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Questions Concerning Aristotle’s Tomb by Manash Bhattacharjee

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Photograph: Giovanni Dall'Orto

An archaeologist in Greece unearths Aristotle’s
Tomb; others dispute the evidence.
If Aristotle’s ideas are consulted, the archaeologist
Needs to prove, the tomb’s where he claims it,
Not anywhere else. If that is too much,
He would fail the philosopher’s test.
Archaeology asks for proof, philosophy asks
For conviction. The archaeologist
Better satisfy one of them.

It is an ideal wish, a man’s beliefs
Reflect on his grave. But we aren’t living
Ideal times, where an Aristotle
Puts “trust” over “truth”, accepts
Man’s labour of love.

Greece, once a hub of rhetoricians,
Had Aristotle writing,
“A likely impossibility is always preferable
To an unconvincing possibility.”
Will measuring a man’s claim, in the light
Of this statement, lead us anywhere?
In this world, where reality has turned graver
Than death, will such a dispute,
Rhetorically, serve the question Aristotle
Asked — how best to live?

by Manash Bhattacharjee   

Refugees by Manash Bhattacharjee

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© Bengin Ahmad

Refugees

I know a thing or two
about refugees –

As a child I heard father
say, “We were sleeping
in the place we thought
was our country, till
the siren rang at dawn —
by dusk everyone learnt
how to spell refugee”

The sun abandoned all,
an exodus of ants fled
on fear’s soil, forgetting
close on their heels –
what they left behind
won’t remember them —
only refugees walk
on earth — leaving no
footprints

“When god gives up
on you,” said father,
“you die. But when
history tosses every-
one into the sea you
turn refugee”

Since then I follow
the fate of refugees
in my dreams — I
travel unwelcome
skies and cities – I
negotiate my stay
with folded hands

And I no longer see
what others see –
a door, a garden,
or a cigarette shop
– belonging to me

 

Manash Bhattacharjee

September 3, 2015, Delhi

 

Manash Bhattacharjee is an author and poet from Delhi. His poems have appeared in The London Magazine, New Welsh Review, The Fortnightly Review, Elohi Gadugi Journal, The Postcolonialist, George Szirtes’ Blog, Warscapes, First Proof: The Penguin Books of New Writing from India (Volume 5), The Missing Slate, The Little Magazine. His first collection of poetry, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems (2013), was published by The London Magazine Editions.

Independence Day by Manash Bhattacharjee

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Independence Day
(15th August, 1947)

The day had turned out to be
A feast for vultures
Every Muslim and Hindu body
Was Parsi in death

The gods fled the streets of bones
They left Kabir’s country desolate

Water partitioned blood,
Blood partitioned water,
Families partitioned gold,
Map partitioned memory,

No one sang anthems for the dead
No one raised the flag of skeletons
No one remembered the forgotten

Pigeons flown from the ramparts
Dispersed serenity under the sky
Even the clouds rained only water
And crops were harvested on time

 

Manash Bhattacharjee is an author and poet from Delhi. His poems have appeared in The London Magazine, New Welsh Review, The Fortnightly Review, Elohi Gadugi Journal, The Postcolonialist, George Szirtes’ Blog, Warscapes, First Proof: The Penguin Books of New Writing from India (Volume 5), The Missing Slate, The Little Magazine. His first collection of poetry, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems (2013), was published by The London Magazine Editions.

This poem recalls the events on the eve of the 68th anniversary of India’s independence.

Exile by Manash Bhattacharjee

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Exile

“I rested my mouth on your memory”
~ Yannis Ritsos, from Diaries of Exile

[In the event of Greece saying a resounding “No” against the West’s capitalists, I remember the great communist poet of the Greek Resistance, in the twenty-fifth year of his death]

Night arrives like a cart
You push it with motionless hands
There is darkness
But no star
When you whistle
There is no bird that hears you
Ritsos the poet of Greece
Is locked up in a cell
He is forced to pay homage
To Plato’s decree
Those who dream perfect societies
Are poetry’s enemies
Perfect societies are perfect cells
Guarded by rifles
Ritsos writes in cigarette packs
Of time’s backwardness
Nothing moves in the dark
Except memory
Once there was a mouth
Before his mouth
Now his exiled mouth kisses
Only cold floors

Manash Bhattacharjee is a poet, writer and translator. His poems have appeared in The London Magazine, New Welsh Review, The Fortnightly Review, Elohi Gadugi Journal, First Proof: The Penguin Books of New Writing from India (Volume 5), The Missing Slate, etc. His first collection, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems (2013), was published by The London Magazine.

Evening Light

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©Tessieye

Evening Light

Brave bat in a bowler hat
Blood shot eyes question
What time does this light
Depart?

The light descends elsewhere
Its shadow rising here
The bat changes into an owl
Dreaming of Minerva

A pealing scab
Pain blooming pollens
Turmeric twilight
In her mortar and pestle

Bring me a balm
From another evening
What peels, blooms
Pestled into heart-dust

Dust that muffles the street-light
Murmurs to tired eyes
Look up, this evening won’t last long
Eat. The bread is still warm.

Memories of dusty evenings
Render evenings to dust
The owl sitting on the lamp-post
Will remember nothing

Summer surrenders to this night
The heat of noon breaks
Evening’s horizon
Dark ink blots on paling light

Night is summer
Heat evaporates in the body
Two across a table
Words – brighter than light

This flatland wakefulness
Stretches to prehistory
Marred by light wounds
Stings of dawn – applause!

Empty seats
The audience is dead
Body of the martyr
Dawning upon history

 

[This is a collaborate poem, on the lines of the Japanese ‘Renga’. It was written over email, when Srajana was in Bangalore and Manash was travelling by train from Delhi to Bangalore. Srajana begins the poem with the first stanza, followed by Manash. The stanzas alternate between the two. Manash brings to an end the theme begun by Srajana.]

Srajana Kaikini is a writer, curator and researcher. She was at de Appel’s Curatorial Programme 2012/13 in Amsterdam where she co-curated the exhibition Bourgeois Leftovers. Her work has been published in journals such as Typoetic.us, m-est.org, Coldnoon, Art Barricade, and JCRT.

Manash Bhattacharjee is a poet, writer and translator. His poems have appeared in The London Magazine, New Welsh Review, The Fortnightly Review, Elohi Gadugi Journal, First Proof: The Penguin Books of New Writing from India (Volume 5), The Missing Slate, etc. His first collection, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems (2013), was published by The London Magazine.

College Street – A Poem by Manash Bhattacherjee

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An open tunnel
Swarming with books
Slow pavement
Walking with a pause
Books stall you
Eyes stalked by titles
The feet fettered
You miss the women
An old book-fool
Lost in the dead poet
As life passes by
Ah bulletproof poems
By that Nabarun
He shot at his poems
They did not die
Survived the tobacco
Fire and smoke
Living like a cigarette
Guts bellowing
The poet dies bravely
His books sold
By streets of oblivion
“O’ he is dead?”
The owner is stunned
By his ignorance
But no time to ponder
Time is in flames
Dead poets sell better
Like elephants
Poets are automobiles
Puffing the dirt
They die like factories
Poem is labour
Sold in College Street

Woman buying Tagore
A tower of Pisa
In the same bookstore
Looks unmoved
As I ask for my poets
A zero curiosity
Tagore is monogamy
But she can flirt
Like an aunt in agony
With the owner
Only for a lower price
Price is too high
Even for Tagore love
The owner flirts
With humble overture
Concedes book’s
Value but not the price
“I tried my best”
She threatens to leave
Without the book
And wins the gaming
At fifty rupees less

Where else are books
Bargained over tea
Poets bought and sold
Like daily grocery
A dog follows you out
As it follows you in
A solitary biscuit is all
It asks for gratitude
Owner who sells poets
Complains how few
Ask for poets these days
“Students are busy
Competing not reading”
Hits the nail’s head!

Dusk falls quicker than
You can imagine
The Coffee House gets
Somewhat louder
’60s are a cigarette away
Caffeine of love
Sinking on sour throats
Love is difficult
The rates of life go high
Sun is no longer
Red but has turned blue
May turn saffron
Sooner than you blink
Curtains to hope

The chatty taxi driver
Has no such worry
He has planned a drink
After he drops me
I leave behind shadows
Folding up the day
I see from the window
A brooding ghost
Below the smoggy lamp
Wearing a nostalgia
Heavier than the books

By Rishi Bandopadhay

Manash Bhattacharjee  

November 21, 2014, Delhi

(Manash Bhattacharjee is a poet from New Delhi. His first collection of poetry, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems, was published by The London Magazine here)

