Bishnu Dey, a difficult poet for the reader of his time
Bishnu Dey was a prominent Bengali poet, prose writer, translator, academic and art critic in the era of modernism, post-modernism. Starting off as a symbologist, he won recognition for the musical quality of his poems, and forms the post-Tagore generation of Bengali poets, like Buddhadeb Basu and Samar Sen, which marked the advent of "New Poetry" in Bengali literature, deeply influence by Marxist ideology. He even published a poetry magazine for while wherein he encouraged socially conscious writing. His own work reveals a poet's solitary struggle, quest for human dignity, amidst a crisis of uprooted identity. Through his literary career, he taught English literature at various Calcutta colleges, Ripon College, Presidency College, Maulana Azad College and Krishnanagar College. In the 1920s and 30s, he was also remained a member of a young group of poets, centered on the Kallol magazine.
Bishnu Dey was a difficult poet for the reader of his time. His poetry refers frequently to western classics (often art and music), attempts to marry eastern classical concepts with western, contrasting them at the same time. His poetry employed a rather sophisticated imagery that was rejected by some of his successors as "elitist". He was also inspired by Marxist philosophy. He is said to have drawn sumptuously from T.S.Eliot. Many scholars have argued that Dey was far too advanced of his age, a great intellectual who was far too well read and versatile. His knowledge of music and art, both modern and antique, western and eastern, was deep rooted. He probably found a much greater audience towards the end of his creative life and beyond. Today, he is considered one of the foremost Bengali poets in post-Tagorian era.
Bishnu Dey's fruitful collaboration with artist Jamini Roy led to his writing several books on art: Art of Jamini Roy (1988), The Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore (1958), India and Modern Art (1959), etc. He was also associated with Calcutta Group Centre, Soviet Friendship Association, Pragati Lekhak Shilpi Sangha, Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), etc.
Bishnu Dey was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Purashhkar (National Literature Academy Award -1966), the Nehru Smriti Purashhkar (Nehru Memorial Award -1967), and the Rastriya Jnanpith Award (1971). He also received the Soviet Land Award for Rushti Panchashati.
His most important work, poetry collection, Smriti Satta Bhabishyat, set a new precedent in Bengali poetry. It later won him the 1965 Sahitya Akademi Award in Bengali as well as the highest literary award of India, Jnanpith Award, in 1971.
Bishnu Dey studied at Mitra Institution, Calcutta and Sanskrit Collegiate School, Calcutta. After matriculating in 1927, he went on to do his IA from Bangabashi College, Calcutta. He completed his BA (Hons.) in English from St. Paul's Cathedral Mission College, Calcutta and MA in English from the University of Calcutta.
In 1935, he joined Ripon College, Calcutta. He subsequently taught at Presidency College, Kolkata (1944-1947), Maulana Azad College, Calcutta (1947-1969).
Some of his notable works are "Urvashi O Artemis", "Chora Bali", "Purba Lekh", "Sandiper Char", "Annishta", "Naam Rekhechi Komal Gandhar", "The Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore", "India and Modern Art", "Art of Jamini Roy", "Chhadano Ei Jiban" and others.
He received several awards-- Sahitya Akademi Award, Nehru Smriti Award, Rastriya Jnanpith Award, Soviet Land Award for Rushti Panchashati and others.
Tomorrow marks the 108th birth anniversary of the multitalented personality.
The writer is a freelance contributor.