“Be like a crystal; the more they break you, the more rays you scatter…”
These words are really applicable for Sonnet Mondal, who is an internationally acclaimed poet penning most in Indian English. Not only an international poet but he is also considered as an ambassador of Indian Literary tradition. It is so because he believes that “humanity is our only identity when we compare us with other living beings.” These are his words which reflect his spirits as a poet and as a human being. The young poet has an international vision as he says:
Through ‘the united minds for peace society’ I envision bringing
the entire world under one umbrella of holistic peace, brotherhood,
harmony and cosmic purity.
This is what synonymous to the vision of ancient Indian tradition of “Vasudhev Kutumbkum.” He also believes that:
Poetry is the root of the Cosmic tree of peace and purity whither water
is the poetic attitude and sunlight is your poetic firmness while you hold
the pen between your fingers and the result is Holistic Peace where
enlightenment and happiness are the by products. This was nothing but
poetic photosynthesis for a peaceful world.
In writing poetry he has laid stress on holistic peace and purity, which is indeed remarkable. At such a young age, he has achieved so much that his achievements are really incredible. As a poet he has brought glory to his country and his state.
His Diorama of Three Diaries is the 7th book to be released by him, and it is a collection of 138 poems based on many themes like- nature, spirituality, mysticism, problems relating to his country and world. The greatness of Sonnet Mondal can be summed up in the following lines by Candice James, Poet Laureate of The City of New Westminster, BC Canada in the Preface to the book, Diorama of Three Diaries. He says:
The name “Sonnet Mondal” is synonymous with poetry and can easily
be included in the same sentence with the Eastern poets Omar Khayam
and Kahlil Gibrean and the Western poets T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Leonard
Cohen, Michael Drayton, Edmund Spenser, Elizabeth Barrett Browining,
and of course the sonnet master himself, William Shakespeare. Mondal’s
poetry has strokes of genius woven throughout his verses that puts it on the
same high level as the classical poems “The Ballad Of Reading Gaol”,
written by the great Oscar Wilde, “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot, and
“Invictus” by Edward Henley. These poets have passed away, but their
words live on and always will. Sonnet Mondal’s poetry shines with the
same literary genius and creativity.(xiii)
He is passionate and a great lover of poetry which he himself has reflected on the first page of the book in the following lines:
“Three diaries they join
Unfinished they coin
A beautiful cover you see
The Panorama of words
In my poetic tree…
The three diaries I wrote
My verses in them float
Today they lie beneath one roof
Kissing me aloof”
These are his own words which reflect the significance of poetry for him. It is because of this spirit and passion that he is reaching at new heights with the passage of time and bringing glory to the country.
The poem, The Wait is a sonnet, and seems to be the outcome of the agony of a person, who is depressed to see the pathetic condition of his people. The depression can be seen in the following lines:
I walk past a valley while a million wolves glare at me,
Some with hunger, some with awe.
I return back on the same path after a week
While a million arms wave at me.
“See we have killed the wolves.”
But though being depress, he is also hopeful that a new beginning will arise and there will be happiness and joy everywhere, as he say:
The wait for a fearless life hasn’t yet ended
And both fear and peeping joy play in this wait.
The Poem, “My Pencil, Eraser & Pen” seems to be a subjective poem by the poet as it shows his attitudes towards writings. There is a clear inclination of his love for writing poetry in the following lines:
There is always
A half broken pencil
In my right pocket
To pen poems
And an eraser on the left
To rub them off.
His passion for poetry is reflected in many poems written by him like- Suppressed, Stepping with Clouds, Flying Muse, and Oh Olive and You Realize It Now.
The poem, Flying Muse is a very short poem of 8 lines, but although being short it seems to have a very deep meaning in it, as it can be seen:
Verses Float in heart
The carpet warms the toes
Hands on table move
To shake off verses…
A gush of wind slaps in
The table pushes off my arms
The Home of my poems flies
My muse turns into crossword…
So, this means that poetry is the reflection of the strong feelings of the person who writes it.