For Calcutta by Manash Bhattacharjee

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As I leave for Calcutta
I think the city
Always that other city
Its river Ganga
Always my other river
Howrah Bridge
What a colonial cradle
A Raj suspended
Kipling’s imperial joy
Hoogly below
Flows older than time
Soothing hearts
River rowed with song
Of undying love
God familiar boatman
With a name
Now none remembers

City of modest curtains
A canvas of wilted time
Buildings of lost colour
Windows of empty eyes
Crowds of salt and sun
Sweats in rushing blood
Searching for old lovers
Or the roadside teashop
A limping beggar pauses
Before slogans of justice
Grey photographs hang
Marx, Lenin and Engels
Names of grim factories
Names of old chimneys
Ideas sold in bookstores
Rage of all conversations

Calcutta is nostalgia
Mad for running boots
Split by jersey colour
Polite despite humidity
Vehicles in no hurry
Pausing for pedestrians
No one is apologetic
For not arriving on time
The naked goddess
Clothed before it is late
Calcutta surreal city
Where Bhaskar dreamt
Trams floating on air
And Nabarun met Hegel
In a slaughtered goat’s
Dead vision upside down

My memories of Calcutta
Flowers picked in a hurry
To cheer her face of grass
Cajole her hesitant breasts
A smoky evening of saliva
Smuggled by contrary lips
An open wound salivating
Below the saddest clouds
Scolded by the granduncle
“You are late for your age,
And the English grammar
Is still not up to the mark”

And pity I couldn’t tell him
Kisses don’t need grammar. 

by Manash Bhattacharjee

Manash Bhattacharjee is a poet from New Delhi. His first collection of poetry, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems, was published by The London Magazine.)

Different Faces by Manash Bhattacharjee

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I wonder sometimes where people store all their different faces.
~ Trina Nileena Banerjee

The face he wears every morning
Reminds him of his mother
Combing his hair before school.
The face he carries in the streets
And in his workplace
Where every glance cuts him
To size like a scissor trimming
A bouquet –
That face he wears of hours
The beloved never turned up.
When he meets the woman
In a bar or an unwanted friend
He pretends to carry
On his face a heavy suitcase
For a journey not undertaken.
These faces are not masks –
He has them in store the way
We hang clothes in the cupboard
Meant for different occasions.
In his case the weight is heavier –
He carries the cupboard with him.

 

Manash Bhattacharjee

4th September, New Delhi

 

Two Hundred Twenty a Kilo by Nabarun Bhattacharya, translated by Manash Bhattacharjee

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(Homage to Karl Marx)

Nabarun Bhattacharya
(23 June 1948 – 31 July 2014)

On the floor of a slaughterhouse
A butcher’s leg slips in the blood
Crows go raucous on the tinned roof
The cats outside sleep sniffing blood

Head severed from the body
The sound of skin ripping

Horn, gaping mouth, grass-flakes
Teeth clasped
The eyes of an astronaut –
Looking for grass in the galaxy

The vision of Hegel
Hangs upside down
A marvellous sky beyond the throat

Translated from the Bengali by Manash Bhattacharjee

Manash Bhattacharjee is a poet and a political science scholar from New Delhi. His first collection of poetry was published by The London Magazine and you can buy it here

 

 

 

 

Stripping Gaza by Manash Bhattacharjee

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For Najwan Darwish

A lucky three-year-old
Is Saher* Abu Namous

If Gaza didn’t explode
The world would have
Known nothing of him

Now he is all in reports
One among the victims
Dead like a nipped bud

Saher will not see dawn
It will not dawn on him
Dawn buried in the sun
He is dawn’s stone-face

Thin strip along the sea
Gaza is a handful of sky
A handful of vegetation
A handful of spared life

And a handful of rubble
As tax paid for freedom

Gaza is a refuge of birds
Blinded by metallic fires

Gaza is the state of mind
The enemy longs to tame
The enemy longs to strip
The bone of its feathers
The thin strips of its lives
Marooning along the sea

Gaza has nothing to give
Except Saher Abu’s body
The last child of sacrifice
Paid by a neighbourhood

Bombs from a sunken sky
Fall deafly on a homeland
Mourning over tiny graves
Under freshly planted trees

By Manash Bhattacharjee

Manash is a poet, translator and political science scholar from New Delhi. His first collection, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems, was published recently by The London Magazine. Find out more about the collection here.

