Binodan Sarma’s ‘Coffee table conversations’: A Quick and Brief Critical Comment


By Thoithoi O’Cottage

Binodan Sarma posted the two poems below on his Facebook wall on 22 November 2011. Interestingly he added a short note on the poems this time, which is not meant to be an interpretive conditioning. Recently, I read one of his another series poems (I think) called somewhat like ‘Measure’ or ‘Measurement’ which he later on renamed ‘The Bed’. My experience of the poem and my comment on it preceded the renaming, and it was clear that my reading was different from what he intended to communicate through the poem. From my post-structuralist position with some reasonable linguistic skepticism, I did not find the difference something unusual and surprising. At the same I find Binodan’s note this time interesting, as if this were something poets will say in some way or the other in interviews.

Binodan’s text comes here.

Coffee

Here is another series I have started working on. One More. I know, but that is how my state has been. I write on ideas that keep coming and will continue to do so till the craft is refined. Any way, this one is the Coffee series where I write of what I see and feel across my various pit stops at coffee joints in the city and maybe someday outside it too. Coffee has various varieties almost like life and people. I am trying to evoke the same sense in these verses. An attempt to identify the chicory of life. The time and geography where the verse was born is mentioned alongside so that on experiences the same (if possible) when they touch upon it. (I doubt, though since coffee tastes different everytime)

Coffee table conversations #1

It’s dusk outside;
evening
inside,
brewing over grounded coffee.
Somewhere,
in a corner
two chairs, one table
are
in conversation
with me.

We don’t speak much;
there is much to see.

Café Coffee Day, The Lounge, Connaught Place
20th Nov, 2011, 17:35

Coffee table Conversations #2

Four ladies
seated
two by two
argue
of what and who.

In between
slips in

“When did you last see him?”
“ where? ”
“Very good muffin”

the forced blonde sees me
I smile
they whisper;
I cannot hear any further.

They leave in a while;
I keep thinking
of the
Whom.

Café Coffee Day, Dwarka, Sector 12,
22nd Nov, 20:13

What about the poems that attracted me above everything else was the irregular but self-conscious lineation which is characteristic of all Binodan’s poems I have so far read. Why I love irregular poetic lineation?

To inexperienced poets, their lineation is mostly random and accidental, while experience poets and those who write self-consciously are very particular and fastidious about how and where they break their lines. Poems irregularly lineated by design, especially ones with even monometer or dimeter lines, read slow by nature, and they can be expressive of a persona in musing/meditative mood with thought taking form/shape and the persona mentally speaking as it comes, rather than a persona’s smooth-sailing recitation of several many already-thought-out and -framed lines in a short while. The persona thinking and speaking meditatively, slowly.

Binodan Sarma’s poems (those I have read) flock together with those of such sort. They muse, they meditate, they speak short and stop short and start, silence punctuating the speech more audibly. I love such personas who speak deliberatingly.

I love the tone and the musing pace above everything else about these poems. The first three lines of the first poem do a lot more than being just a temporal setting of the not-so-remarkable event:

It’s dusk outside;
evening
inside

The general natural fact outside–dusk–is described in one stroke of a line, the two lines that follow do the musing part, comparing, surmising, assessing, observing the situation. Then, the musing persona understands quietly in the (perhaps delicately noisy) cafe that it’s better that he observes and not to speak much:

We don’t speak much;
there is much to see.

The second poem is more an open narrative than a musing, and the first line is redolent of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in which “women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo”, and reminds me of Cambridge Ladies, at least.

Some poems are great due to the idea/concept in them, but one can make one’s poem good through craft/art. I love Binodan Sarma’s art, his ability to sublimate such a simple and common experience, to make it a pleasing read. These poems are alive and attractive–I have read them several times, and still like to read them, especially the first.

A concluding note:
Many poets date their poems, and write the name of the place where they composed the poems at the bottom of the poems. These do not make part of the poem, though related and informative. My way of doing something along he line was different: I wrote some dramatic poems where I provided the setting of the poetic event, not the place of the poems’ composition, and they formed essential part of the poems.

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