Showcasing an Intimate World of Passion
Rumki Basu
AFTER DEATH COMES WATER: SELECTED PROSE POEMS by Joy Goswami. Translated from the Bengali by Sampurna Chattarji Harper Perennial, 2021, 241 pp., 399.00
July 2022, volume 46, No 7

Someone who has not read Joy Goswami, in the original Bengali or in translation, would have missed the seminal compositions of one of the world’s finest poets. It is a daunting task to translate Joy Goswami, and it is no less daunting to review the brilliant translation of his book. Since I had not read Goswami’s trilogy in the original, I approached the translation with an open mind. In fact, it is Sampurna who has introduced Joy Goswami to the western world. Her translations are easy to read, especially for anyone who is trying hard to understand the unique colours of Goswami’s poetic diction and vocabulary. He borrows from several languages, Indian and foreign, thereby giving many of his compositions and specially his prose poems a stand-alone diction and glocalized flavour.

The current book is a translated trilogy of his three collections of prose poems: Solo for the Deer (Horiner Jonyo Ekok, 2002), No Shame in Bathing Before Your Mother (Ma’er Shamne Snan Korte Lojja Nei, 2012), and Whiplash (Shopaang Shopaang, 2017). If the fate of the human species has been an abiding concern of Goswami, so is the fate of the planet, in large parts of his poetry. In fact, he has been a forerunner of Eco-Poetics, much before it became fashionable.

Chattarji’s translation of his poems is to say the least, brilliant and evocative, bringing in the private personal tone of the poet in his whole landscape—anguish, passion, humour, joy and finally a sense of loss at the irreparable damages of time. Time wreaks havoc on the incandescent mind of the poet only to create a kaleidoscopic ‘magic realism’ in his rainbow spectrum of words! Joy’s poetry nourishes our mind, body and soul in addictive phases. There is nothing that Goswami’s poetry does not cover—personal anecdotes, societal myths, private and political narratives and the quixotic histories of the 20th and the 21st centuries as it touches his and our personal histories. His poems are the best example of this convergence.

My personal favourites are poems from No Shame in Bathing Before Your Mother. Enjoy the sense of urgency in this poem, the great sense of losing time.

Before your body breaks down any further, before you exit, admit what you have done and with whom, admit it to your wife, your daughter, say it, say the world is a lump of heart, at night this world falls into your hands—you sit clutching it with both hands… before dawn that world, that lump of heart will burst silently, before that, say o moronic death, because there will be no time afterwards.

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