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Jul 3, 2015

Door of Paper As A Masterpiece Prose-work of Jayanta Mahapatra

Door of Paper As A Masterpiece Prose-work of Jayanta Mahapatra
                                   By Bijay Kant Dubey

“There is a door in the heart of man which never opens. Or if it does at times, we are not aware of its opening. When it does, it goes on to reveal another world--- a world where time falls away and space grows; perhaps the self fills with vastness and light. When one is a child, and the darkness of the world is real and tangible around him, perhaps he catches a glimpse of the opening of that door, and stares outward , blind . Lifted by an invisible gleam of light, the child is felt by it and lightened, as the instant carries him away to a place he had not known before, into a realm of freedom.”
                 --------Jayanta Mahapatra in the essay, Freedom as Poetry: The Door
(Door of Paper: Essays & Memoirs, Jayanta Mahapatra, Authorspress, Delhi, 2007, p.1, Rs. 375)

“Poetry makes me write poems with a bad heart. I don’t know what that exactly means, but it is the heart  that makes  one turn secretly into someone--- a leader or loser perhaps---pushing one to choose values, attitudes, and to do the not-so-obvious; this heart, as it keeps on trying to hide the wounded walls of its house, and at the same time asking itself for a meaning to our lives.”
             ------In the essay, Silence: Poetry’s Last Word (Ibid, p.171)

Door of Paper: Essays & Memoirs by Jayanta Mahapatra is not a work in prosaic prose, terse and tedious, verbose and bombastic, but one in lucid prose, more poetical than, even failing his poetry what he has written so far, a masterpiece work of dream and vision, a poetic text and testament of what the poet believes and visualizes, how has he delved into the realms of poesy, how the belief grappling with to ink and eke out historically, mystically and mythically. A souvenir and a memento, it is no doubt a milestone in critical writing; a poetic vision and penetration for posterity; a long-lasting poetic imprint which has come down to us from the poet. A poet of Odisha and the Odias, he talks of the demography, cartography, map and mapping of the land, coastal and languishing behind; the myth and mysticism, historicity, faith and the mass of it all. Basically one of silence, imagery and landscape, poetic vision and reflection, he glides and glides to recapture and photograph the images of life and the world in his poetic camera. Published in 2007, Door of Paper is just a collection of his papers, essays, memoirs and random reflections, reviews and opinions which he has sent to or shared with from time to time while editing Chandrabhaga from Cuttack and sending the pieces and articles to different journals foreign and Indian. He is a poet of the door of dreams, visionary and gliding with time, silence and the landscape, purveying and holding parleys. Sitting by the door, he dwells far, delves deep into thinking  about life and its times, the history and origin of the world, where does light come flashing upon, breaking forth at with the chirping sparrows? What he is not in his poetry, he is here in this is volume of essays, random jottings and explanations, even quoting his poems to explain and show, how the poems relate to the door imagery. Is it the rock-temple door from which the devotees enter into and slip out that he thinks about, the windows to be cut out? Sitting in the Konark, the  Jagannath Puri temple complexes, marking the frescoes, figures and figurines, the dark daughters, he keeps  dreaming about  and slipping through the windows as the rock-temples do not have. The sea waves lashing at the shore, rising and falling, soaring and surging through the fishermen tell of his poem Hunger and the poor, but teenage fisher girl as those of Riders to Sea by J.M.Synge are, struggling to make a living. Sitting by the seashore, he keeps hearing the songs of Homer  as Arnold hears them in Dover Beach or Biblical Ruth in Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale. Who is it in reality?

“What should a poem be? Or a poetry book be? I still don’t know, even after thirty-five years of continuous writing, day after day.

                For me, each poem has been a painful struggle. Each poem has been an exploration, of an idea or a subject; which I thought would hopefully shine with coherence and truth when I was writing the poem. Unfortunately it has not been so far.

                Life and art are closely linked. And yet, somehow, both do not flourish at the same time. When the demands on life are there, all art ( literature included) takes a back seat. The greater the demands on life, the more unnecessary seems art. Art, then, becomes a frill which can be kept out.”
               -------In the essay, By the Way (Ibid, 169) 

Freedom as Poetry: The Door, An Orissa Journal: July to November, About 'Hunger' and Myself, Mystery as Mantra, Summerdusts and a Scent of Mangoes, The Inaudible Resonance of English Poetry in India,

Recent Commonwealth Fiction: Writing From Three Different Cultures, A Poet First of All, The Voice in the Ink, The Moving Horizon, are  the chapters of Door of Paper. To see it again, we may continue with others following them, as such, Acceptance Speech on Receiving the Sahitya Akademi Award for Relationship in 1981, Face to Face with the Contemporary Poem, Our Escapist Art, An August Day in 1942, Publishing in India: An Overview, Translating from Oriya: An Approach, A Symphony in Stone,

