“এক অবাঙ্গালি বন্ধুর সঙ্গে কিছু আজে-বাজে আলোচনার পরিপ্রেক্ষিতে এই পোস্ট। সমস্তটাই বে-আক্কেলে, অতএব বেশি ভূমিকা বা সতর্কবানী নিষ্প্রয়োজন। যেহেতু এই অবাঙ্গালি বন্ধু’টির জন্যে মূলত এই পোস্ট’টি লেখা, তাই এটা ইংরেজিতেই রইল, যাতে সে পড়তে পারে। পরে সময় পেলে এটার বাংলা করে ইংরেজি পোস্টের সঙ্গেই জুড়ে দেব”
The fact that I have known few Poets from close quarters hardly has anything to do with this post. It’s just out of a factually incorrect discussion inflicted with terrible political incorrectness that I had with one of my Writer Friends (Who by the way is not into Bengali Literature).
It all started with the silly question that my friend asked, “So is there any short cut to make it big as a Bengali poet?”
And then came some random, unsubstantiated conjectures about how stuff happens here at Kolkata Poetry Circle. It is just an attempt to enumerate few of those conjectures.
So here it is,
10 Generic Steps that one needs to follow to become a Successful Bengali Poet
There’s always this lazy afternoon when you realize that you can rhyme stuff! You start feeling that ‘Kobi-Power’ inside you! Just that it better come early. The decision to be a 'Wannabe Kobi' better come in early school days, because if it doesn’t come early it pretty much never comes, as other shallow things like bloody video games, stupid theorems, Bollywood and similar insensitive trash completely sweeps your psyche and drives it towards all that is un-poetic. So you never get Poets out of mid-life crisis and middle age career swaps. You start early.
So latest by Standard VI or VII you discover the exceptionally emotional "Self" in you and this then is coupled by the compulsive need to be in a creative mode at all times. This in turn is followed by the discovery of rhyming abilities (albeit with maturity the need to rhyme wanes down) during one of those 'am good for nothing' grumbling sessions.
Finally, it dawns upon you the power of a Diary.
That's it; a poet is on track.
It's all fine to think that you are on track. But how do you test whether in spite of being poetic, you can actually manage to write a poem or not?
Simple! Write one, try to jostle through into your school magazine, or may be in the Wall Magazine promoted by your Uncle. If they accept you on your first attempt, good job but frankly it still proves nothing! If acceptances (of the poems that you submit that is) keep coming one after another, allow yourself a pat! Yes, you can write poetry! Depth of quality is highly deceptive, so one need not bother about it at this early stage.
By the end of your Plus-Two days, following should be absolutely clear:
A. Your poems are a regular fixture in School Magazines, Para Mags, Pujo Souvenirs
B. Every now and then, Uncles/Friends/Uncreative Morons/Lazy idiots come to you for helping them to draft a 'Speech'.
C. You have read enough of modern poets (just the famous ones like Jibonanndo Das to Joy Goswami To Shakti Chatterjee will do at this early stage) to clearly understand (with due respect to Gurudeb), that Tagore's style has successfully been outdated.
D. You need to know who your favorite poet is. You need to have 10 bullets point ready up your sleeves to prove why he is the best.
E. You need to know clearly which famous poet you strongly dislike (or even consider sissy).Again, keep 10 bullets ready to back yourself. This adds to your intellectual aura actually.
F. Make sure that few famous lines are there on the tip of your tongue, ready to conclude any poetic battle by whipping an engaging quote. Warning: Your stock should be plush enough, so as to make sure that you don’t quote the line that you recited just a couple of days back.
G. This, though not critical, can be a fantastic value add and a definitive edge over the rest: If you can get few of your poems (especially those that simply has no rhyming connections and even you have little idea about what the hell it could possibly mean) to be published in one of the Kolkatan Little Mags, need not be the best ones, any Tom-Dick n Harry Mag would do!
Done all that? Impressive, O Poet!
Graduation time, if you are not from Kolkata pack your bags and rush to the city of Bidwojons! For Kolkatans, you can move on to Step 5.
Okkay so rules change a little. First, the absolute DON’TS:
a. No more School Magazine/Pujo Souvenir Stuff. Only Little Mags(good or bad); if they refuse you consistently, you need to understand you are not good enough for this esoteric level. Give up your Kobi- Career dreams! You may become a literary entrepreneur here. Start your own magazine if you have the time, money and energy to waste on thankless jobs such as these. Else focus on career and furtively keep writing for your girl(or man, as the case may be)!
b. No more ‘Veggie Green poetry’ always: Dude, time to pick up some sex and violence without losing track of aesthetics. Absolute grasp on female anatomy a plus.
c. This is the time when you obliterate the word "Return on Investment" from your dictionary. Why? You'll know!
Now to critical DO’s
a. Read all kinds of poetry; get into the thick of things. Go for the lesser celebrated ones, especially those who in spite of being "Intellectually Brilliant" starved themselves to death because their books didn’t sell! You never know how and when inspiration hits you.
b. Reads some Leftist literature for God's sake. Even if you are bored to death, read them man. Don’t dare to look blank when someone says "Perestroika" or "Class Conflict".
c. Start visiting the Centers of Kobi Culture in the City regularly: Coffee House, Academy, Nandan! Keep meeting weird people from the world of poetry, cinema, theater, politics etc! Especially those with swooping talent but little credentials.
d. Naah, Fatuaah (A Short Kurta), Dusty Jeans and stuff are all passé! But since you will passively be smoking your lungs into fossilized forms anyway, you better start smoking yourself. Have an allergy to smoking? Again, the high amount of nicotine that you inhale passively with other Kobi-co-patriots around you, allergy is bound to give way to liking.
e. This is CRITICAL. In fact it is a breakthrough step. Identify the correct set of Dada's (and Didi's of course) who are semi famous in the Kolkata poet circle, deeply connected with the best of Little Magazines and are the nerves that will connect you to the Bigger Dada's of poetry! It is somehow very interesting how this Dada's themselves do not manage to hit it big like the bigger Dada’s! May be because they miserably failed in the single greatest art of all times: "Self Marketing".
