An Essence of Eternity: Composed over a period of three years, these poems are lucid meditations on love, loss, grief, happiness and all that comes in between. Divided into three parts, People, Places and Memory, some of these poems balance presence and absence, journey and destination, guilt and redemption; while others illustrate acceptance, joy, frustration and redemption. But whatever they may be, and they are likely to be read differently to different readers, each one is an honest attempt to find and come closer to an indefinable moral centre around which the act of living hinges. In short, each poem in its own way captures minuscule eternities which add to make a full life.
Etched with lucid images, the poems show Ankush Banerjee's dexterity and ease while putting the long line, the understated yet emphatic pause and the short line to achieve remarkable poetic finesse. He writes with grace, empathy and profound philosophical purpose.
About the Author
Ankush Banerjee divides his time being a mental health professional, Ethics and Organisational Behaviour consultant, wellness therapist, freelance writer, poet and blogger. His work has appeared in Muse India, Eclectica, The Wagon Magazine, Reading Hour, The Hindu and the United Services Institute Journal. An Essence of Eternity is his first volume of poetry.
I remember writing my first poem when I was nine years old. It consisted of eight lines. It was tided, 'One Day's Practice'. If memory serves me right, one of the verses went as under
Will one day's practice be enough?
To conquer life's most difficult battle,
I will be blessed by God, parents and infinite inner strength
And yet, will one day's practice be enough?
Suddenly seized by a sense of having written something utterly profound, I went running to my mother with my notebook. She was cutting vegetables. She quickly glanced through the page and said, "so, finally, you know how to operate the poem generating software on the new computer!" Not once did her focus shift from those forlorn potatoes. More than deflated, I was bewildered. We had bought a new computer-a 486 MHz machine-a few weeks back. The only item of interest I found in it was a game called 'Dave Dangerous'. I suppose my abovementioned poetic foray may have been inspired by a level in the game I was stuck in and wanted to clear.
However, nothing had prepared me at that juncture to confront the fact that we had 'a software' in our computer that could generate poems. I felt a sense of betrayal.
Later I explored what a 'poem generating software' is and what it could do. It was simpler than I had thought. It didn't have recourse to inspiration; nor did it brood over ideas (something I had supposed was essential in the process of feeling poetic). One had to choose from various lists: occasion, adjectives, mood etc. And voila! The software inserted these adjectives in a preset template and one could have his or her birthday poem, Christmas poem, love poem or any of the twelve other types.
I remember putting this software to good use for the next few years, especially on Valentine's Day. But then the girls, having gotten almost similar poems, called my bluff. One of them got the same poem for two consecutive years (Yes, there were more than one girl. Not so many poems, though!).
I fell in love for the first time in High school. Searching for better, more accurate expressions of affection, she and I frequented music stores and book shops. I remember chancing upon Tagore's Gitanjali one such afternoon. I am not sure whether it was the school library or the second hand book store at Daryaganj that had become our haunt. We would leave chits with Byron's verses in each other's bag. It is peculiar how people in love tend to be hundred times more susceptible to the effects of poetry, or so I was beginning to realize. Both these experiences were, in their own way, my initiations into the world of poetry.
I joined the Navy in 2004. A hiatus, wherein I completely lost touch with the written word, ensued. But it was here that I realized how much I used to enjoy dabbling in this art form. In a way, the utterly barren horizon of poetry that existed around me served as a catalyst that evoked an older hunger. I don't know when it happened, but it did. I felt I needed an escape between countless regimental rituals; fiction provided part of it, but fiction had one limitation. Novels require one to engage with them over a period of time. Time. Now that is something one doesn't find too often in life, let alone in the military. Hence, gratification had to' be instantaneous, or quick enough. And then I realized I could carry lines of poetry in my head all day long. Savouring them, turning them around, peeping inside them, looking for what they conceal, and at times, what they only give an impression of concealing. I feel this was also the time I began scrounging and thereafter stealing books from naval libraries. But that sort of transgression had an ethic of its own. I would only pick up poetry books; and that too those that had not been issued in the last five years. I came across Plath, Browning, Jussawala, Eliot and Moraes, among so many others. Eventually I would confess that I had misplaced it and end up paying a hefty fine. But that was okay. We are speaking about a time when Flipkart and Amazon were years into the future. Truly speaking, I have collected some of my most prized volumes of poetry from these naval libraries.
I remember while sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in 2007 onboard a sail ship, a peculiar fact that I read in one of those scrounged books crossed my mind: Keki N Daruwala, whom we had read in school, was an ex-Police officer. The parallel was delectable. 'Then why not me?' was the only question that kept churning in my mind during that sortie.
I decided to study further. I enrolled for my Master's degree in English from an open university in 2008. I was amazed to know that there were different methods to read a poem, a novel, even a play. It took me another three, maybe four years to realize something fundamental. What I had been scribbling on paper until then may not have been poetry at all. Emotional outpourings maybe, but poetry, well! Most certainly not.
The poems in this collection are the labours of what came thereafter. Many of these are not perfect, indeed, may be none of them are. But the ones that are the least are the oldest. Some of them may seem like complaints, because that is exactly what they are. Complaints, against a place that neither recognized nor nurtured what I thought (and still believe) was a fledging talent (if I may call it that). After all, why should it, when there is no space for it here, except while dwelling on the 'poetics of heroism' - its eternal, existential antidote.
Coming to peace with this was like a second coming. "Glory", that was supposed to be as short as the title piece, ended up reading like a short epic (if I may call it that), charts such a poetics of heroism, and constantly punctures its own canvas. It is a poem riddled with as many holes as sympathies. So are many of the rest.
It took me a while to compile this collection. But it took longer still to gather the courage to send it to a publisher, waiting, perversely, for a rejection than an acceptance. Much like a novice sky-diver prays that the weather turns out badly on the day of his/her jump and it gets postponed. But as Auden says, in the end, one does have to leap. So while the poems in this collection are acts of faith, resistance, even quarrels and solace, the collection itself is an act of courage.
In one of the poems, "delhi and how!", I attempt to sketch, and to an extent contradict, what Heraclitus meant when he said, 'one can't step in the same river twice.'
Printed words, one would remark, are like shoals in that river.
But even shoals don't remain what they are. Not for long, at any rate.
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