Mohammad Rafiq (b. 1943)

Mohammad Rafiq was born in Bagerhat in East Bengal in 1943. He grew up in the turbulent days of the anti-autocratic movement of the ’50s and ’60s. The essence of his attachment to the student movement is found in his first book, Boishakhi Purnima (1970). Rafiq believes this first work “immature”; there is no doubt, however, that with his second work, Dhulor Shonshare Ei Mati (1976), he developed a distinct style of his own. The shattered dreams of Bangladesh’s hard-earned freedom and his own troubled marital life thoroughly remade the poet in the wilderness and in solitude. He withdrew into himself and emerged a more mature poet in Kirtinasha (1979), which was awarded the Alaol Shahityo Puroshkar for the best book of poetry in Bangladesh.

In another major work, Gaodiya (1986), Rafiq composes puzzles from broken images of the soil, the air, the water of his homeland. Elsewhere, he protests political killings and the rise of military dictators, in a long narrative poem that bares his own pain and that of his nation. His works include Khola Kobita (1983), Kapila (1983), Shodeshi Nishshash Tumi Moy (1988), and Meghay Ebong Kadai (1991). As a noted Indian critic has observed, through the poems of Mohammad Rafiq one can discover Bangladesh. Truly it opens up to the Western reader an alternative esthetic, an other sensibility in whose acute observation and humanity there is much we can learn.

Rafiq has taught at Chittagong Government College and at Dhaka College. He currently teaches English literature and American poetry at Jahangirnagar University in Savar, Bangladesh. His Nirbachito Kobita (Selected Poems, 1993), was drawn from eight previously published collections. Aside from the Alaol Literary Award in 1981, he has also won the Bangla Academy Award in 1987 and the Zebunnessa Mohbubullah Trust Award in 1991.

Prasenjit Gupta had the opportunity of working with Mohammad Rafiq on these translations when the latter was a participant in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Some of these translations have previously appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation.

Published January 1, 2005

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