*‘Saher’ means dawn.

The Grandfather by Manash Bhattacharjee

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To Steven O’ Brien

Grandfather Heaney dug deep
Into his country’s soil
Another man unlike him left home
To burrow through an alien forest
In search of enemies

The alien pastures were green
But the scent of blood heavy
In dogged, wet boots
Flanked by Rhine and Reich
The army pushed the Nazis
Yard by yard

As one grandfather harvested
The potatoes on time
Another braved enemy-floods
Reaping heads in Reichswald
Against the Führer’s pleasure

Sometimes you choose the gun
Instead of the spade
You leave the land in another’s man’s care
He digs and you fight
For the same air separating you

One day the man back from war
Drives his bus before a house smelling of fresh potatoes
And he smiles raising no eyebrow

Manash Bhattacharjee

6 June, 2014. New Delhi.

(Manash’s first collection of poems, Ghalib’s Tomb and other poems, was published recently by The London Magazine.)

Khuda by Manash Bhattacharjee

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©Kishore Singh

Many times I passed by your house
On my way to see my grandmother

I paused before the large iron gates
Expecting to catch a glimpse of you

Grandmother said you are formless
It puzzled my mind of teeming idols

You can see everything without eyes
But they say you are a merciful heart

I wondered what the faithful dreamt
In the hollow cloisters of the masjid

I thought I might hear if not see you
In the wind that blew across my face

But all I heard was the beggar’s voice
Pleading limbless for alms in your name

If god is a sufferer’s imaginary flower
Can history’s boots be his salvation?

If bhakti is opium and divinity – smoke
Was Kabir hallucinating about Ram?

The pervasive music of god’s absence
Haunts the beggar and the poet alike

My grandmother on hearing the azan
Blessed the muezzin for telling the time

She prophesied in her tongue of paan
“One day only azan will be left to tell time”

Telling of the time and tolling of the bell
The inconclusive appointments with god

They also call you by the name of Allah
The call and the cry born of desert skies

But I was drawn to your Persian name
That brought you the salaam of Kafirs

A lover sings your praise on the radio
You elevate the height of the beloved

When the Ustad renders his ode to you
His tongue’s fire soothes the landscape

Your name effaces all pangs of farewell
The departing footsteps promise return

Manash Bhattacharjee

January 9, 2014, Delhi.

The Man Who Unravelled Solitude by Manash Bhattacharjee

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a beautiful name. It resonates with such a feeling more so because the name immediately reminds us of the man’s imagination, the crushing beauty of his stories that mesmerized audiences reeling from the brilliant but dismal literature travelling from post-war Europe. The novel was Europe, and little bit America, with most readers oblivious to the couple of geniuses from Japan. Until suddenly, the name Marquez dropped from another planet and took everyone’s attention by storm. It was like discovering a Beethoven inLatin America, where a writer’s prose seemed like it was set to music.

Later Marquez made the stunning observation that One Hundred Years of Solitude read better in English than his native Spanish. Rarely do you get to hear a writer who holds the translation to be better than the original. The rich potential of translatability made that epochal novel even more enigmatic. The whole world discovered Columbia through that novel, learnt of the sufferings of the banana plantation workers, and yet another devastating story of colonization. Within the stories of dispossession and poverty, flowered tales of mad humour and magically fatal love. However, be it through the character of Colonel Aureliano Buendia or the unnamed General in The Autumn of the Patriarch, Marquez drew for his readers the long shadow of oppressive solitude that accompanies tyrannical power.

In an interview the author said, the thirst for power comes from the impotency to love. Marquez vividly contrasts the characters trapped in power to those who risk their life for love. So you have a Mauricio Babilonia, chased by yellow butterflies, having a secret affair with Meme, until Meme’s mother Fernanda has him killed, and the yellow butterflies die with him. Both Mauricio and Meme are finally condemned to a life of solitude. Love is countless butterflies in the garden of power. Love has to bear the revenge of solitude that power can solely offer love.

In his Nobel Prize speech, Marquez drew attention to Latin America’s fated solitude. Independence from Spanish domination threw them into the clutches of local dictators. He asked Europe to correctly interpret the miseries of Latin America, where not lack but an excess of imagination lived alongside the burdens of unbelievable lives. Marquez reminded his audience that “London took three hundred years to build its first city walls, and three hundred years more to acquire a bishop.”

