Swadesh Sen & New Bengali Poetry

Swadesh Sen is a Bengali language poet from eastern India. He is a very rare poet in a lot of ways. Rare in his self-propelled ascetic isolation from the literary plexus. Rare in his invention of an inner diasporic Bengali accent (for his poetry). Rare is the manner in which his poetry speaks. And it speaks for itself.

An introduction to Swadesh Sen's poetry and a few sample poems can be found here -


When Swadesh wrote a "public" poetry as if providing guest services; referred back to the "familiar" through its daily intonations, scenes and chores; the rest of Bangla parallel poetry slyly competed against each other with language and form. They wrote a wholesale public poetry about and from factories, markets, battle fields and brothels. Rarely from academics. In the meanwhile, Swadesh kept working at his craft - refurbishing and reconstructing simple, "weightless" words and phrases to arrive at a new language. This new language, shining in its own new light, was, at the same time, striving to rediscover a deserted world - our homes, our farms and small towns. That's his country (the word "Swadesh" means "homeland" in Bengali), his haven, his laboratory and private space. How many of us saw our "homeland" likewise ! Unretraceable and yet traceworthy.
From his deep-seated private domain, (which would sometimes be infested by an inspiring group of radical, local poets) he once said to an younger poet, "what do I look for ?.....a profoundly personal reasoning, the best reasoning and the best judgement that there exists, that is poetry to me, my poetry". Swadesh's poetry creates an extended private space inside the outer vortex that we constantly need to ignore and overlook. The "best reasoning" can often be found in the inner eddies that are ceaselessly swirling up in that private space - mirth, joy, laughter, life's little splendours - all severely toned down. And rediscovered, like Yves Bonnefoy once said "poetry helps us return an object to its real self". Sometimes Swadesh Sen would make a quiet observation, as if in a repose, and a search for the true shape of the vortex we are in, while never really caring to determine its shape. He loves to occupy a corner of the yard that is Bangla Kabita (Bengali Poetry), moistening his cult-like poetic language with fresh ink - an ink only Swadesh Sen's machinery could manufacture. A language, that fragrances like the fresh, new, vernacular ink made in small, local factories. A language, that is always attempting to renew its simplicity. He writes -

take a shower, eat full and well, stay in beauty and style
while you write your poems with a Bangla feel
naked senseless delicately quiet and broken stacks of poems
stuff in your free birds in the real woks of West Bengal
welcome the fine thought to your literature
(naked senseless)

Swadesh Sen once wrote - "Newness has no grief, its unknown to it". A group of younger poets, at the turn of the century, began to cross-refer to his work trying to draw support for their own. They called their oeuvre - New Poetry. A journal with the same name (editors Swapan Roy & Ranjan Moitra) soon sprung up in 2002. Although, Swadesh Sen never made any claim to New Poetry, many, especially younger Bengali poets, see him as a predecessor.

Aryanil Mukherjee

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