A writer, when writes shows his innermost feelings and sometimes relates many things and incidents with his own personal life. This is why subjective poetry is considered as so remarkable. The poet is called subjective when he finds inspiration for his works in his own thoughts, emotions and experiences, and gives expression to his own feelings and impulses. The subjective writers drive within themselves, they steep in their own themes, in individuality and sensations. Sonnet Mondal too has written many subjective poems like- Virus, I Am Not, Searching with Folded Hands, My Dismantled Room, I Want to Fly, Drunk, An Eve With a Stranger, Stay Alert For Surprises, I Won’t Run, Stoniness Turns Playing Cards, My Shadow, Grip Me, Turning Pages, My Style describing about different situations of his life. The poem, An Eve With a Stranger describes about poet’s meeting with a stranger, as the lines reflect:
A friend? admirer? Lover?
She is just a new arrival,
Playing in my mind, fusing
music of pebbles, clatter of birds
in an eve hung on my walls
to decipher mysteries of life and fondness.
Smile and peace are enough reasons to be hers
In this eve without birds, without stars.
From the beginning of this world, love is considered as one of the tenderest feeling of human being. It is love which has been a constant source of inspiration to the writers of all ages whether they are dramatists, Prose-writers, short stories writers, novelists or poets. This is a theme which has no boundaries and no limitations. Dr Johnson, the famous writer has considered love only as one of the passions, but in poetry it can be considered as the major subject, and more so in English poetry. Sonnet Mondal, too being a poet is not left apart from this feeling or passion. He has written some poems which has love as its theme like, Those Soft Fingers, Love and Walnut and Make me Flow. While Those Soft Fingers shows his desperation of love for someone, as the following lines indicates:
I was addicted,
Not to lust but to love
Those soft fingers.
Make me Flow seems to show his deep love for somebody. Here, he seems to be agreeing with Wordsworth’s belief that, “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, where emotions recollect its tranquillity.” As the lines indicates his depth:
Tear a banana leaf; mould it into a dinghy;
Place me upon it and ram me in the flood.
Tell me not the name of the river,
Slap me into forgetfulness; if I remember you
I will come back to adore you or be one
Amongst the fishes and the life on a further shore.
Many poets are inspired by Wordsworth and Sonnet Mondal is also one of them. And this motivation is reflected in some of his poems like- Seduced in the Sunderbans, Oh Olive, Southern Summer Winds, Butterflies and Mosquitoes, Snow in Spring. Southern Summer Winds shows his deep love and fascination for nature. In Butterflies and Mosquitoes, he has shifted his focus on tiny creatures of nature, butterflies and mosquitoes.
Being a nature lover, in the poem, Seduced in the Sunderbans he describes about a delta, Sunderban in West Bengal. He describes about the beauty of the place in this way:
Blue above, blue beneath; waters and skies kiss at yonder point
A thick line stretches with flags of greenery, bold enough
To sustain salty tides, as muddy lands, bronze in sunrays
Swathe themselves with the poignant carpet of the Ganges.
And in contrast to it in Eyes and Skies he describes about a region in Karnataka (India), known as Donimalai which is surrounded by mines. The poet seems to give its description and his experience by saying that:
‘Donimalai’ was out of this though full of dust
Whirling from mines into noses and eyes but meek enough
To edge down to earth; as if pinching friends reconciling after squabble.
There are also some other poems based on nature such as- Howling Nights, Springs and Pollen Love.
Sensuousness is one of the weaknesses of human being and especially for young people and this sensuousness of human nature is being penned by Sonnet Mondal in some of his poems like- Lost in the Lust, Lusty, She-Fears, Kisses, Valentine Hides. The poem, My Shadow, in which he has depicted the feelings of both men as well as women. As he says in the poem, Lost in the Lust:
Touch me not, I drilled
And packed in her heart
Dumped in desire of my cloth-less chest.
Being born in a place called Bengal, which has been inhabited by great personalities and mystic poets like-Rabindranath Tagore and Aurobindo Ghosh, it is obvious for Sonnet Mondal to be influenced and this can be easily seen as he has written some mystical poems in the collection like- The Lovely Highway (also based on loss of faith & belief), Mythical Chain of Life, Fear, Last Life, A Call Through Misty Eyes, Darkness Inside, Dying Every Day For Life, Let Us Be Safe, Last Life, The Lonely Highway, Religion of Nomads and Fear . So by this, he proves the beliefs of many writers who think that poetry is an expressive of human soul.
In the present scenario, we see that so much wrong is being going on in this world, people happen to see it but they don’t voice against it rather they just keep quite. Now with the passage of time and increasing materialism and professionalism, they are becoming dumb and being deprived of emotions. This dumbness of people is being reflected by the poet in the poem, Springs, where he says:
The world can’t speak
With its million dumb elements.