Marquez mentions in his memoir, Living to Tell the Tale, how his grandmother helped sustain their lives of meager resources with her sense of unreality. Telling her grandson fantastic tales was part of inventing that unreality. It later helped Marquez to gain literary approval from reading the story of Gregor Samsa waking up from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into an insect. Kafka echoed his grandmother. The German poet Rilke’s statement that if one was capable of living without writing one shouldn’t write, made Marquez impose the vow of writing upon himself. His memoir is proof that his life was fiction and his fiction, life. The reader learns Love in the Time of Cholera is his parents’ love story, that he had proposed his lifelong wife on a dance floor when she was thirteen, and that a Sergeant in the neighbourhood spared his adolescent life after he was caught sleeping with the Sergeant’s wife, only because Marquez’s father, who was a homeopath pharmacist, saved the Sergeant when he was suffering from gonorrhea.

In his famous essay on Nikolai Leskov, The Storyteller, Walter Benjamin had predicted that the time of storytellers were over with modernity and the age of novelists have begun. Benjamin distinguished storytelling, an art that comes from an oral tradition and is told from experience, to the art of the novel that emerges out of isolated individualism. Marquez proved that prediction wrong, as his novels are stories that re-cover the lived experience of an entire culture and re-tells the life of their imagination.

As a journalist Marquez tackled the question of separating truth from political fictions, but also learnt how the importance of journalistic precision can aid a fantastic story. The other aspect that confirms Marquez’s greatness as a writer is his abandonment of ideological and rational certainties in favour of contradictions. Even though he was a communist, he did not believe in using a doctrinaire lens as a writer. And though he was an atheist, Marquez said in an interview, “If you don’t believe in god, at least be superstitious.” No wonder, in Marquez’s own admission, he was closer to Rabelais than Kant.

Despite witnessing the impossible extremes of Latin American life, where people faced unequal battles in an unequal world, Marquez kept faith in both story and people. In his Nobel speech, quoting William Faulkner whom he considered his master, Marquez declined to “accept the end of man”.

 

Manash Bhattacharjee

April 19, 2014, Delhi.

An interview with Manash Bhattacharjee

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The London Magazine interviews Manash Bhattacharjee, author of the poetry collection ‘Ghalib’s Tomb and other poems’ to give us a glimpse at the inspiration behind his collection.

When did you start writing poetry?

I wrote my first poem, a very silly love poem, when I was in the eighth standard. I wrote nothing thereafter, till I reached my final year in school. A torrent of poems followed, all grappling with the crests and troughs of love. The poems, even in their adolescent exuberance, are proof how love is always desperate to invent its own loneliness and then struggle against it. What also strikes me today is this mysterious thrill and satisfaction at such an early age in giving a poetic form to feelings. It was three years after this initial burst of poetry that I started writing, during college, the poetry that would stay with me till today, slowly maturing with reading.

Tell me about your experiences living in Delhi.

My initial years in Delhi were spent in a university campus. JNU was a boon after my decision to dump the pulp-fiction world of engineering and study humanities. I was glad to meet students who had discarded the preaching of family, religion and nation. We stood in solidarity withPalestine, Kashmir and Manipur. Students wrote pamphlets against the designs ofAmericaand capitalism, and walls were painted with lines from Neruda, Muktibodh, Kishwar Naheed and Namdeo Dhasal. Meanwhile JNU’s tall library fed my doubts. Mandelstam overshadowed Mayakovsky. Koestler overshadowed Sartre. I decided my disillusioned writing will be my politics. Those who were exposing society’s contradictions hid their own. Progressive politics was also a politics of masks. I kept faith in the classroom, but discovered another: alcohol. Carousing is the best ritual for exorcising ghosts, deepening friendships, inhaling music and sharing poetry. The campus also allowed the primal luxury of making love under the moon in the wilderness. Today JNU is the caged rhino of Alok Dhanwa’s poem: all security and no freedom.

Delhi was a partitioned beast that had vandalised its memories. It gave up its ability to embrace other cities and people.Delhi’s language became foul after it lost touch withLahore. Its politics is shallow theatre. Only among dwellers around the graves of medieval saints and poets, you found courtesy and good food.

