Shabdaguchha: Logo_new edited by: Hassanal Abdullah issue: 71/72


Poets and Translators:

Dariusz Thomasz Lebioda
Nino Provenzano Fuad Atal
Peter Thabit Jones
Joan Digby
Kristine Doll
John Digby
Carolyn Mary Kleefeld
Richard Jeffrey Newman
Bishnupada Ray
Dileep Jhaveri
J. Scotte Barkan
Shokrana Sarkar
Rachel Mejia
Baitullah Quaderee
Motin Raihan
Dilara Hafiz
Anisur Rahman Apu
Roni Adhikari
Jasim Uddin Tutul
Hassanal Abdullah

A Tribute To

Shaheed Quaderi (1942-2016)
Syed Shamsul Huq (1935-2016)
Rafiq Azad (1943-2016)

Book Review

Nicholas Birns

Letters to the Editor

Stanley H. Barkan
Nirmalendu Goon
Belal Beg
Tomasz Marek Sobieraj
Naznin Seamon
Bishnupada Ray
Sk Kamrul Hashan
Hasan Ali
Firoz Ashraf
Ariful Islam
Shahab Ahmed Taher Ahmed Razu Rahul Roychowdhury Momin Mahadi Khondkar Khosru Parvez Roni Adhikari

Cover Art:

Al Noman

New Logo:

Najib Tareque

Book Review

Nicholas Birns

Everything Cracks and Crushes: The Poetry of Naznin Seamon

Naznin Seamon is a poet of pain and dislocation, one who registers the “cold evening, awful summer, rainfall, disease” in which “everything cracks and crushes.” But she is also a poet of resilience and “adaptation.” The closing image of the opening poem of the book, “I have changed myself a lot,” depicts a bat on the roof banging on the window, in the light of an “inauspicious moon.” The poem is turbulent and reveals a restless unhappiness, but also a determination to persevere, to make the best of what is.

Seamon registers and responds to her own experience as a woman who left Bangladesh as an adult and started a family and career in the United States. But these poems, ably and resourcefully translated by her husband, Hassanal Abdullah, also reach out to larger social issues, such as the world refugee crisis and the tragic consequences of the war in Iraq. Usually the poetic response to these public tragedies is either moral outrage, a fiery, prophetic denunciation, or moral witness, an observant, vigilant determination not to let the reality of human suffering fall into the traps of ideological falsification. Seamon takes a third path here, one of moral inclusion: of responding to public tragedy by letting it all come in. Thus the importance to Seamon of ordinary experienced, sought out by the poet not as a tough histone of the real or a treasure trove of oddities but as an arena for including as much as possible. Thus in the book’s second poem, Seamon, though not precisely identifying herself as a postmodern poet, identifies the difference between postmodernism and modernism as being that postmodernism is messier and needs to be in order to be more inclusive. Thus poetry can include “a homemade rice cake/the flavor of tea/the mailbox.” Thus seamon’s poetry reaches out to the political by including radically specific aspects of ordinary experience. But it is not the specificity but the inclusiveness that matters. And it is here that, despite her clear awareness and understanding of postmodernism, I would not see Seamon herself as a postmodern poet because rather than trivializing the extremes of delight and pain by mixing them up with so much data, she uses her moral inclusiveness to accentuate the intensity with which her poetry renders pain and delight.

This can be seen in “A Dream to Destroy.” Here, the poet notices the forces driving the world to destruction, which other poetic perspectives might with to lament, to prevent, or to denounce. This port instead wishes to get in on the act, to destroy it further, no other because she shares the motives of those who would destroy the world, but because there are moments when she, like many of us, is so angry at the way things are going that imagining total destruction is an act of raise that seems cleansing. Both the graphic language used in this poem and the urge to total destructive essay go beyond the traditional posture of moral outrage which depend on a base of stability. This is not because the poet loves the world less but because she loves it so much more, loves it so much that they are moments when her despair for it drives her into blinding, destruction enrage at what the translation—using alliteration in place of the assurance in the original Bengali, calls the “speechless, silent, and submerged world.” Alliteration, so deeply embedded in the historical consciousness of English verse, is an effective edifice here to convey both the abandon into which the world has fallen and the deep, residual caring for it the poet feels in spite of herself. Similarly, “Human Race from the East’” describes the human civilization of the past four millennia as an “abscess” that grows more diseased the more it grows away from its Eastern origins. This is a world in which dreams do not come true. The poet says that in her girlhood, she “dreamed of walking through/the horizon on the field below the sky.” But the world’s atrocities—the poem uses imagery from the marshes of Iraq—yield only a “thin skyline” as the sole, limited realization of the vanished dream. Analogously, in “My Desired Destination,” the hopes for the new twenty-first century, the dreams of “an assimilating circle” that would bridge life and death, turns out to be only melancholy, far from euphoria.

In a book of this, full of pain and disappointment, the only hope can be in the language and poetic posture. Naznin Seamon’s moral inclusiveness makes impressive poetry out of her rendering of the world’s pain. The poems are accompanied by abstract collages by John Digby, which both spur the reader to address the complex messages of the words and register some of the virulence and disappointment conveyed by Naznin Seamon’s poetry of bitter eloquence.

New York University, NY

Hollowness on the Horizon, by Naznin Seamon, Published by Joan Digby, Feral Press, Long Island, 2016 Cover by John Digby. Translated from the Bengali by Hassanal Abdullah.

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Printed Version
পত্রিকার মুদ্রিত কপি


Poetry in Translation

Poetry in English

Poetry in Bengali

Poetry Dedicated to Stanley H Barkan

Book Review

Shabda News

Letters to the Editor

শব্দগুচ্ছর এই সংখ্যাটির মুদ্রিত সংস্করণ ডাকযোগে পেতে হলে অনুগ্রহপূর্বক নিচে ক্লিক করে ওয়ার্ডার করুন।

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Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Magazine, edited by Hassanal Abdullah