Veteran Indian poet and story teller Utpal Kumar Basu is no more. He died on October 3 at a local hospital in Kolkata. He was 79.
Born in Bhabanipur in Kolkata in 1936, Basu spent his school days in Baharampur and Dinhata. A geologist by education, he traveled far and wild over the seas and years. An educationist by profession, the poet was recognised as a trend setter in modern Bengali Poetry.
From the very first collection published (Chaitrye Rochito Kobita, 1956), he found a unique diction of language, expression and form for his poetry. He had chosen mysticism over sentimentalism, vivid objective observation over lyricism. Being a geologist by education he was known for his witty but meticulous approach towards the nature, materials and life. His poetic craft is quietly iconoclastic in its deglorification of the artistic position of the poem. At the same time, the poem carefully allows for retention of poetic speech and valor. A world, as if seen through the eyes of a migratory bird, where nature exists amidst its wastefulness and tribes of lesser known ordinary people of a cultural variety, punctuate his imagery.
The travel poems of Basu's second collection of poems titled "Puri Series", published in the sixties, represent some of his best work which bring out the spirit of the Bohemian suspended in a thoughtfulness that has evoked much interest amongst scholars and young poets of the later generations. Some identify the presence of a neo-realistic search algorithm. The search for a heterotopic cross-cultural flux. Utpal Basu often achieves this through the witty documentation of his travel journals. Others have noted the interplay of folk-culture, demographical and statistical elements that seem to accentuate his postmodern aura.
Utpal Kumar Basu eventually met American poet Allen Ginsberg in Kolkata in the early sixties and both shared a great friendship. Basu connected himself with Hungry generation literary movement in 60s and was compelled to resign from his job as a lecturer in a Kolkata college .
He was convicted of creating obscenity in literature. He traveled far and wild, over the seas and years in Europe doing some part-time jobs to survive. In England he associated himself with some socialist organisation. His poetry had to pause temporarily but only to find a new path to flow in the form of his famous 'travel poems'.