Journalist and Poet Sumana Roy
Poetry is not meant to be analyzed because the poet has already said whatever had to be said. Second-guessing the poet is an exercise in futility and vanity—futile because the poet will pay no attention to it and vain because it means nothing to anyone other than the critic or the analyst. This is especially true of poets of inventive merit such as my friend and fellow journalist Sumana Roy.
One of the great advantages of Facebook—and we know how thin they are getting by the day—is that it lets people showcase their natural talents. In my case that would be just pure cynicism. This morning as I was reading updates on Facebook, I came across a link to two of Sumana’s latest poems published in Befrois—“Intellectual Jousting in the Republic of Letters”. They are titled ‘Calcium’ and ‘Iron’. My first impulse even before reading a single line was “This ought to be good” because only a poet would feel compelled to write about calcium and iron without the fear of losing one’s teeth. I was not wrong at all.
As a poet myself—even if that sounds pompous I insist on saying it—what I first look for in any poetry is inventiveness. Sumana’s two poems under the umbrella title of “Elements in the period table” are loaded with that.
Check out these lines:
Every few minutes, I tap my bones
to check for the sound of a crack,
as if I was an oyster and the fracture a pearl
Only a true poet would be able to construct an inventive and picturesque thought like “as if I was an oyster and the fracture a pearl.”
Or these in the same poem titled ‘Calcium’:
On TV, Michelle Obama is hula hooping,
there’s her calcium-buttressed hips
It is quirky and very funny, the whole image of hula hooping “calcium-buttressed hips.”
Her second poem ‘Iron’ is remarkably creative. Take these lines line for instance:
Iron, its deficiency, makes of me
a nation without border patrol
Anaemia could be the name
of a colourless flower.
Like zinnia or petunia.
I ingest things that bleed –
beetroot, pomegranate, liver.
And banana – fruit, flower, stem,
all that leave sticky scars on white.
Nothing helps. Nothing happens.
I have mainly known Sumana through Facebook chats, greetings and updates and one impulsive phone call. Having read these two poems though, one has discovered a whole new dimension to the person behind the FB question ‘What’s on your mind?’ In Sumana’s case, there is so much on her mind and evidently a lot of it is elemental. What is poetry if not elemental?
Poetry has no purpose and that is the purpose of poetry. Poetry is the purpose.
It is only fitting that I end this short tribute to Sumana’s obvious literary talents with my own little versifying:
The poet knows
What the poet knows
But who knows
What the poet knows?*
* You can immediately tell the difference between a poet and a versifier.