Shamsur Rahman: Mingling urban and semi-urban milieu
Shamsur Rahman was a poet, essayist, columnist and journalist. He was born in 1929 in Old Dhaka. His father's name was Mokhlesur Rahman Choudhury and his mother's name was Amena Khatun.
Shamsur Rahman's first poem Unishsha Unapavchash was published in Sonar Bangla in 1943 edited by Nalinikishore Guha. While a university student, five of his poems were published in Natun Kavita.
Shamsur Rahman's poems appeared regularly in a high-quality quarterly journal Songlap, jointly edited by Abul Hossain and Syed Sajjad Hossain. His poems "Parker Nihsabga Khavja" and "Khelnar Dokaner Samne Vikhiri" were first published in this quarterly.
While living in Dhaka and working in a newspaper it was not possible for him to remain free from the evil influence of conflicts around him. The veil of impenetrable inner sphere of the poems of his early phase now started lifting slowly. In 1967 Radio Pakistan stopped broadcasting Tagore songs at the instance of Information Minister Khwaja Shahabuddin.
The world outside began to cast a shadow on his poems from the time his second book Roudra Karotite was published. His poems in the book Bidvasta Nilima (1967) were a step further into his awareness of the world outside. He dedicated his 1970 book Nij Bashbhumey to the martyrs of eternal Bengal.
Towards the end of Hussain Muhammad Ershad's autocratic rule (1982-1990), Shamsur Rahman became involved in the anti-autocracy movement of the people. He was one of the 31 distinguished citizens who issued a milestone statement demanding end of the autocratic rule and restoration of democratic policy. At about the same time the country's poets formed their own 'Kavita Parishad' to join hands with others in opposing the rule. Shamsur Rahman was made its president. For three years from 1988 to 1990 the country's poets led by him observed with great enthusiasm on February 1 and 2 a poetry festival under a huge canopy in front of the Teacher-Student Centre (TSC) of Dhaka University. The sharpened arrow of poetry was targeted at the hated autocrat.
Shamsur Rahman's deepest link was with the group of poets of the thirties, especially with the trio of Jibanananda, Buddhadev and Bishnu de. No true poet is, however, a product of mere combination of some elements or influences. He has to have originality, ability to gather, awareness of the environment, abundance of his imagination and eagerness, inwardness of emotion and uncertainty of philosophy. A combination of all this makes a poet's personality. The tradition that has touched him as a poet and his own environment must complement each other. In this environment there is his country and time but more than that there is his mind's world. The picturisation talked about is a manifestation of the fusion of countless inner and outer pictures.
Shamsur Rahman wrote poems in innumerable trends but his translated works also form part of his overall poetical output. Among his translations are Eugene O'Neil's Marco millions (1967), Robert Frost's Nirbachita Kavita (1968), Khwaja Farider Kavita (1969, Tennessee Williams' Hridoyer Ritu (1971). He did these works at different times at the persuasion of some people. His last work of translation done after a lapse of nearly two decades was Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Shamsur Rahman has left a distinct mark of originality in his poems. He has added a new dimension to modernism in Bengali poetry. He has assimilated contemporary time in his ever alert sensitivity and in his poetic activities until his death he has let his inner self coexist with the visible world outside. He has relieved the poetry of Bangladesh of its geographic limitations to let it become part of the mainstream of Bengali poetry and become part of his own modernism. At the same time he has let the strong wind of world poetry blow into his own poetry and into the poetry of Bangladesh. This was his indelible achievement. His deeply-felt perception of life and the world and his liberal humanistic mind free from any narrowness have converged in the character of his poems. In his poems nothing is untouchable, nothing is inexpressible, their doors are open for the noblest of thoughts as well as for all feelings of conscious or subconscious minds. In this sphere all comparisons are futile for he can be compared only with himself.
August 17 marked the 13th death anniversary of poet Shamsur Rahman.
The writer is a freelance contributor.