The Poetic Art of Aminul Islam

প্রকাশিত: ৭:৩৪ অপরাহ্ণ, জানুয়ারি ১৪, ২০২২

The Poetic Art of Aminul Islam


Mashiur Rahman

Poet Aminul Islam, a widely known and highly discussed over poet of Bangladesh, has deservingly engraved his artistic footing stronger and deeper than most others in the literary world of contemporary Bangla poetry. Distinguished from most of the recent poets writing in Bangla in Bangladesh and India, Aminul Islam triggers closer attention of the readers and critics by his unique poetic style with certain instinctive features. To mention first of all, the uniqueness of his poetic beauty emanate from profound intensity he builds in his poetry which surprisingly arrest the aesthetic sense of the poetry loving readers as well as the critics. Next important feature of his style, I firmly believe many others also will convincingly agree with me, is his distinctive art of choosing words that amazingly bewilder the readers as well as the critics. This unusual feature clearly distinguishes him from a lot of others in the contemporary world. I would rather reiterate that his poetry gains a tremendous force from his deliberate, random and powerful use of unusual and seemingly un-poetic words, ordinary words from day to day life, words normally used in official language and words even harsh and unmusical. He also shows a superb art of exploring the possibilities and potentialities of Bangla words and their sounds. The poet uses simple words and their sound effects so artistically and skillfully that they achieve immense poetic value and catch keen attention of the readers. The poetic craftsmanship of Aminul Islam lies not only in what words he chooses for writing poems, but also how he places them to build the context and makes them highly meaningful in his poems; so clearly un-poetic, unmusical and even harsh words, by dint of his poetic handling, attain deeper meaning and create intense poetic essence. Another remarkable trait of poetic style of Aminul Islam is his outstanding skill in creating and using unique symbols, audacious similes and powerful metaphors to build his own poetic world- apparently calm and quiet but unfathomably deep- almost in each and every poem. With his subtle poetic insight he successfully attracts and bewilders his readers to plunge into an abyss of meaningfulness and aesthetic pleasure. By his majestic use of symbols and references from history, mythology, science he creates and builds live and beautiful images in his poems; he takes his readers deep into the world of imagination and makes them feel with awe- the inner truths of life, living, loving and dying and thus makes his poems splendidly speak live to the readers who love and enjoy poetry. Also this is how the poet imperceptibly allures the insight of the readers and directs them to dive into the tranquil sea of poetic beauty in his poems to get them fully drenched in pure aesthetic joy.

Born in a riverine village and professionally being a member of Bangladesh Civil Service, the poet has had ample privileges to travel across the country and many places abroad which have deep impact in his knowledge, experience and attitude as well as have made his foresight and poetic insight all the more deep and discreet. The poet therefore shows and finds pure interest in a wider number of subjects and areas of life and living. His poems naturally capture love, river, nature, man and woman from various sectors and levels of society and so many other issues, values and experiences of life. But, most important to note- love and river overpower everything. Love and river have become inseparable part of his poetic being and perhaps this is why his poems are intensely imbued with a kind of force that is indigenous only to love and river. A close reading of his poetry finds that- an acute pain of deprivation, social, economic, intellectual and cultural injustice, deep rooted corruption, meaningless pursuit of power, money and wealth, brutal cruelty of modern civilization, global issues of conflicts, war, poverty and disaster along with a dull and deep pain of unrequited love as well as feelings of strong hope and deep empathy- form and torment the inner world of his poetic creation. This is how the poet as a human being expresses his urges, raises his poetic voice against all evils in the society and simultaneously reveals his own feelings of empathy and responsibilities to mankind beyond any boundary of time and place. So, this is how Aminul Islam gains the sublimity and grandeur of his poetic talent and most logically deserves high appreciation and evaluation. His professional knowledge experiences as well as experiences as an essayist and a researcher have deep impact (both negative and positive) not only on his growing as a poet but also on the poetic voice found in his poetry. The poet himself expresses his true plight in “শৃঙ্খলিত কোকিলের গান” (The Song of Cuckoo in Chain) “আমি ব্যাধের মেয়ের খাঁচায় সখের লাভবার্ড যে হারিয়ে ফেলেছে তার সবুজ অরণ্য/আর অবারিত আকাশের মঞ্চ বিজ্ঞাপিত খুদকুঁড়োর বিভ্রান্ত কোলাহলে” or “আমি নভোমুখী হতে গেলে অমনি টান পড়ে সুতোয়/কাপুরুষের তরবারির মতো নুয়ে আসে মাথা”।