We favour to stay dumb too.
In the poem, Volvo he shows that how man in the present scenario is becoming lavish and ease-living day by day which seems to be an inspiration from Robert Browning, who was a Victorian poet. He wrote the poem, Virus keeping in mind the scientific advancement happening in the present times. As the lines indicates:
‘Caution a virus has been detected’
Interrupts my chats with a girl.
My tuitions went wasted.
This also shows his attitude that he is keeping pace with the changing time and is well-versed in scientific technologies.
This is human nature to change with the passage of time, situations, circumstances and due to many other reasons. He has written some poems keeping in mind the fast changing world like- Ashes Won’t Claim Honour, Comprehend Not Waste, Let Me Bloom, I Am Not. In some poems, we can see the influence of Arnold on the poet like- Perforations, Two Faces
“Plato believed that poetry and literature are inextricably tied up with the values and ideologies of the culture as a whole: art is not separate from the socio-political sphere. (40) This seems to be believed by Sonnet Mondal also as we can see many poems based on political situations of our country like Shirts of Politics, High Time, Turn Back, Clear Your Home. All these poems are based on today’s life. In Shirts of Politics, he gives his views about the politics of Bengal and says that:
These people carry shirts with them;
Smells, incidents as
Food like stray dogs
Jump on it forcing even the dead
To wear those
Deep coloured shirts.
In the poem, he has shown his hatred towards the politicians and also the dirty side of politics of his state. It also shows his anger and hatred for the politicians and at the same time there is hope that people will rise and fight against all odds and injustice. So, this also means that he has a social message for the people of his state and his country. He also seems to be depressed about the problems existing in our country and world today, and we can see his concern in some of his poems like – Night of Appeal, Stay Alert for Surprise, The Blacksmith and his Diamond.
Sometimes the poet seems to be like a reformer and gives indication which shows that he wants to reforms the society as it is in the context of the poem, Reforming Norms where he says:
Let me dig the garbage
Of your age old reflection
Named as tradition,
Quite funny to believ
Ironical humour in soils
Hosting burial of girl children;
Satirical smile in affairs
Choked by caste.
Even in Your Life Is Over, the poet seems to be worried about the customs and taboos prevalent in the society. In the poem, Drunk he seems to give social message to the people who are addicted to alcohol by highlighting the consequences and effect of alcohol on a person.
The poem Just A Last Peg For The Jobless is the description of the anxiety and desperation of the jobless people. Sonnet Mondal seems to show his concern about people who are unemployed as his feelings are reflected in these lines:
Alone, the boy sits jobless
While the table has
nothing else than a last peg to offer.
The waiter waits to see
The boy drinks the peg
Or the peg drowns the boy…
Not only with so many mystic, sensitive and sensuous poems, has he also given the relevance of some little phrases in our life. For example in the poem, Say Cheese, he seems to tell us what affects these two words, “say cheese” can make in an individual life and what is its significance:
“Say Cheese” won’t bring smile
But the face of an airhostess;
Snapped by will to
Relax, away from
Eyes, cameras, similar smiles
That erect posture without pasture
As a slave,
Just a bit well placed.
The poet has shown his concern for old people and old age in the poem, Through Cracks and Wrinkles. As the name indicates, it tells us about the wretched condition of the old people and also their plight.
Both are old men…
Deformed as a haunted house
Bones rusted as iron rods
Showing the base of their creation
Through the plaster of muscles.
Sometimes the poet seems to share the memories of his childhood with the readers in some of his poems like Childhood Sounds and Ponds of My Tears. The poem, Ponds of My Tears is a kind of memoir of his childhood, and he seems to be nostalgic about it. He seems to show his deep regard for his grandfather, whose company he miss so much. He recalls those days which he has spend with his father in his childhood, going to the village pond with him and catching fish. But now as his grandfather has become old and too weak to go with him, he longed to go back to those days and feels depressed about it.
A Symbol is something with stands for, or represents, or suggests something else. In literature symbols are mostly used by poets to depict different themes, situations, feelings and emotions. In the same way, Sonnet Mondal has used different symbols in some of the poems to represents, or suggests something else like- Legs and Floor, Swaying Bridges of Senescens, Venom of Futility, Night of Appeal, The Dog in the ATM, Beware, Glasses and Who Is This Man . Sometimes it he seems to be critical and gives indication of agreeing with the views of Mathew Arnold in his famous book of criticism, The Study of Poetry. “Poetry”, according to Matthew Arnold, is a criticism of life under the conditions fixed for such a criticism by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty. And this he interprets as the application of ideas___ grand ideas- to life.