This Sadness in Mine Also, A Book from My Shelf, Letter from Orissa to The Hudson Review, Of the Lowly Potato: Indian English Poetry Today, A Note on Ayappa Paniker's Poetry, Cuttack:  Smoke and a Sunset of Rivers, Stranger than Brothers: Writing at the Edge of Anonymity, Land to Land: A Moon in Our Eyes, The Door, Hedging the Heart: to What is the Poet Responsible? , By the Way, Silence: Poetry's Last Word, The papers in continuation. Again to see, On the Mountain with Allen Ginsberg, Containing the World that Contains Us, The SAARC Writers: Suffering from Our Poetry, The Absence of Absolutes, Slow Swim in Dim Light: The Quest for Modernity in Poetry, Mirror of a Mirror, A.K.Ramanujan: A Tribute,

Time in the Poem.

Freedom as Poetry: The Door lays it bare what it is in his heart, how has he viewed poetry, taken to his comprehension. Poetry is definitely a heart matter and without comprehending silence, landscapic, scenic, picturesque and imagistic, felt within, felt around, one will not be able to compose the brain of which  it constitutes of, in solitude and quietude, all but itself. Silence gives consent is the thing to be felt here. Alexander Pope’s Ode on Solitude, Wordsworth’s Upon The Westminster Bridge and Auden’s Look, Stranger have enough materials to solve the matter under disposition. Peace psychic and cosmic too is quintessential in the understanding of the Mystery shrouding us.

 To see it otherwise, the poems of Mahapatra are the poems of silence and quietude. Even in the first chapter he has made us believe that without the opening of the door of the heart, things cannot be taken into. There is nothing as that can give childish purity of joy and delight which Blake felt it long ago. Such a thing it is there in Thomas Hood’s I Remember, I Remember or call it My Childhood. The freedom which Jayanta talks is inhibited, unrestricted freedom which but one child can feel it. But the radio-talk which Bernard Shaw gives, later on titled as Freedom is one of a socialistic design and here he talks about natural slavery and artificial slavery, who is a freeman, what is freedom and his answer in this regard is this that none is free perhaps. There is of course something of Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey in him as for the wild delights felt during the first visit and the recapturing of the sight and scenery in sheer joy of delight.

Apart from being one of the brooding temperament and visionary in quality, he is down to earthly realities as the skylark of Shelley is, keeping an eye on the things of the heaven and earth too. Oriya history and tradition he has not forgotten it. The battle of Kalinga still pinches him as for the bloodshed and killing of the Oriyas which only the Daya river can feel about. The article About “Hunger” and Myself is an explanation and the annotation of the theme of hunger which it is there in the poem Hunger.

“The fact remains that our art, which is deeply rooted in religion, is escapist. We, as a people, like to live in a world of fancy, of dream. And, if we have become escapists, our rulers and governments are responsible for these attitudes. What does the word “culture” matter to huge, illiterate  population of about 500 million---many of whom don’t  even have their basic daily sustenance?”
               ------In the essay, Our Escapist Art (Ibid, p.92)

The article ‘The Door’ is crucial to the understanding of his self and vision of poetry as there lie in many poems dealing with the door. The door of the heart is the thing that he keeps knocking at and it does not open all the time and when it opens, it brings in new vistas and avenues of thought and wisdom, adding to mental horizon, dimension and spectrum. The door of the childhood home definitely needs to be referred here as because from there begins it the picture of imagination, the flight of fancy taking wings to fly into the skies. Here the poet is very allegorical as for the realms of fancy and imagination, purity of heart and expression, where to find them?

An Oriya Christian poet who taught physics in the classrooms at Ravenshaw College, Cuttack for a long time but refreshed with poetry and his love for it so well that he can write about the land of his birth and nativity just like Derozio in My Native Land and Rupert Brooke in The Soldier; the Oriya thought, culture and tradition, the faith, belief and mystery of living  so nicely and so piously, holding the roots in strict confidence:

“Much evidence exists today to justify that Orissa was the first seat of tantrism in India. Beginning from the seventh century A.D., shakti worship found widespread acceptance throughout the land. Manifestations of the Mother, of the devi, came to be known in different forms: among them Uma, Gouri, Kali,  Bhavani , Rudrani , Sarbani, Sarvamangala , Aparna, Parvati, Durga , Chandika and Ambika are probably  more well  Known.”
----In the essay, A Symphony in Stone (Ibid, 109)