To understand and appreciate the poetic intensity of Aminul Islam we can very well concentrate on the poem “The Pendulum”. Most significantly the title of poem genuinely implies the main theme of it as well as reflects the intensity of poetic beauty of Aminul Islam. Each and every word of the whole poem has been deeply coloured with the central idea- the uncertainty and swinging nature of life and experience. Apparently, it seems to be a simple poem about a pendulum. But a close reading of the poem finds deeper truths- that it is not about a pendulum at all, rather it is about human life and experiences. Though it also seems to be a poem dealing with love and to be more clear- about unrequited love, the truth is not that much simple. An insight takes one to the deep and inevitable truth of human life. The word ‘pendulum’ symbolizes the oscillation- an indispensable nature of life we are destined to experience until death- when the pendulum finally stops and settles. There is a vast gap we travel through- between hope and its fulfillment, between love and its fullfilment, between what we want and what we receive. We can neither ignore this indispensable nature of life nor can we overcome it in spite of our trying relentlessly. The poet has shown extraordinary artistic skill in using un-poetic words which in instead of being unbecoming and tedious, have meaningfully intensified the poetic depth of the poem. The simple and easy poem takes and makes the readers travel deep- leaving them astonishingly ponder on the sheer truth of life- an unsettled oscillation or a big dilemma that captures our life to the last breath. The poem generates unending appeal to the head and heart of the readers and critics unknowingly. Therefore, it is clear the apparent simplicity of the poem is really very deceptive.

Again, if we read the poem “একটি নদীর আত্মকথা”( Autobiography of a River) , we discover amazing example of his poetic mastery.These simple but discreet expressions- ‘শ্রাবণের গঙ্গা’, ‘ভাদরের মেঘনা’, ‘আষাঢ়ের যমুনা’ or ‘কুয়াশার শামিয়ানা টাঙানো/স্বপ্নলোকের মোহনা’ outstandingly intensify and transform the acute feelings the poet wants to deliver. The words are simple and easy but they are loaded with inner meanings. They imply the idea of fullness, might and power. The tone is profound along with a sad under tone too. They also transcend a visual impression of what they imply and attract immense visual appeal. The expression ‘কুয়াশার শামিয়ানা টাঙানো/স্বপ্নলোকের মোহনা’ titerally means the sea- the ultimate goal of any river. But the poet does not endeavour to merely say this. He goes far- the goal is the highest position, honour, instititutional recognition or the topmost achievement (of course personal or professional ) and the way is not transparent and crystal clear (which it was actually expected to be), rather it is fully covered with fog ‘কুয়াশার শামিয়ানা’ suggesting lack of transparency and accountability that leave the door wide open for corruption and malpractices along with a vast degradation of values and ethics of a civilized society. The honest and really loyal people in spite of their all fitness, quality, skill, experience are ignored and left out and superseded disgracefully. Justice is thus replaced by injustice against which the poet stands brave with his poetic weapon. This is a global reality that some deserving persons with all required capabilities and fitness in the arena of art, literature and music do not get their due honour , award or recognition. Sometimes ill luck disfavours them; in some cases the concerned authority fail to judge and evaluate properly with due objectivity and neutrality. The sad under tone here emits a kind of despair with a colour of pain mixed with a faint consolation and deep self-confidence when he utters-
নাইবা হলো যাওয়া সমুদ্রের বাড়ি
জলের দৌড়ে নাইবা হলো লেখা
প্রান্তবাসী এই আমার নাম
আমাকে মনে রাখবে
গরীবের বউয়ের মতো এক ভূগোল।

English version:

As I am an uncelebrated stream of the periphery,
May be that I will not embrace the sea
May be that my name will not be enlisted
In the final round of water race
But my name will be uttered in
Rremembrance in a small place of love
As a poor wife of rural Bengal Keeps in mind
The name of her departed beloved, I am sure.

So, when we continue to read on his poems we can obviously find and enjoy his outstanding art and style of creating poetic intensity which richly adds to the grandeur of his poetic craftsmanship.

An insight into the poems of Poet Aminul Islam finds two different types of poetic depth. Some of his poems seem as water shallow in depth but unclear to see through just like unclear water of a drain or a small shrunken pond in summer. The apparent simplicity is so much deceptive in nature. The other type of his poems apparently look crystal clear water but have endless depth just like blue water of an ocean that looks clear and one can easily see through but cannot explore its depth. We can examine the poem “কুড়ালের হাসি” (The Laughter of an Axe).

