Site Review: Debasis Mukhopadhyay

Site Review: Debasis Mukhopadhyay

“I like to see these languages
as multiple voices dwelling within me.”

By Emily Jaeger, Features Editor

Debasis Mukhopadhyay holds a PhD in literary studies and lives and writes in Montreal, Canada. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Curly Mind, After the Pause, Posit, Manneqüin Haüs, Yellow Chair Review, Thirteen Myna Birds, Of/with, I am not a silent poet, The New Verse News, Scarlet Leaf Review, With Painted Words, Silver Birch Press, and elsewhere. He’s been widely published, as well as anthologized with a page on his website devoted just to anthologies.

Debasis Mukhopadhyay, a poet and scholar born in India, works in three languages: English, Bengali, and French. Indeed, his debut collection of poetry, pora gach o megh oré (Art Publishing, 2005) was written in his native Bengali. Exploring themes of travel, cultural identity, spatiality, and of course, his relationship with language both in his poetry and academic work, Mukhopadhyay’s writing attempts to reconcile what he describes as “the tapestry of [a] fractured self.”

One element which stands out in Mukhopadhyay’s poetry is a deep attention to and manipulation of sound. In a recently published poem, “a woodwind dampers or a sweetened slash,” sound works as the poem’s engine, revving the poem up and whisking the reader away:

Loo my gazelle
my wisp lapse of where I stand
my bare hands on the whispering rivet of sweepstakes
my look-alike roan of missing you
my clump of look out for
my once straitjacket sweetheart
my lapwing across the window of mizzle
my whittled fingerprints on
my clove of geisha clue
my wodge of withdrawal
my fuchsia magellanica

this is not a witch-hunt
a witticism crossword promising you sweet gemstones
or firebombs’ tapestry across the wimp
this is not the footmarks of weaklings swelling across the gelatin slag
the yellow heartthrob of a lonesome wraith in your orange sorbet
another whizzing strait of missing you
the genealogy of dairymaid sweetmeat across the slash

just larval loll
just sycamore leaves swiveling against the backcloth of a fugue
just a whorl of bread crumbs
just a lasso
a strap sans stratagem
swirling birds finding their way in the gas tappet
just tapeworms daydreaming of wingspan on their footpath sickbed
just another dagger swaying inside a whodunit
just a minim in the data cluster

this is far from the lost cloudbursts
the fallen ramparts on the fallen leaves
the waxwork of footfalls slaloming
the whiteout of longing
the aftertaste of long gone clutter of clouts

this is just the wishbone you’d left me with

–from inside the window-dresser where you’d forgotten the clown Loofah”

Some enticing combinations include: “wisp lasp,” “witticism crossword,” and “straightjacket sweetheart.” Mukhopadhyay’s facilities with consonance and intuition for connections between disparate words are perhaps a result of his position between multiple languages, what he calls “[the] multiple voices dwelling within me.” Both an insider and outsider to the English language, words that are commonplace to others get new attention and twists under Mukhopadhyay’s deft eye. 

Another exciting feature of Mukhopadhyay’s poetry, seen also in “a woodwind dampers,” is his penchant for unique imagery, drawing from global experience and a wealth of literary reference. Here, lapwings tangle with a gelatin slag and tapeworms daydream. The way in which diverse images like Mukhopadhyay’s avid wordplay build and pour out of the poem in a burst of movement is reminiscent of Mukhopadhyay’s somewhat violent description of his writing process on W.I.S.H. Poetry Press, linked to his “interviews” page:

I can’t record anything in a  stitched/glued/spiral bound journal/notebook. Creativity cannot be bound is literal for me….I prefer to carry [the words] in my head as long as I can. At a point of time, some of them become violent. What I mean by that is some of the words end up gaining momentum to come to life and burst forth. Only then, I need to jot them down on a piece of paper….Later these words become the agents that imagine and play about with my poems.”

This carrying of the words before they are written is aptly reflected in the subtitle of his website, “Between ink and inkblot.”

Originally, Mukhopadhyay’s writing process was sporadic—he couldn’t write everyday and sometimes years quietly went by without the “bursting forth” of poetry. Hence perhaps opening his “About” page on his website with a quote by Jorge Luis Borges: “I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn’t expect to arrive.” Now, Mukhopadhyay has become quite prolific, and feels a strong need to write every single day. He attributes his new drive to an increasing awareness of his mortality. He has a lot left to say. 

Mukhopadhyay’s debut English-language collection of poetry, the chapbook kyrie eleison or all robins taken out of context, is available to order from Finishing Line Press. 

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