An eBook version of Kalam’s annual anthology of poetry from marginalized communities in Calcutta is now available on Rising Voices. A $5 PayPal donation is suggested.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been the biggest fan of poetry, at least compared to novels and short stories. Maybe I’m too lazy or not imaginative enough, but I get annoyed with the gaps, the white space, the ambiguity. I love descriptive language, but I want it to make sense. Art that is completely left to interpretation usually leaves me shrugging.

That’s one of the things I like so much about the poems in Open Box – the poets’ descriptions of people and places aren’t masked behind impossible-to-understand metaphors. They are just very well put.

Here is Rahool Goswami’s The Lazy Afternoon Tale, translated into English from its original Bengali:

Till yesterday, my afternoons were not as lazy.
It’s be the regular routine of college or work
Or adda or the collage of dust on the street.
Busy life – it never stopped, not for a moment,
But today …
The afternoon is endless;
After a long time, I am alone in my room today,
On a lonely afternoon.

Nupur, the neighbour’s daughter,
Comes to the veranda to pick up clothes she’d hung up to dry.
On seeing me she bursts into an innocent smile:
‘Oh Rana-da, you’re home? At this hour?’
Before I could respond,
Nupur’s mother calls her into her house:
She scrambles trying to arrange the dried clothes as she runs.

A slice of the veranda appears beyond the door curtain:
A few little birds twitter, fly around and settle in my vision;
I lie down on the bed,
And I remember how I would lay my sleeping head on my
father’s hands.

In the house opposite ours, Aunt Mitali abuses a customer:
I guess, the man’s done what he wanted to do, but doesn’t want
to pay up …
I’ve heard this so many times since childhood that I feel nothing now.
Earlier, when neighbours cussed around,
Father would say,
‘Don’t listen to all that – just keep yourself busy’
I remember those words a lot,
Today.

The poems in the eBook are printed alongside the wonderful photographs of Bishan.

You can get a glimpse of Rahool introducing himself, ever so briefly, in the first video of this post. If the visa gods are on our side, then Rahool will be joining me in a couple weeks in Brussels for the Youth Summit of Interdependence Day. Also present will be Deneiber, Diego, Taslima, and Pati. That’s right, I will be playing the role of responsible adult chaperone. Álvaro has penned a nice post about the conference in Spanish.

Once these kids finally have their visas in hand, I will be feeling 200% less anxious.

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