Door of Paper as a collection of assorted articles and papers is all about Jayanta Mahapatra’s theory of poetry which he has come to propound, comprehend it while practicing poetry, teaching physics and drawing from, editing Chandrabhaga, reviewing books, sending poems, taking the awards from, visiting overseas as the guest of honour or delegate. There is not only one point that he discusses and takes to in the work. To discuss his poetry is to come to mark that the sea and silence, doors, rocks and stones, art and architecture, sculptures, frescoes and figurines, hunger and lust  are important in understanding him. An Odia poet, he is first and foremost of Odisha than of India. His base is one of physics, not of literature. Photography and novel writing had been the flair for, but he switched over to poetry. Philosophically and poetically, Jayanta is no doubt on a sound footing of his, but his poetry too suffers from some sort of obscurity visible in him and it is practically difficult to explain his abstract poems bordering on the fringe and razor edge of nihilism, existentialism, nothingness and  this absurd dwelling of ours. A strange vacuum prevails upon, leading to nowhere. His use of the rains perplexes us and we are nonplussed about it. Sometimes sexuality takes over and he turns privately meaningless. Now we have got accustomed to otherwise those who take him for the first time will never like the Indian texts of English poetry. The readers have evinced an interest in Indian poets and poetesses in English after developing the habit of reading such texts. There was a time when they used frown upon reading them. Jaynata is a blank thinker thinking about life blankly; a poet of the shadow space. The dawn we see is the same dawn ever coming; the dusk we see the same dusk darkening. Where it had a hill now there is a mansion over. The things keep changing as do the times of life and the world. There is nothing static here, everything but in a flux, he is a poet of the unconscious mind of man. Jayanta’s is a thing of physics, not new at all, as astrophysics has lots of such materials. The light chapter too has impacted him with light and darkness theories, where does light retreat back to, how does light come breaking upon, what the origin of the universe, all these things he takes into consideration. To read him is to come to feel it, nothing is what it seems to be and what it seems to be is nothing.

As a poet, Mahapatra is not on the side of the pedantic and intellectual poets. Actually he seeks to put the emphasis on the appeal, which is but easily available in Mare and Masefield though he names them not. Mostly he begins with a reference to Eliot. The poet is of the opinion that many of the modern poets have failed outside the campuses and have just written for the English departments. He also accepts it that many of his earlier poems are meaningless and suffer from abstractions.

“My childhood has a door hidden in its dark inside. I know I cannot escape it. It comes back to me again and again, this door, shutting behind me. Just as any door does, opening a little before it shuts again.”
------In the essay, The Door (Ibid, p.158)
             
“Mystery is like the rain, falling like false jewels in the sky, which catch the light as they fall, maybe like the frail of a rainbow; and perhaps it is these bits of a rainbow which a poem should catch to be able to  move the reader and instill in his or her mind an alien “stirring” of some kind.”
                -----In the essay, Mystery as Mantra (Ibid, p.21)

In the essay, Our Escapist Art, the poet Jayanta Mahapatra  dismisses the elitist and the proletarian motifs attached to art and its assessment. Indian culture, as it is applied to denote and connote it, too is vastly varied from each other. Our art which is deeply rooted in religion, pietistic and didactic is an escapist approach of delving into and if this be so, how to evaluate it? The major chunk of the social ethos is a saga of the superstitious, backward, underdeveloped and illiterate sort. They do not have anything to sustain themselves.

The poet speaks of the yoga and the yoginis in the essay entitled in A Symphony in Stone:

                Although we do come across temples dedicated to yogini worship in India, only four are of significance. Besides this one at Hirapur, Orissa has another in ruins, at Ranipur-Jharial. The other two centres of yogini worship are at Khajuraho and Bheeraghat in Madhya Pradesh. Hirapur was the first centre to have such a temple which was built in the ninth century, while the others came up later, ending with the one at Bheeraghat in the tenth-eleventh centuries.

                 Much evidence exists today to justify that Orissa was the first seat of tantrism in India. Beginning from the seventh century A.D., shakti worship found widespread acceptance throughout the land. Manifestations of the Mother, or the devi, came to be known in different forms: among them Uma, Gouri, Kali, Bhavani, Rudrani, Sarbani, Sarvamangla, Aparna, Parvati, Durga, Chandika and Ambika are probably more well known.   

                In reality, although the number of yoginis is innumerable, tantriks appear to worship mainly the 64 manifestations of the devi. In these 64 are embodied the 64 arts, making the yogini an embodiment of yoga in the form of the woman.
(Ibid, p.109)

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