I for one do not accept that Jibanananda Das was a surrealist poet. He is no Guillaume Apollinaire. His poems are careful constructs, and certainly not at mercy of the subconscious. Even the travel through space and time, as mentioned in 'Banalata Sen' and for that matter in many other poems, is actually an effort to very consciously create a meta-world, the poet's own world, so to say, which contains all the essential elements gathered from a temporal Cartesian space over ages and over a vast expanse, but it is not exactly the world that surrounds us in our daily life. Jibanananda’s Natore therefore is the geographical place by the same name, but also it is not, and in his unique meta-world Bidisha, the town of antiquity, merges into a contemporary allegory at natural ease.
Branding Jibanananda as a nature worshiper or something of that sort is actually seriously demeaning him! Beneath the apparently serene landscape of geographical Bangla, his is a world of 'spoilt cucumber and rotten melon' even during the days of The Grey Manuscripts, which in his later poems effortlessly merges into the world of his strange beggars and lumpen earthlings. Again I would like to caution that these are all careful constructs of a secondary world: it is indeed a sort of super-realism but not in the surrealistic sense.
Indeed Jibanananda was drastically different from Premendra Mitra and Subhash Mukhopadhyay, who are mentioned in this essay, though at one point of time they all shared the same physical city and were quite sensitive to the pangs and tribulation of their own age. However, the ‘citizen’ poet on whom Premendra Mitra had composed his melancholic ode in Returning from the Ocean, perhaps always remained an enigma. The Barishal boy who walks the Kolkata streets as a man and ultimately perishes in front of a streetcar near Deshapriya Park tells us a uniquely singular urban metaphor that Kolkata may not get to hear ever again! I expected little more analyses of that in the present essay.
Finally, I would like to commend the author on her efforts. Let Jibanananda studies grow further in Parabaas!
Nirupam Chakraborti (pub. December 2012)
The author's response:
I agree that it is not a complete portrayal of the poet since I have not included other important poems and it is also difficult as I have mentioned in my essay to put him under any exclusive category even if his whole oeuvre is taken into account. Indeed I did not want it to be so in that sense. What I wanted to present was more of a synoptic view of the poet in terms of only three of his poems. The essay I hope succeeds in presenting the suggestion that I wanted to make about the poet's self.
I also would never call Jibananada a nature poet in the old simplistic sense. I wanted to show how he evokes his picture/spirit of Bengal with which he could identify himself. That spirit/persona he produces in terms of a different set of images that project the subconscious terrain. It is the collage of these images that produces the real which could be called in a sense 'surrealistic'. I only wanted to suggest as much.
So far as reference to Premendra Mitra and Subhas Mukhopadhyay is concerned, that was indeed a comment of Buddhadeva Bose.
Faruk Hyder Choudhury (pub. July 2012)
রাহুল রায়, বস্টন (pub. May 2012)