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Poet Shamsur Rahman

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07th-Sep-2018       
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Despite his firm admiration for him and unbroken confidence in his leadership, the poet remained one of the exceptional few who did not join Bangabandhu's 'Baksal'. Its only meaning was that he did not approve of the proposed one-party rule.
Towards the end of Hussain Muhammad Ershad’s autocratic rule (1982-1990), Shamsur Rahman became involved in the anti-autocracy movement of the people. He was one of the 31 distinguished citizens who issued a milestone statement demanding end of the autocratic rule and restoration of democratic policy (30 March 1987). At about the same time the country's poets formed their own 'