The International Poetry Journal in Bengali

Translated Poetry
9th Issue
July-Sept 2000

From Barishal to Briarwood:
Bengali Poetry in English

From the Editor

Bengali poetry got into the light of modernism in the 1930s. Five great poets--Jibanananda Das and Buddhadeva Bose were born in Bangladesh, and Sudhindranath Datta, Bishnu Dey and Amiya Chakravarty were born in West Bengal, India--were the main characters who made a significant effort to reshape Bengali Poetry. Actually, the sign of such change was first seen in the works of Nazrul Islam, popularly known as the rebel poet. It started with the poem Bidrohee, the rebel. Bidrohee was a long poem in which the use of the tone, images and the rhythmic style were different from those in Tagorean poetry. Although, during the time when Bidrohee was published, the poets mentioned above were also putting their words together, but they did not get so much attention from the public. Moreover, their way of writing was also different from the Nazrulian style.
If we go a little back to the history of Bengali poetry, we would say that Madhusudan Datta, the 19th century poet, was the first Bengali modernist. He introduced 'blank verse' and wrote several epics using the Amitrakhor Chhanda, which he formulated. Madhusudan reshaped the poetic language used in the middle ages and achieved the classical tone in his writings. Tagore, the Noble Laureate of 1913, came later to the scene and made some important changes in poetry. But he was a romantic poet from head to toe. On the other hand, the poets of the 30s introduced the odds of life in their writings and brought such images and rhythmic styles into poetry that were once considered to be non-poetic in the eyes of the romantic poets. In some cases, they successfully employed vocabulary that was previously avoided by Tagore and his predecessors.
The movement of modernizing Bengali poetry was brought one step further during the 50s. Shamsur Rahman, Al Mahmud, Sakti Chattopadhyay and Shaheed Quaderi were the ones who deserve credit for their outstanding contribution. Their poetry is marked by a drastic departure from the poets of the 30s in terms of language use. I believe, they completed the modernist movement of Bengali poetry that had been started two decades earlier. From the 60s through the 90s several other poets--primarily Humayun Azad, Nirmalendhu Goone and Rafique Azad--played a significant role in the advancement of modern Bengali poetry. Then came the era of postmodernism. It was started in the late 80s by the younger generation of poets and has been flourishing ever since.

This issue of Shabdaguchha begins with the powerful poet of the 50s, and ends with some significant younger postmodernists of the 90s. While it is true that all the contributors do not belong to the same rank as poets, the poems that have been selected certainly deserve attention. There are several other poets who could have been included in such an issue; however, the size of the magazine did not permit it. Obtaining good translation was difficult as well.

Here, I am enormously indebted to Stanley H. Bankan, the guest editor of this issue who patiently and painstakingly read all the translations and made necessary editorial changes. Needless to say, he has also written a thoughtful editorial. I am grateful to him.
My sincere thanks are due to the famous translators--Kabir Choudhury, Jyotirmoy Datta, Kaiser Haq, Marian Maddern, Farida Majid, Sibnarayan Ray and Carolyne Wright--who kindly translated for Shabdaguchha.
Finally, I must admit that the whole purpose of this issue is to introduce Bengali poetry to the American readers. If the poems presented here contribute a little towards fulfilling that goal, I will be very happy.

--Hassanal Abdullah

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    Shabdaguchha, A Journal of Bengali Poetry, Published in New York, Edited by Hassanal Abdullah.