Poems Powered by Optimismů
Let me give a thought to a poetry collection entitled Recognition by Nirmal Sarker, a Bangladeshi-Canadian poet, currently living in Toronto. A few months back, I first came across the book. Scanning as well as skimming the book, I feel taken aback to see how a poet has covered a plethora of issues in a single collection. On a weekend, while passing lazy time at home, I took the book in hand for an in-depth reading.
The collection contains five chapters dishing out fifty-one poems dwelling on nature, love, happiness, disparity, passion, inspiration, frustration, humanity, and so on. Each chapter, with a specific title, deals with some particular issues of life. On the whole, most of the poems of the collection focus on how people with autism lead their life.
Nirmal Sarker, avoiding the traditional way of writing poetry, has experimented with prose-poem. However, those prose-poems bear lyricism within. This anthology chronicles some tales in the form of poetry, which, I assume, have presented Nirmal Saker before us as a storyteller rather than a poet.
The first chapter opens with the poem, "Recognition" which tells us the life-stories of different people with autism. It makes us feel that people with autism are human beings like us, they should not be ignored. It brings forward though people with autism have their own names, they are invariably called by inaudible and indecent words. In a word, this chapter sheds light upon how most of the people of our society badly treat people with autism. The poem, "Recognition" ends with an impassioned line: 'I am a human, not a barren land.' The chapter also includes poems such as "A Six Letter Word", "A Lyric", "A Lyric on Autism" etc. bringing into focus the sufferings, hopes, aspirations, and dreams of the children with autism. In the end, this part comes up with a poem titled "Mantra" attempting to heal their pains with optimistic words. The chapter closes with a graphic poem, "Truth" emphasizing love and support for the people with impairment.
The second chapter entitled "Feelings" in which children with autism describe their manifold feelings of life. The way the children with autism feel, the way the mothers of those children think about them, and the way those children talk about responsibilities for their parents are portrayed in "Tears of a Mom" and "My Dad." Conversely, "E-love", "Fiancée", "Immigrant", "Isolation", "Nostalgic", "Commuter" provide us with a different kind of experience. In this part, some poems narrate the experiences of numerous elderly people living in different old-age homes.
The third chapter of the collection especially focuses on how children with impairment, while working with different issues, behave differently. This part includes a poem on World Autism Day. The chapter ends with the poem, "Wheelchair" which metaphorically shows us how a wheelchair becomes a symbol of overcoming darkness from life. Again, the poem, "Inequality" starts with a line from one of Satyendranath Dutta's famous poem, "Manushjati" purveying us a message of how inequality poses a threat to both humanity and humankind.
The fourth chapter unveils different subjective matters of the poet's life. Since the poet has been a teacher of Geography for a long time, he dwells on multiple issues of the environment. Through the poem, "Where Do I Live", he unlocks the fact that how an individual with autism prefers to live in his/her own preferred environs. In this chapter, the poet adds a poem about snowfall in Toronto as he lives in the city. This poem certainly makes the citizens of the city nostalgic. By the same token, though Nirmal Sarker lives far away from his home country Bangladesh, he always upholds the culture and tradition of his motherland. This feeling of the poet gives birth to a poem titled "Boishakh and A Sweetheart" focusing on a pair of lover's manifold celebrations on the day. The poem, written with his village titled "Gangachara", discusses the poet's indebtedness to his root.
The fifth chapter deals with the poems describing discrimination among people; the poet, through his poem, "Incongruity" symbolically presents love, marriage, and post-marriage incongruities between an ebony girl and a fair-skinned young man. Moreover, "A Monologue" presents a tale of a boy in a wheelchair and his death, and how the villagers feel the absence of the boy though they never expressed love for him while he was alive. The part concludes with the poem, "Unveiling" delineating optimism, equality, and a tale of the days changing rapidly before our eyes.
Last but not least, Nirmal Sarker attempts at shedding light on his time and ambiance through his poems. His area of interest includes geography and autism. He has published 15 books to his credit. He occasionally contributes to different magazines and newspapers. His newly published book "Recognition" will get a large readership, which I utterly believe in.
The reviewer teaches English at Central Women's University, Dhaka