Ghalib is said to be the last great poet of the Mughal Era and is considered to be one of the most popular and influential poets in the Urdu language. What do you find most captivating in his poetry?

Ghalib was a disbeliever who dared faith. His most poignant verses were not without twists of self-irony. Alcohol was his magic potion which paradoxically granted him insights into the difficult life of human desire. To assert beyond what Wittgenstein said of Shakespeare, Ghalib was Urdu’s creator as well as its most prodigious poet. It’s a pity Tagore never came to read Ghalib and missed his influence.

Why should people read your collection? What do you think they will take away with them upon reading it?

The poems in this collection are about my encounter with the world of poets, singers, myth, history, city life, women and a threadlike self that weaves itself through them. These encounters are both map and meridian: they connect human experiences across time and space, in what Octavio Paz called a “time beyond time”. The map is a map of love, meant for free birds, not stagnant armies. It is also a map of reading, and all reading is a sign of leaving home.

All who are travelling from elsewhere to elsewhere, who believe in borderless maps, might find through my poems a fellow traveller. I would like to hear from them what they could take away.

Before anyone begins reading your collection is there anything you’d recommend they look up?

Unfortunately yes, a few poems are related to specific readings. The poem Diary is a response to Passolini’s poem of the same name. The Broken Vase is a surrealist poem inspired by André Breton’s book Mad Love (L’Amour Fou). I have mentioned the poetry collection of W.G Sebald that occasioned Reading Sebald. A reviewer who hadn’t heard of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan found it enriching to hear his singing after reading the poem Ustad Nusrat. I would recommend the same for the sublime Kashmiri singer, Ustad Saaznawaz.

You seem haunted by the ghosts of dead poets: how much do they shape your poetry?

It is a coincidence that all the poets I pay tribute to in the collection are dead. I wish some of them, who died not so long ago, were alive. Isn’t it fascinating that Octavio Paz, who came fromMexico, opened my eyes to the images of modernDelhi? I have of course learnt from each of the poets I mention. To handle influences is both an art and a trick. T.S Eliot said better poets don’t imitate because they are good at stealing. Aga Shahid Ali, for example, had a brilliant style of revealing his poetic signposts.

Who would you compare yourself to?

No one. I have not yet passed all the Rilkean tests of being a poet. So I can only compare myself to this struggle of finding my voice. Maybe one day readers will find it resembling other voices.

What poem in the collection means most to you?  

I have a tender place in my heart for the small poem, Stillness. I wrote it during the terribly hot and lonely nights in the university. My friend, Bidhan Laishram – who used to say, the moon knew all his secrets – recited it when we walked the streets late at night with the drunk moon over us. The poem is also about a way of seeing the moon with intensely estranged eyes. I am reminded of Borges’ lines, “I offer you the bitterness of a man who has looked / long and long at the lonely moon.” There is stillness in this poem about stillness. Nothing happens in this poem waiting for something to happen. I realised only later the strong Beckettian undertone in the poem.

Many of your poems make reference to or carry a tribute to someone. Do you feel that poetry is the best way to communicate your feelings towards them?

Why not! Poetry is written in physical isolation, but the mind’s solitude is always peopled by the presence of others. Poetry is a social act. Poems are sometimes born out of conversations, references and connections you make with particular people. You want their name to be part of the memory of the poem. Poems are also memories. A poem becomes less lonely when you dedicate it to a name.

What do you think makes a really good poem?

A really good poem is a perfect shock that may force open the blind eyes of time. The world has an anaesthetic hold over our senses. The poem is meant to break our slumber and look at life’s contrary face, its hidden wound, with open eyes.

The London Magazine published Manash Bhattacharjee’s debut poetry collection last year. It is available on the Kindle store for only £2.99. You can buy this collection here.

To find out more about the collection, click here.

Make sure to ‘like’ Manash on facebook to be kept up to date with the poet.

