Book Review: Susmita’s ‘Quiet Whispers of Our Heart’

Book Review by Gopal Lahiri (Poet and Critic)


Quiet Whispers of Our Heart

Author: Susmita
English Translation: Chaitali Sengupta
ISBN: 978-93-87350-09-0
Publisher: Orange Publishers, Kolkata
Price: ₹ 240.00 INR

Creative Universe Illuminated

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of feelings and overreaching impulses since ages. It’s every poet’s dream to be read, to be recognized for lifting the submerged soul and casting light into the dark corner of life. In her charming debut poetry collection, ’Quiet Whispers of Our Heart’, Susmita, the Pune based poet, catalogues the poem that connect us to the Bengali language, locales, ethos, and cultures. This poetry collection is all about learning to speak in a poetic voice and mostly these poems find a more personal voice without trading revelations.

Gopal Lahiri
This collection of poems is translated into English from the original Bengali by Chaitali Sengupta. There’s something delightful about this bilingual edition, each poem translated in English paired with its original Bengali side by side.

In her translator’s note, Chaitali Sengupta has pointed out, ‘Each work in this book contains two voices: that of the author and the other of the translator.’ She also goes on adding, ‘A separate art is created in the womb of the original. And therein lies the beauty of the art of translation.’ She has illuminated all the nuances of the original, bringing the surface elements into stark relief.

Susmita’s emotive poems are thought provoking and evocative- stand apart for its poetic recompose. A few poems straddle the line between prose poem and lyric essay. It’s reflects highly of the language, metaphor and logic and highlights some key moments and trajectories of life.

Everything is under her probing gaze and ideas and images are blend in a simple algorithm. She gives a sense of clarity and roundedness in her poems and her words become texts of intense luminosity and depth.

One of poetry’s most alluring elements can be its blend of observations. Susmita’s poems often contain a perceptible moment or two, then something startling or surprising drops in. Her words open up on a broad canvas, unpacking everyday lives with startling originality. Her carefully weighted words tips into fraught, interesting terrain carving out a new identity.

Here is a poet who has confessed ‘One day may I be a tree’ and made us read for craft, skill and think about why things worked in a seamless manner. It is the porousness of poet’s language that surprises. Her eloquent write is arresting and she finds a wonderfully unforced way of expressing the truth. There is pure pleasure, directness and intimacy in the following poem.
.
‘The day comes to an end,
In this manner, without preamble
Lights die down, just like that,
tedious, dull,
Monochromatic...
Nothing matters…
No story stands apart.’ (An Ant’s life…)

Poetry is actually making a story out of a moment and the poet can unpack that moment in many different forms and ways. Her poems can be quite complex or they can regal in their utter simplicity. Many of the poems reveal the deft touches that exude the insistent appeal.

 ‘Memories are at times locked with amnesia…
 Like, the seen also renders a part of the unseen…
Some mysteries…let them be an enigma
Just like, some questions unanswered… (The Pearl drops)

Poetry is a form of art that is unique, special and borders on a creative outlet. There is no denying that poetry is one of the most powerful instruments for our survival. It is one mode of transport one takes on the long way through unknowing. This poem is a standout.

The fire has dampened
Defeat, wrongs, lovelessness
I can accept all now
In cold silence
The fire has dampened
And I don’t mind it either
Like a Quiet buried corpse
This too is a time of silence. (Time of Silence).

Some of his poems are strident, terse and pithy. It involves much urgent, incisive and unsettling conversational rummaging. The sense of sublime submission to external powers prevails in the following poems.

Instead give me some yearnings
Some moments of joy, a few churnings of memories
Instead let a poem be born.’. (A poem, instead)

Or

Only I painted a picture with the colours of my dreams
Human you were
Always…
Then and Now,
Only I out of love heaped Godhood on you.’ (In the Maze of Time)

The poet’s tone is matter-of-fact and personal, as in this poem. With a text richly packed with voices we all need to know more about; she slices through the real elements and refreshes truth. This is another a cracker of a poem.

‘and so I come running, sometimes…
A trip to a destination beyond
Emptiness is a mirage
Just as the faraway opaque horizon’. (Emptiness and Beyond)

Some of his intensely felt lyrical proses are poignant and discerning focusing on the immediate physical world around us, particularly that of surrounds and on the workings of the relationship and social hurdles. There is no mystical pomposity here whatsoever. Indeed, there is very nearly the opposite and most of these proses are anecdotal and a serious self-interrogation.

‘We cannot bare our entire soul ever, no not even on the pages of our life’s journal. I shall leave behind an incomplete story of my life. Just like every other soul in this world.’ (Incomplete tale of life)

Furthermore, the poet’s world play is pleasant, and economy of words is striking at times. She never wrestles with grand theme, the kind of posturing you’d expect from people not really comfortable in a new terrain. Her poems are quieter and deeper to linger with you for a longer period of time.

 ‘In another life
On its wings I write solace each night
The story of an impasse’. (Impasse)

Poets in general like to express themselves in a way they never could before. It allows them to say what they want while still leaving the true meaning up to interpretation, beyond metrics and rhyme. If we take a moment to observe-, poetry gives us that moment. Her poems give us a view through a keyhole, it’s a view often made richer by life’s constrictions.

‘it’s time…
to untie the knots
untangle the link
time hurries forward incessantly.’ (The last buzzer).

Even though the collection is not appealing enough with contemporary issues or not engaging enough with craft as some readers may argue, but the book stands out for its sheer promise and startling originality and quietness.

Susmita’s strength is clarity and weaving emotive words with skill and purpose. This charming poetry collection examines contrasts and conflicts contemplating traditional stereotypes around, illuminating inner workings and defiance. Chaitali Sengupta’s translation is constantly alert to the shades and distinctions of the poems.

The cover page is apt. The book is a delight and will ensure a wide appeal across the poetry lovers.

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