Zafar Ahmad Rashed, one of the major poets of mid 1990s' Bangladesh, loves to compose poetry at intervals. He has only three collections of poetry --- Kacher Churi Balir Pahar, Jaggyajatrakale and Donamona. This review will analyze some poems from Donamona (Hesitations), published in 2011. The volume comprises 56 poems. Most are prose-poems while the rest are in free verse. The compositions in Donamona have regaled me with their strength and variety. In addition the symbolic expressions of poetry which Rashed has brilliantly delivered through his compositions are remarkable.
Someone who would like to understand Rashed's poetry in one reading will be in trouble because one needs to go through the poems in calm reflection to bring out the real taste and meaning hidden in the dense symbolization. In this regard, I would like to recollect the way Arthur Rimbaud, one of the most influential French poets of the 20th century, composed poetry. Rimbaud was the best among the poets who successfully wrote poetry through maintaining continuous symbolization. And no doubt Rashed, in similar fashion, deciphers his new ideas through the prism of symbolism.
The book opens with a prose-poem entitled 'Sheeter Styann' (Breast of Winter), indicating the emptiness of contemporary time which will not support us but rather betray. Here in this poem, winter is compared with death. A few pages later, another prose-poem entitled 'Premik O Nirmata' (Lover and Maker) offers us some images which readers need to feel rather than analyze because the images Rashed has infused in the poem will be solely lost in any kind of broader explanation. By the same token, readers may take into account 'Uttsorger Galpo' (Story of Dedication) which takes us to an unavoidable reality of our life's journey. A tiny, haiku-like poem 'Mulbindo' (Main Dot) helps us learn and realize the inner truth of the moral that 'miserliness is the key pitfall to any kind of broad-mindedness.'
'Aswatha O Mandir' (Aswatha Tree and Temple), a densely symbolic poem, speaks of the wrongdoings of human beings. Sometimes we ourselves invite bad times and are responsible for our own destruction. This poem certainly awakens our conscience. Again, 'Prothom Dekha' (First Meeting) draws an abstract picture of the deterioration of contemporary society. In the same way, 'Rupantor' (Metamorphosis) uncovers the problems of the rapid and radical cultural changes of our society, reminding us that we are in the process of forgetting our roots. 'Baba O Bahir' (Father and Outside) symbolically informs us that nowadays our children are being brought up in the way a bonsai grows in a tub. As a result, just to go across the doorstep means a lot to them. Furthermore, the poems such as 'Megher Dim' (Egg of Rain), 'Balloon' (Balloon), 'Unmukh Nabhi' (Unveiled Belly Button) and 'Upasamhar' (Conclusion) are offerings of dishes of surrealistic flavour to readers.
Through the poems, Rashed attempts to surpass time to project upcoming realism. And to do so, he has engaged himself in a journey to bring into focus the irrelevancies of present times. His surrealistic thoughts and expressionistic vision help him reach his destination. Readers will smell the silent satire his poetry ironically deciphers. However, to capture the essence of his poetry and philosophy, one ought to read all the poems. Rashed's poems include some grave themes. In a few words, he laments the evaporation of humanity, ethnicity and solidarity from us; he wonders why people hesitate to speak the truth; he points fingers at our apathetic attitude to social values; he projects a world where two men, sitting side by side, question each other about their destination. Overall, he focuses on the absurd aspects of the human journey. And to do so, he extensively uses symbolism.
The diction he develops has a pictorial quality. The images he has used create a different kind of world before us. His language sharpens our feelings in many ways. In a word, his poetry is a juxtaposition of both optimism and pessimism. The following verse in my translation will, hopefully, provide readers with a glimpse of his outstanding language:
Still remains much appeal, much youth
My heart helps me lie down
And says that birth and death are the same, two sides of the same coin
The only exception is appeal or youth
Then desires to go back to the deepest of the bush of deep fire
Tusar Talukder teaches English at Central Women's University