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Solitary Stillness by Kiriti Sengupta, reviewed by Uday Saha


Stillness, a Companion! 

Reviewed by Uday Saha



Title: Solitary Stillness

Author: Kiriti Sengupta

Illustrations: Joyeeta Bose

Published by Hawakal Publishers, Calcutta. 2017

ISBN: 978-81-934230-6-6 (Paperback)

Everyone talks about chaos but very few venture into the world of stillness. There is an entire universe within the stillness which is to be explored; and there is immense stillness to be discovered. Stillness allows one to reach beyond the mundane while appreciating and experiencing a universe that is different to the one most people are aware of. If you can still your mind you’ll feel different. No longer will the chaos be a hindrance; it will rather make you desirous to explore the undiscovered stillness. The chaos is already present and apparent, so the question is, how can you enter into the world of stillness that runs parallel to the chaos?

Kiriti Sengupta’s newest collection of poems, Solitary Stillness, is quietly affecting and has all the potential to inspire readers both in India and abroad. Even so, the most striking aspect of Solitary Stillness is how Sengupta’s thought-process and poetic mind have changed over the years since the release of his first book in 2013. On the 43rd page of Solitary Stillness there is a declaration — “The camera mocks the disguise/ and celebrates light.” Walking along “the concrete lane” Sengupta has celebrated the light within stillness of things and objects of his interest. Here the subjects of the verses differ from each other but they induce stillness to the readers. They bear an impeccable quality of being meditatively still.

When India is witnessing much of communal and political imbalances of late, and opinionated people often question a poet’s stand, Sengupta has meditated deeply to absorb much of the existing anarchy and put down his thoughts in “solitary stillness.” The collection is comprised of twenty “writerly texts,” which compel the readers to work at understanding and interpreting them. To Sengupta “Poets are loners, no doubt!” And undeniably the question like “Where do old birds go to die?” can come upon them.

The journey starts with “The Pilgrimage” where Sengupta has reflected on the proverbial saying: “The ants grow wing to fetch death.” To say, the two-line piece of work is subtle, for the ants (like the human beings) fizzle out to see through because of besotted ignorance. In “The Bengali Phenomenon” Sengupta is loud as he sneers the nonchalance displayed by the Bengali people. He writes: “It took ages to savor the ecstasy/ until Lapierre released his City of Joy.

City of Joy (1985) is a novel by Dominique Lapierre. It was later adapted into a film by Roland Jofee in 1992. The book chronicles despite facing hunger and death the people still hold on to the belief that life is precious and worth living, so much they named their slums “Anand Nagar” that translated into English to become “city of joy.” In “The Bengali Phenomenon,” “Jubilation ahoy” and “…released his City of Joy” if read together, it does poke different nooks and corners.

In “Quietude and Loneliness” Sengupta writes: “For God’s sake don’t take silence for granted.” I would rather say: For heaven’s sake don’t take solitude for granted. While reading this verse readers will notice the use of space in between these lines:

You never know if it will declare you dead


And then you see the resurrected spirit


The space carries forward the silence until the spirit is resurrected again. Here Sengupta significantly maintains the poise to create an imposing effect. “Tournesols” is a highly symbolical poem. I’ll consider it homage to van Gogh. The water as mentioned here is redemptive; it’s like sprinkling water upon the artist’s own dry leaves of life. But, the last two lines of the poem, “Life would not have stilled/ had there been water in the vase,” have words that are not “signifiers,” for a reader can not have a specific “signified.” What I mean is that the poet’s approach in this poem follows Ferdinand de Saussure. Saussure looked at language diachronically. He traced words over time looking for the changes in sounds and meanings. And if based on deconstruction, the signifier and signified in “Tournesols” are unstable, and they can take on multiple meanings.

A picturesque portrayal pervades throughout “The Shoreside.” Topographic details of the site (mountainous rocks — sharp, edgy, and difficult ... boulders were loosely bound) did not escape Sengupta’s eyes. “The Shoreside” is rich in imagery:

Small waves came to merge…

Small waves failed…

Large waves failed…

Larger waves appeared…


In all these lines the treatment is kinesthetic. In the garb of subjective images, when Sengupta writes, “The sea sprinkled on our dry skin” we receive a soft, tactile image. Here I must quote Dustin Pickering, “Life is rarely what it seems, and the larger picture sneaks in over the smaller prints (“Smaller waves failed to erase the footprints!”).” Like “Toursenols,” “Manhattan Skyline” heightens Sengupta’s knack toward the great works of art. Here I remember what he wrote in one of his earlier books, Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral: “You have numerous folders in your life since your birth until the last light. In all such folders you are given poetry in its nascent form.” Sengupta strums the chord hard as creative personas like singer, painter or a poet strikes through “the concrete lane” to “mellow the water” or to have “mind still.” In this piece by juxtaposing prose and verse Sengupta has given a pure contemporary touch.

In Solitary Stillness Sengupta has proved that a poetic persona cannot and should not keep mum in the times of chaos and anarchy; however, a poet needs a calm to reflect. When Sengupta asks, “How long does a bird live to be called old?” he echoes the humanitarian voice of Bob Dylan who once wrote, “How many roads must a man walk down/ before you call him a man?” Apparently, Sengupta has sympathized with the state of the careless creatures. He touches so many issues and raises so many questions at the same time when he writes:

I can say, birds heal themselves

and die solitary

amidst the quiet flora — unnoticed.


Sengupta’s walk is of a man of flesh and blood while he is putting down the lines, but his heart is of a bird. On the other hand, if we take a look at the poem, we will find the first person “I” dissolves as it reaches the concluding (not a conclusion though) lines as if the writer wants us to feel the silent “we” resonating — “and (we) die solitary.”

In this age of post-truth and nihilistic literature, structuralism believes that the structure of language comes from human mind. It won’t be improper to say that poets are blessed with a third eye. For, only a poet can sense “the trees were paying attention /to the instructions sent from the sky.” (“The Pillars of Soil”); “They will rather find /another summer /to captivate and tantalize” (“Rolling Stone”); “Here lies a merger between two men...” (“Manhattan Skyline”).

Suppose you are left alone with your solitude, what will you think of? What will you look at? What will you write on? You will certainly come out with the realizations like, “birds no longer fly high,” “I no longer seek company,” “I heard my heart first,” among others. And once you realize “I now have arrived to an understanding,” you will spontaneously learn the etiquettes that will keep the aura of stillness alive.

The works of Picasso, Joyce, Camus and T. S. Eliot shattered and overturned everything traditional and ushered in new media. In India it’s Kiriti Sengupta, a poet with tapering fingers and soulful eyes. Solitary Stillness will stir the unearthed stillness and instill new hopes and aspirations in the minds of its readers.


Uday Saha was born and brought up in Coochbehar, India. He teaches English language and literature in Uponchowki Higher-Secondary School, Mekhliganj, West Bengal. Saha did his post-graduation in English Literature (M.A.) from North Bengal University in 2008. A bookworm, bilingual poet and co-editor of Mujnai literary magazine, Saha has published several poems both in Bengali and English. He has conducted many workshops in the district of Coochbehar, and as a trainer he has been appreciated in the Ananda Bazaar Patrika in the recent times.

Reader Comments (1)

Congratulations to the reviewer. Sparks of brilliant writing spotted. Keep it up!

August 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKoushik Sen

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