban flights, diamond smile, unworthy to impress
                              Dark by-lanes strewn inside, cloggy passion                   (Dark By-lanes) 

The modern mind is storage of the complexities of the modern world; and the poet is fully aware of such complexities:

                                And mind is a blackhole
                                Sucks sunshine and the cactus
                                white and yellow
                                sucks the sand
                                green blue red and black 
                                …………………………………
                                Mind sucks blackholes
                                Time sand and the cactus
                                watch in silence                                      (Blackholes Sand …) 


                        The presence of sorrow, pain and sufferings, apart from love and sensuality, in different poems of the volume makes “Seaside Myopia” a fascinating read. The inescapable sorrow and pain in all the visible and invisible avenues of life have been aptly portrayed in the volume. Poems like ‘Circle of Melancholy’, ‘Pencil in My Brain’, ‘Dinner Table’, ‘Alien’, ‘The Ivory Tower’ excel in this realm. One is often struck also by similes and imageries in several poems, like in the ‘Rains’:

                                  Rains came
                                  at 11 a.m.
                                  on punctured tyre and broken chain.
                                  On john’s tin roof
                                  with dancing mango pickles                                (Rains)
                             
and in ‘Mud’:

                                   Look, I’m drenched in mud
                                  thrown from all sides and, heaven.
                                  Look, I’m thrilled with mud
                                  of all colors.
                                  Is mud part of the curricula ?                               (Mud)   

                      There are some jarring effects in a few poems that shake and destabilize readers, like ‘my contact with a drenched body’ (p.33); ‘liquid comes out, strange, / human blood’ (p.14); ‘Do I search a mind in the corpse?’ (p.15);  or ‘Torn hair of raped sister’ (p.14). But such jarring effects make the reader face realities of a dark time we are passing through. Overall, “Seaside Myopia” makes a rewarding read. What strikes most is the poet’s immaculate willingness to connect the self with the other, body with soul, person with the landscape and the universe. The volume deserves a place in every poetry lover’s bookshelf and in every library.
                              __________________________________________________ 

The Author: Aneek Chatterjee is an Indian poet and academic from Kolkata and author of “Seaside Myopia: A Book of Poems” (Cyberwit.net, 2018). He has been published in literary magazines in the USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Mauritius, Philippines, Bangladesh and India. His poems have been included in eight anthologies also; -- all published from the USA. Chatterjee has a ph.d. in International Relations. He also authored and edited 9 academic books and a novel titled “The Funeral Procession”, besides numerous articles. He taught at the University of Virginia, USA as a Fulbright Visiting fellow.

The Reviewer: Sandipta Kanti Nag is currently working as Associate Professor of English in Hooghly Mohsin College, one of the prestigious academic institutions in India, established in 1836. His recent  credits are: ‘Poems from Santiniketan', an anthology of poems from Visva-Bharati University;  'Mati o Manush' from Dhaka, Bangladesh; 'Indo-French Festival Volume' from the old French city of Chandernagore; 'The Presidency  College Magazine' from Kolkata; translations in 'Kabita o Samaj' from Kolkata; 'More Poems from Santiniketan'; articles in 'Indo-Anglian Literature: Past to Present', in the ‘175th Anniversary Volume of Hooghly Mohsin College and miscellaneous columns on literature and society in books and journals of repute.

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