The poem, Two Eyes is a short ballad as it tells the story of a bride which is being carried in a bullock cart. She has a veil and there is a secret behind it. The secret is that she was in love with a young man of her village but now she has been married to somebody else. The man has also been married and now they have become two separate lives. This means that the poet is also well-versed in story-telling. The last two lines of the poem are very pathetic as they reveal the whole story.
Both of them are married
Into separate lives.
And the poem, Sliding Joy is also about marriage.
Red colour seems so nice;
So full of bliss;
So full of concern.
Mankind has been engaged in lots of activities which is bringing destruction to the environment and many natural resources are being depleted day-by-day. Even sometimes they are bringing destruction to the natural resources like rivers, ponds, seas and so on. Poet is also deeply worried and concern about the effect of this destruction and has reflected his concern in a beautiful poem, Earth Without Eyes. And again there is a concern for environment in the poem- Let Them Fly Away, in it he is trying to convey the message regarding the hazard caused by using polythene. By this, poet is trying to fulfil his social responsibility of being a responsible citizen of his country.
In the poem, Tears of a Window Pane, he seems to be personifying a window pane as it is clearly visible by its description. It tells about a scratch on a window pane and the falling of rain it. As the lines indicates:
A scratch on the glass
Water pours down carefully
Through it as the course of
Rains add fuel to it.
The window shed tears.
The poet is also seems to believe in the theory of health is wealth as we can see his concern on health problems in some of his poems like- Health, Deity of Spotlessness, After Rainfall, Last Flash Awareness. In these poems he is in reflecting his views on some diseases.
As a proud Indian, Poet has a deep regard for the soldiers, and so he has expressed his gratitude towards their bravery, selflessness and loyalty towards their nation in the poem, Turn Back, Clear Your Home. He also has expressed his deep love for his country in Your Name and Let My Tears Find You.
The poems- Lonely Book in Book Fair, Savour seems to reflect his experience about literary world. Lonely Book in Book Fair is quite depressing as it seems to tell about the present condition of attitude of society towards books. Poet fells dejected about people’s attitudes towards books and Searching With Folded Hand is about his attitude, feelings and thinking towards his own writing and Expression seems to be about the plagiarism existing in the literary world today.
He has written poems which are memoirs like- My Garden in which he seems to remember his mother’s love for their garden; here he also reflects his Wordsworthian attitude towards nature and the poem, Years After seems to show his nostalgia about his College days. Being a student of Engineering College he had lots of fun and excitement with his friends in those days. But now his world has totally changed and facing the harsh realities of life he reflect his desire to go back to those days when he had enjoyed with his friends in his College. He is missing the fun and excitement of the College canteen and other places, which being adult he can’t do now, so he is longing to go back.
Candice James has highly praised the last poem, Searching with Folded hands in the Introduction to The Diorama of Three Diaries by saying that:
“Searching With Folded Hands” takes us to the end of our journey
and out of the book on a note of serenity and with a sense of knowing
ourselves on a deeper spiritual level than when we first began reading
“Diorama Of Three Diaries” (xix)
As his name suggests, he has also written some Sonnets in the book like- The Wait, I Won’t Run, Beware, Let Me Bloom, Turning Pages, Two Faces.
The book, Diorama of Three Diaries is a collection of 138 poems based on different themes and are mostly written in blank verse and free verse. There are many beautiful verbal games like alliterations and assonance. He has used the modern style of writing poetry. From the very first poem to the last it seems that we are in a journey of mystery, magic, spirit and soul. Poet has tried to show his innermost feelings for many social, political issues and has dealt successfully with many themes in the book. His style of writing is very simple and direct, so because of this he is very close to the lovers of poetry. The poetry in the book is narrative describing all kinds of human feelings such as love, happiness, melancholy, desperation and strangeness.
He sometimes becomes mystic, sometime a reformer, sometime a nature lover, sometimes ironical or satirical and sometime an individual who is craving for his past. All these poems are reflections of his intellect, creative mind and sensitivity. He is a poet who writes not only from his mind and heart but also from his soul. He is a rising star in the international poetical world.