The International Poetry Journal in Bengali and English

Issue 35/36
January-June '07
Double Issue, 48pp

    Shamsur Rahman in English
    Sample Poetry in Bengali

    Article on Shamsur Rahman
    To the Editor
    Poetry in English
    Shabda News

Shamsur Rahman

Shabda News

Poetry as a cultural bridge
The 2nd Shabdaguchha Poetry Festival 2007 Held in New York

Jahed Ahmed

Attending a gathering of poets for someone with almost no knowledge of poetry is not always the most delightful experience. Therefore, I had doubts in mind when my poet friend Hassanal Abdullah (editor of a bilingual poetry magazine titled Shabdaguchha, published from NY) told me about his plans to hold the second Shabdaguchha Poetry Festival on the first day of Bangla New Year (the day is also Hassanal’s birthday). But after attending the program, I am glad to admit, he has proved me wrong (the event took place on last 14th April, 2007 in Astoria, NY). I learned, much the similar way,   some of his genuine well-wishers and critics were also once dubious about the future of Shabdaguchha. One such person is eminent Bangalee poet and critic Jyotirmoy Datta, who, as a chief guest of the event, said:” some nine years ago, when Hassan requested me to serve as a consulting editor of Shabdaguchha, I had doubts about its success. But today I must say, I feel honored and proud to see how far the magazine has reached.” Mr Datta said it in a hall room that was filled with poets, artists & listeners from diverse backgrounds and culture (American, Bangalee, Chinese & Russian)--thus making the event more than just a typical poetry reading gathering. But we know, it took Hassanal Abdullah years of patience, hard work and effort before the impact was visible. A poet and published author of some 13 books, Hassanal has been editing the magazine with evergreen spirit & enthusiasm for last nine years. Imagine—taking time off your busy schedule to write, compose, edit and publish a magazine fairly on a regular basis from a country like USA when your profession is something else (Hassanal is a Math teacher in New York City’s high school). There are more hassles to it: taking the magazines to the book stores where shopkeepers/owners almost never forget to remind you, poetry doesn’t sell well. Yet through his magazine, Hassanal has been rendering an outstanding service to Bangla culture and literature. He has been introducing many American poets (includes such prominent figures as late Stanely Kunitz) with the charm and beauty of Bangla poetry.    
The feature poets who read their own poems before the audience in the festival include- Stanley H. Barkan, Mindy Kronenberg, Aleksey Dayen, Robert Dunn, Leigh Harrison (also played a wonderful music), Naznin Seamon (coincidentally, she’s also Hassanal’s life partner) and Ruksana Rupa. Among the other participants, Mrs. Minaski Datta recalled the memory of her father--beloved Bangalee poet, critic and editor--late Buddhadeb Bose; Shameem Chawdhury (a radio journalist of V.O.A.) read and discussed selected poems from Hassanal’s latest book Nokkhatro O Monusher Prochhad. Open poetry readings included Mary Elizabeth Shanahan, Allan Goldschmidt, Patricia Carragon, Akhtar Hossain Babu, Sukumar Roy, Zheng Yan, Faruque Faisal and Kamruzzaman Baccu.  Dr. Mohsin Ali, also the co-sponsor of the event, described the significance of Bangalee New Year celebration for American audience and Jahed Ahmed, on behalf of, greeted poet Hassanal Abdullah and Shabdaguccha for doing the wonderful job of introducing Bangla poetry among non-Bangalee poets and readers. One of the most impressive and significant performances was carried out by Mr Soud Chowdhury and his group (Sadia Choudhury Prity, Shubra Goswami, Mumu Ansari & Shorfuzzaman Mukul). Starting from ancient Bangalee poets to such modern poets as Shamsur Rahman, who has passed away a few months ago, Mr Soud & his group entertained the audience through a succinct introduction (in English) about each poet and their time, which was followed by marvelous Bangla and English recitation of selected verses of poems of the corresponding poets. Such performance could serve as a good model for presentation of Bangalee culture, literature before American audience. The event also included poetry recitation contest for children, a video slide of late poet Shamsur Rahman. To enhance the celebrating mood of the Bangla New Year, traditional dinner was served which included famous pantha bhat (water-rice), hilsha fish and chicken curry. Before the program ended, nominees for Shabdaguchha Poetry Award 2007 were announced, who were Ahana Biswas (India), Naznin Seamon (NY), Jahanara Parvin (Bangladesh) and Anisur Rahman Apu (NY). The award, which is scheduled to be announced on December 16, 2007, includes cash money of $ 200.00, a placard and publishing a book of poetry of the award-recipient from Shabdaguchha Press.         

Despite its success, the event warrants a small piece of advice for poet Hassanal Abdullah. First, the choice of venue with such a limited seating capacity didn’t reflect Hassanal’s best judgment as an organizer and convener of the festival. He should have thought of a more spacious place since a good portion of the audience including women, senior citizens didn’t find a seating place and had to remain in standing position to watch the performances. The noise of kids’ cry, although infrequently, was interruptive to the audience. With a little more attention paid, I am positive, Hassanal is capable of presenting us more successful literary and cultural programs in the future.

Prabir Das Received the Award

On 16th February 2007, Prabir Das was given the crest of the Shabdaguchha Poetry Award 2005, during a poetry event held in Shantinikaton, India. Earlier Shabdaguchha also sent him the check for 200 dollars, the price of the award. The Gitanjali Hall was filled with poets, writers, journalists and professors of various universities on the occasion. The chief guest of the event, Kalikrishna Guha, a poet of the sixties, accompanied by Hassanal Abdullah, who went to Kolkata just a day before, arrived at Shantinikaton right before the event.
Holding the award Prabir expressed his gratitude to Shabdaguchha and said a few words about his writing career. Later, more than fifty poets presented their poetry one after the other. Rafiq-ul Islam, Ahana Biswas, Sajal Da, Maloy Ghos and Rudra Kingshuk were also among the participants.

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