There is no one all around
Nobody is there—-
This is the attestation of
Ten eye-witnesses.

So here, the axe is the hero
Bearing the bundle of success (or woods? )
On the shoulder,
Returning home— hurrah…!

And see—
The light of evolution theory
Is splitting from
The smile of the axe.

There is no one around and this is certified by ten people. Nobody can see and find the presence of the axe or the man with axe in hand who is indiscriminately cutting down the trees and destroying the forest and thus actually destroying the ecological balance causing serious harm to mankind. But we can easily observe the presence of the ten people who certified there to be none. These people could very well stand against the misdeed by one single man but they are too unscrupulous to decide to do the right initiative. And this is why the axe implying the man with axe in hand stands hero who laughs in sheer joy and dares undisturbed continue his evil deed against mankind. He gains fruits of his business freely with no risk and protest. Eventually, his cruel laughter emits, as the poet sarcastically says, the light of the theory of evolution meaning the survival of the fittest. Actually, his cruel laughter does not emit any light, rather it emits vast darkness which proving stronger than the light of the good continues to exist in the world. If man remains deaf and dumb to allows the evil to survive unquestioned, human civilization has to face serious consequences ahead. Is it not the reality of today’s world inflicted with and torn by unjustified wars, aggressions, ethnic cleansing, riots, genocide out of greed, imperialism, colonialism, communalism etc? The poet speaks in a highly sarcastic tone in this poem. The poem is very short and has only 11 lines. It looks very simple and easy but deals with serious issue in a serious tone. Without deep concentration it is not possible for any reader to reach the message of the poem and enjoy the poetic depth the poet has infused in this poetic treasure.

Again let us shift our attention to another poem entitled “অনুপস্থিতির বাগানে” (In the Garden of Absence). The poet can sense and feel the essence of the absence of his beloved with whom once he explored- “শাহবাগে আড্ডা, সাতকাহনে কবিতা / রমনায় কফি, টিএসসি-/ ভালোবাসার হাট” and now he does not feel like visiting those places again without her. The essence of the absence of his beloved has filled his house all around in every corner. He smells it deeply. His eyes, ear, desire and habits have stopped what they were intimately once used to doing. He has now become an absolute gardener of the garden of absence of his beloved.

“In the bedroom, in corridor, near dining table
And in the drawing room
Everywhere reigns the fragrance of your absence
Did you sprayed the room, the verandah
And all around in the eve of departure!
Busy the nose! Amused is my sense organ!
… … …. … …. ….. … . …. … …
Wow the solitary gardener – unemployed and unrivalled!”

The absence of the beloved is so strong and all occupying that presence of no third person is allowed. Wherever the poet goes, feeling of her fragrant absence like her physical presence accompanies him. And so he is not alone when he is alone. The poem shows amazing depth of feeling- the feeling of the absence of a beloved. No poet has ever in this way felt and expressed the cutting pain and deep agony of the sufferings of a lover whose beloved has left him anyhow. This is a new feeling. This is a new way of expressing age-old love. Undoubtedly, the poet bewilders the readers with his strange power of poetic depth, a unique style deserving immense artistic value and high appreciation.

The aesthetic beauty of Aminul Islam’s poetry is made up of poetic intensity and depth. His poetic art not only offer density of meaning and intensity of poetic creation but also prompt the readers with a strong sense of depth. We feel utterly moved with deep feelings of aesthetic joy. We can go through the poem “You on the Cellphone” is another tremendous poetic beauty of Aminul Islam, one of the most renowned contemporary poets of Bangladesh. Perhaps, I think a lot of others also may genuinely agree with me, the most important characteristic of the romantic poems by the poet is simplicity in utter disguise. Words, symbols and images are built so intimately entangled that most often the readers go bewildered to unveil the disguise and dive into the world of pure mystery the poet naturally builds in his love poems. The poet finds true music in words of his beloved which turns him happily intoxicated and exalted. But, immediately the mysterious impact of the music leaves the poet not with a feeling of being united, rather with a terribly intensified feeling of disunited. So, the cell phone, though brings flashes of unity, love and harmony, it leaves the poet with deeper and stronger sense of disunity, sadness, lovelessness and disharmony. This is the ultimate paradox of human life that we face and fight each and every moment from dawn to dusk, birth to death. We cannot either escape or ignore this fate.