 

 

 

The Teacher by Manash Bhattacharjee

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Tree Trunks in the Grass (1890) by Van Gogh

To Upal Deb

He wasn’t a blackboard
Framing flightless birds
Not a classroom figure
Offering the curriculum
To rows of bored faces

He sat on his bed facing
The window Van Gogh
Painted a bit differently
Barely allowing the light
To disturb a perverse air
Issuing not from books
Piled in honour of chaos
But from his own mind
Recalling amorous stories
Of poets and neighbours
Spiced with Marvell’s satire
And Rimbaud’s censures
That shook my cup of tea
With astonished laughter

He did not speak as much
As he knew you could tell
From his eyes and a smile
That dissolved all curiosity
And two poets a year is all
I got for earnest pleadings

He had hidden all the poets
From my view he said later
I asked with surprised eyes
Why such secret unfairness
To that he smiled looking
Outside the window where
You could see a sliding hill
Of trees that held up the sky
And spoke, “I deprived you
Of Pessoa and Rilke so that
You pass your bachelor’s in
Politics without poets ruining
Your slim regard for exams”

How incredible for a logic so
Cruel to be generous at heart
Such dangers lurking between
Poetry’s future and practical
Woes behind the same future

I wondered if books gave him
Such wisdom or the view from
His window or the intersection
Of light between those books
And the trees in conversation
Like the oak and the linden of
A shared memory of bark and
Parchment changing forms to
Become pages where the eyes
Of the sun run over alphabets
Of ancient ink in new varieties

Poetry alone keeps silent about
What it knows and what it half
Withholds in order to say better
Or the teacher knows who lives
By the hill and offers medicines
Slowly for illnesses without cure

Forthcoming Poetry Collection: Manash Bhattacharjee

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Ghalib’s Tomb and other poems by Manash Bhattacharjee will soon be joining Goodbye Crocodile by Conor Patrick and The London Magazine Diary 2014 as part of The London Magazine Editions publications. This will also mark the first poetry collection published under TLM. Like Goodbye Crocodile, this will be an eBook and will be sold for £2.99.

*

‘Manash’s poems speak of love and death, as overheard from the cloisters of a formal garden. India – new India and India of the continuous past confide in his intricate poetry.’

– Steven O’Brien, editor of The London Magazine

*

Manash is an Indian poet. His poems have been published by The London Magazine previously – both in the magazine and on the website, as well as numerous other publications. These include: New Welsh ReviewFirst Proof: New Writings from Penguin India Volume 5Coldnoon: Travel PoeticsThe Palestine Chronicle and Kindle etc.

This collection will go on sale in November.

If you are a blogger or reviewer and would be interested in receiving a review copy, please contact Jessica at Jessica.reid@thelondonmagazine.org to discuss this.

Five Years Ago by Manash Bhattacharjee

0

                        To Fady Joudah

I was waiting at the platform
For a train to Calcutta
In trepidation of leaving her
Stranded in my dreams

I remembered my mother who
Was waiting to open
The door and end her waiting
But I was distraught
By this parting of warm hands
I could feel the earth
Splitting into two and blood in
Momentary disarray

It was then the message arrived
On my phone from
A friend who knew the people I
Loved with a crisp
Line saying Darwish is no more

Now I realised what was wrong
With this day of partings
How can such a poet be no more
In this less and less world
I felt the last sky crashing on my
Head and the guitar lying
Dead on a table full of jasmines

Time fell silent on my ears
As I saw people board the train
Oblivious to the death of
The man who alone understood
The Kamasutra’s message
Was to endlessly wait for arrival

I pressed her hand to say
Passing landscapes will be difficult
I will carry the burden of
The poet’s death on my back from
One city to another with
Faithful steps of one who cherished
The name of Palestine
Staying up sleepless nights reading
Darwish’s sleepless poems

I stood alone between
Mother’s waiting and the hand that
Silently breathed in mine
I thought of Ritsos’s horse lonelier
Than a star and I heard
Darwish’s echo from the depths of
Night asking Ritsos why
The horse was left alone

Manash Bhattacharjee

Delhi, 9/08/2013.

Manash’s poetry collection, including this poem, will be published by The London Magazine later on in the year.

The Veil by Manash Bhattacharjee

0

She walks past the wave
Of curious glances
An apparition eluding
Light and desire
Everything she hides from
Trembles in her body
She remembers the lures
In every street
But no street will ever
Remember her
Only the walls and the mirror
Engrave her silence
Her memory remains buried
Among blind objects
Certain mornings she discovers
Eyes with no face
Or a face wearing someone
Else’s eyes
Certain afternoons she wonders
Why custom demanded
That her body be torn from
Its glare
One night she picks up the pen
To draw alphabets
Appearing to her as eyes

Manash Bhattacharjee
New Delhi

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