Kiriti Sengupta, who has been awarded the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize (2018) for his contribution to literature, is a poet, editor, translator, and publisher from Calcutta.
His most recent work, Rituals is very different from the work readers usually read in that there is a narrative thread in many poems that is not there simply to tell a story but to ultimately present a meditation on an aspect of life and the modern world that they haven’t considered before. “Fleeing the house and leaving the doors ajar. Is it perversion or fallacy?” A simple gesture that leaves readers with much to consider about how the smallest things we do can say a great deal about how we lead our life. The idiom and wordplay conjure a sensual voice striking in specificity, “downpour evicts,” or “eyes whist like a whisper.”
Solitary Stillness, Sengupta’s previous book, ripens in its natural maturity. Although the poet does not give away the traits that have pervaded his poetry, he has not forgotten his roots, and has once again drawn his poetry in the canvas of the time that has been rooted in his time, in his city. Here, he makes a reference to Lapierre, and indeed, the city of joy tag sounds fake just as we read that particular poem, which is so natural, that it almost appears to have been spoken by a resident of a city, one who is not a poet. That person who complains about water-logging or that person for whom any tag of romanticism about the city is plain bourgeois shit, nothing but a label that’s needed to promote consumerism.
His bestselling trilogy: My Glass of Wine [novelette based on autobiographic poetry], The Reverse Tree [nonfictional memoir], and Healing Waters Floating Lamps [poetry] has been published as a single volume, named Dreams of the sacred and Ephemeral, which is something that the poet had long wished to do: not only to put things together, but also present to the readers as to his perception of the order in which the trilogy should be read. This was in every sense an unplanned work at first, and what unites the three pieces in Sengupta’s firm and resonant take on the literary scene in India; and his works succeed in demonstrating his statements.
While My Glass of Wine among other things plays on the word “clips,” which can be an analogy to the “life in death” moments of epiphany in our lives, The Reverse Tree is almost a bewildering, gooseflesh inducing attempt at delving into the masculine and the feminine-self, and there is an Aristophanic hint of intermixing of the both. This is uncanny at times because Sengupta writes in a first person narrative and portrays real events.
Healing Waters Floating Lamps is essentially a book of poems that address different issues, highlighting the poet’s powerful and apt use of metaphors.
In Reflections on Salvation, readers get a glimpse of the anger that breathes like ember in the mind of a man who is hell bent on reason, and not blindly following in the dictums of godmen. As Casey Dorman writes in the foreword to this volume— “His beautiful small book, Reflections on Salvation, wrestles with the conflict between the strict scriptural interpretation of salvation that recognizes that it may represent different things for different people, including the massive number of people who seek or find salvation without having ever read The Geeta.”
Sengupta’s other works include The Earthen Flute [poetry] which showcases the prowess of the poet taking full, powerful strides. The recurring theme of spirituality and its elevation from the human form gets voiced in these poems that bring out poetry from the mundane quotidian events. The Hollins Critic (published by Hollins University, USA) finds the collection “a work deserving of a place among the classics,” and claims that The Earthen Flute will put “poetry lovers on the slow burn of transcendental desire.”
He has always been interesting as a person, and A Freshman’s Welcome [a chapbook on memoir with literary critique] testifies to it. This got written as a recording of his nightlong effort to prepare a speech for the event of a younger poet. My Dazzling Bards [literary critique], The Reciting Pens [interviews of three published Bengali poets along with translations of a few of their poems], The Unheard I [literary nonfiction], Desirous Water [poems by Sumita Nandy, contributed as the translator], and Poem Continuous— Reincarnated Expressions [poems by Bibhas Roy Chowdhury, contributed as the translator]. Sengupta has also co-edited five anthologies: Scaling Heights, Jora Sanko — The Joined Bridge, Epitaphs, Sankarak, and Selfhood.
Sengupta’s poems have been published/accepted for publication at The Common, The Florida Review Online (Aquifer), Headway Quarterly, Moria Online, The Mark Literary Review, Mad Swirl, among other places.
Kiriti Sengupta partners with Bitan Chakraborty, founder of Hawakal Publishers, to produce Ethos Literary Journal (ELJ) and Ethos Literary Festival (ELF). ELF is an annual bilingual literary event held in Calcutta.
Articles on Kiriti Sengupta
How much do poets and dentists have in common? Well, since poetry is the act of metaphor it can be argued that any profession is akin to poet. In this particular instance, however, I would like to argue that poets are sayers and certainly need clean teeth when speaking lucidly and fluidly. Also, poetry is often like pulling teeth…or is it? Does it come fluidly? Does it work its way into your mind and heart with ease? Prosperio Saiz in The Bird of Nothing writes, “The rhythmic flow of poetic saying—not the said—pure and simple.” This implies that poetry is indeed flowing, something easy and fulfilling. This statement also illuminates the nature of poetics and its relation to poetry. Poetry does not know rules, laws, and concrete guidelines. This is why it adapts to the modern world. Poetics attempts to box poetry in, to define it as a certain thing. Often poets and scholars interpret poetry by describing its qualities and comparing poems. Such work is part of a conversation. However, poetry as its own conversation cannot be crammed into a specific arena. You simply cannot make poetry, a round peg, fit a square hole.
I would be delinquent if I neglected to mention Kiriti Sengupta’s generosity, which is both a sign of his personal kindness and also another indication of his democratic attitude. One of his books is A Freshman’s Welcome, a written version of his speech at the formal launch of the first book of poetry by the young poet, Tanmoy Bhattacharjee. Sengupta’s hope, in publishing his remarks, was to “boost the zeal of all struggling poets who wish to become published authors.” Apparently the two poets, the older, more experienced one and the neophyte, met on Facebook, another indication of Sengupta’s eclectism and democratic attitude in his choice of the media he uses to widen his acquaintances and experiences. In fact, he was attracted to reading Bhattacharjee’s poetry partly because the young poet was an academic student of English literature and allied his poetry with a personal “spiritual quest”.