Poetry: Debasish Lahiri

Debasish Lahiri
HYDERABAD: COVID DIARIES

I

Open to peacocks and peace all season,
Usher of dreams of the world
Caring hospice for the mind’s jarred ears
Is it true that your gates are closed now,
Penthouse of my buried youth?


II

I pass by Paradise every day,
but I never get to go there.
How can a Paradise with closed gates
be regained again?


III

I sift through bodies at empty hospitals
looking for a soul to emerge
like an error on the frowning computer,
bemused
at the breathing of ideas.
***


ROOFTOPS: A HYDERABAD MEDITATION

A view of rooftops,
Morning summary
Of a city.
Pizzaro, 
Crawling like an ant across the shoulder-bone of Paris;
Cézanne, 
Screaming like a thrilled gossamer on the summer breeze 
Over the red, tiled pate of Auvers;
Berne,
Anonymous artist through a garret window
Measuring the infusion of bell-music from the cathedral
In the morning rain;
Marking the hurry of civic workers
On the cobbled street below
With slow eyes.

Slow rain
Gets steadier over cities,
Rain gets quieter,
Dissolving 
All the rant of cars
In morning’s lane.
Silence!
The error of silence prevails.
Error that turns Paris and Berne into Hyderabad
Over morning rooftops.
The error of a sojourner,
Stranger in a city hotel
Who has strayed from his room without the keys
That can usher him back.
Memory is a stranger in this city,
In a hospitable house 
It walks the corridor lonely and lost,
No doors that he can open,
No windows 
That can resume his walk across rooftops.

Clouds accost the city
For a game of poker.
Perhaps, the rooftops would play
On its behalf,
But which city?
***


JAVED

The riddle of Javed, the taxi driver:
The faster he drives through the night
The more he is outraced
By slow clouds over the express way.
And the crescent moon,
Like the cicada
Won’t be shaken off the window glass.
Fancy Javed, the philosopher, wondering
On lonely roads of the night,
How fast he has to go
To escape
Himself.
***


Bio: Debasish Lahiri is an Assistant Professor in English literature at Lal Baba College, under the University of Calcutta. His writings on Postcolonial theory, Indian, American, African & Australian Poetry, and European Modernism have been published in international journals and anthologies of criticism.
He has delivered Keynote & Plenary Talks on Poetry at leading Universities in India. Abroad, he has been invited to speak at Manchester Metropolitan University; University of Paris Nanterre, University of Grenoble Alpes and University of Paris 13 among others.

He has one collection of essays Chiaroscuro Curfew: Essays in the Lives of Art (2020), a co-edited book, Literary Transactions in a Globalized Context (2010), and one co-authored book, Tragic Survivals: From the Hellenic to the Postmodern (2017) to his credit.

Lahiri is an internationally acclaimed poet. His poems have been widely published in journals like The Journal of the Poetry Society of India, Muse-India, Indian Literature, Inkapture, The Poetry Salzburg Review, Mediterranean Poetry, Weber: The Contemporary West, Six Seasons Review, Byword, The Punch Magazine and The French Literary Review among others; in French translation in Siècle 21, Europe, Recours au Poème & La Traductière; and in Portuguese in NERVO: Colectivo de Poesia.

His four books of poetry are: First Will & Testament (Writers Workshop, 2012), No Waiting like Departure (Authors Press, 2016) which was shortlisted as one of the five best collections of that year by Scroll & India Today, Tinder Tender: Poems of Love & Loitering (Authors Press, 2018) and Poppies in the Post & Other Poems (Authors Press, 2020).

Paysages sans Verbes (Landscape Without Verbs), a French translation of his selected poetry was published in May, 2021 from Edítions Apic, (Algiers/Paris). 

Legion of Lost Letters, a collection of narrative poems on common lives in Roman Britain is due to be published in 2022 from Black Spring Press, UK.

Lahiri is currently on the editorial board of Gitanjali & Beyond (Scottish Centre for Tagore Studies). He is a reviewer and regular contributor to the ‘Life & Letters’ column of The Statesman newspaper. Lahiri’s essay on the pandemic in Kolkata appeared in the L’Obs magazine on 27th July 2021.


Lahiri is the recipient of the Prix-du Merite, Naji Naaman Literary Prize 2019. He is an honorary member of Maison Naaman pour la Culture.

*** 

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