The wolves live in the jungle where they can kill any other animal weaker than them in physical might and they do not have to explain the ‘why’ of their brutality to anyone else because jungle is a place where there is no existence of law and order. Other animals cannot think of their personal right anyhow. Lawlessness and chaos prevail there over anything else. Might is right here. So, here there is no existence of ethics and values too. On the other hand, human society is just opposite to it. Human society maintains law and order as well as values and good ethics. Specially, in a democratic human society, everybody is supposed to enjoy equal right, honour, justice, values and ethics. This is why the human beings are the best of all creatures in the world. But, often the mighty among all other human beings show little regard to this universal issue. When some of the human beings by any means either good or evil, can attain power, they turn blind to humanity itself. They start behaving just like the hungry wolves do to other animals living in the jungle. Men forget the historical truth, a proved truth too that power and wealth are never long lasting, let alone eternal. So, when the human beings themselves become wolves, the whole human society becomes a pure jungle where humanity is overpowered by inhumanity and animality. Is is very relevant to mention that democracy is the best form of governance till today and it is nothing but the rule of majority where minority is supposed to be respected. But what is the reality? In so-called many democratic countries religious or ethnic minorities are being harassed, tortured and denied their basic citizen’s rights to survive with due honour and privilege. They are being dashed to ethnic cleansing. And here democracies are turning into jungles where might is the only right. Aminul Islam has coined / created quite a new Bengali word ` jangolayon’ denoting afforestation but connoting the actual essence –turning into jungle infected with the wild rule of might is right. Take a look at the poem in ordinary English version:
See——one slosh, naked, inspires
the other to success in oppression ;
in both, raids are dashed
from the majority-whims.
And in aftermath of their blows
the minority-plants of two lands,
who, on hearing the chants of breeze,
have ever been giving berry and shades,
sparks and oxygen for days and ages,
get now fully uprooted from their birth-earth.

What offence did they do? Nothing at all.
But oh! their forefathers were
sayingly the mango-groves of neighbouring glens
once in an unproved past and lapsed time.
So, hit to their clan and community,
push venomous tooth to their delved root!

If people go wolves, be sure,
the biggest democracy turns to Jungle.

Poet Aminul Islam has shown tremendous artistic power while expressing his deepest concern over this serious issue of human nature of degradation and degeneration. The poet discovers men inhumanly create class distinction on the ground of money, wealth, thoughts, beliefs, religion, colour, culture and yet a lot others. And by doing this, in all ages, in every society and every culture, by all means, men do not leave any stone unturned to exploit and oppress the weaker among them. The poet also tries to imply another important truth that it is only man who tries to disrupt the peace and harmony of human society by degrading himself to animals. The title of the poem is also outstandingly meaningful. It importantly binds the whole poem and strongly hints the serious issue that the poem deal with. Words, phrases, images and syntax have deeply intensified the poetic beauty and value of this small but superb piece of poetry by Aminul Islam who have already won a deep and lasting place in the heart of not only poetry loving readers but also a lot of famous critics in Bangladesh and abroad.
Another golden piece of poetry of Aminu Islam is ‘Ei Aami ’ ( It’s Me). It is full of high craftsmanship in style and deeply rich in symbolic meanings. In this poem of small size the poet has drawn a vivid picture of the sufferings and agony coming out of unscrupulous practice of acute form of individualism and self-centered nuclear family life. The poet has symbolized this type of life leading in a palm tree too tall but without capacity to give shelter under it and at the same time unable to afford peace of shade to itself. Particularly at the old age, many modern metropolitan people suffer from loneliness and become helpless and are forced to take shelter in Briddhashram ( Old Age Home). But in the near past, the joint family life was like a banyan tree full of shade and shelter, love and affection, peace and generosity. This self-centered living is mainly joint outcome of acute capitalism and selfish individualism. We may have a glance at the poem ` It’s Me’.

I look around, and everywhere see only me.
–It’s me. Only me.
When have I grown up? I don’t know.
Who did take my hands to teach me walking?
Forgotten all I have.
Now nobody is seen around–
Only my single image flashes before me.
Ah! I become a palm tree to grow upwards;
No shadow shades beneath me–
Nor it turns into a festival of picking mango.
At last I stand being burnt
In the sunshine of usurer noon.

The branch-full tree of the past keeps up
Looking at me in a gloomy mood.

I would conclude by firmly saying that the reading of Aminul Islam’s poems easily discovers his unique poetic style that makes him tremendously different from others of his time and simultaneously which has earned him high appreciation and deep love from the readers and critics who love to explore the world of intense beauty that poetry offers.