By the end of first two years of Graduation, you must be a well-known name in Kolkata Little Mag circle. By now, your lips would have darkened by nicotine, obscene slanging would have improved substantially and every day after a heavy rice-fed lunch your mind would lurch for a political upheaval! Since you are yourself too little in this Big Mad Bourgouiese Crowd, you will have to bring in your own little revoulution in your style of writing. You will try to break free of the current trend of writing and try to create your own style. Your style.
A stay in the Kolkata Little Mag Circle for 3-4 graduation years gives you enough time to sink into the politics of the place. You get to chose your camp (the Little Mag house that would subsequently give you the Launching pad). Conversely, the Camp gets to chose you based on the projected goodwill you will be able to fetch. Give and Take. Perfect Commerce you think? Naah, it’s too one sided! The wannabe poets always have to pay more. In fact they are the only ones who pay. So be ready.
Your graduation is over, into a Job or Masters! But the real battle for the Kobi begins now. If you have survived thus far, lot of unnecessary competition has already been weeded out. You are writing in the best of Little Mag's in Kolkata. You have been sheltered by one of the Best Little Mag Publishing Houses ( Sheltered in strict honorary sense, of course they don’t have the money to pay you).You start meeting the Stars of Bengali poetry by now, regularly. Even get tips from these famous poets on sms's on how your writing could have "made the sky little bluer" or "Made the Footpath belch" with few maneuvers here and there. Mostly you would not have any idea about what the hell is the business with the sky getting bluer or the footpath belching, but you will always give a very compassionate nod to those tips from Kobi-Stars.
With this background, you bet you are ready to release your first book. Happy? Excited? Well, you have every right to be so. But regarding your first book of poetry, here are few ground rules:
1. Of course it will be published by one of the leading Little Mag'ish publishers. Commercial publishers like Anondo? Dey’s? Dude, don’t jump the gun.
2. Of Course you will have to pay for it, entirely. It’s your first books for god's sake. And on what? Modern Bengali poetry. You seriously expect the publisher to pay?
3. Royalty? You must be kidding here sir. On the contrary you pay the ancillary and marketing expenses too.
4. Of course, you'll design your own book, in the sense you'll run after the cover designer, you'll decide font, read and correct the proof and so on.
5. Of course you'll pick the major chunk of the copies after they are published. This is where you hone up your selling skills and shove the books down any known person’s throat. You can always hope to collect the money later. The budding poets who know you will buy your books, of course, expecting that you'll buy theirs. Your parents will be the happiest. They are the ones (and only ones apart from you) who will read it from cover to cover. Cheers.
6. But here comes the critical part. You need to make sure, that your book is reviewed in the right places. All the contacts you have earned over all the Goldflakes at Coffee House is bound to come in handy here. Time for all the Media Dada and Didi's to return the favor. Little Magazines, Magazines, News Channels: doesn’t matter how they come, but reviews will have to come. How you can get these reviews done is up to you, but this is where your new book plays the trick. Your name successfully should reach the ears that matter. And if, in the name of Promising Poets, you can manage a reference in "DESH", your job is done. Your book has been an outstanding success. Never bother if it only has been partially read by 32 blokes. You have hit it hard when it mattered the most. Off to step 9.
You need to get your Poetry published in DESH. There can be no other Step Nine. Besides Poetry (which evidently by now you do well), you will have to usher in all your contacts, from Step 5 (Coffee House) to Step 8( Publishing your books and getting the reviews done). A poetry published in Desh will directly catapult you into the elite class of contemporary poets. Make no mistake. It will. Now is the time for you to get introduced to the Biggest Dada's of bangla poetry, those who have done it all and have reached the coveted destination of Anondo Purushkar, Election Tickets and stuff!
Time for your second Book to be released. This, my friend, is as big as it gets. Of course you use all your contacts that you have garnered from Step 5 to Step 9 besides milking your talent, but things this time round are a lot different from before:
1. You get picked by a Big Commercial Publishing House (Ananda Publishers or Deys may be if you really hit it big)
2. You get paid, albeit poorly! What the heck, unlike your first book, you are not the sole financer this time around. That’s because these Publishing houses appreciate a simple phrase "Return on Investment". They publish your poems not because you pay them, but because they think that they can make money by selling whatever you have written. No moral compunction please, to be paid for your poetry is not prostitute-like business in any way. It is perfectly all right to say stuff like that when you actually don’t get paid at all in a nonchalant-'grapes are sour'-way. Now that someone has recognized that you are good enough and is willing to pay you, Chill!
3. If you are good, then junta will read you this time. These Publishing Houses knows how to market stuff, when to award whom and how to promote the one they know will sell. If you are good, you will sell; you will have a second edition printed, third, fourth and so on and eventually win a contract for your third book. This time these Publishers will walk up to you with a reasonable Royalty offer.
4. What if the Junta rejects your book? Book Stalls struggle to sell your books? Don’t worry. You can always get back to being one of those acclaimed Dada's of Bengali poetry whose depth of ideas will never get acknowledged by the intellectually challenged Aam-Aadmi.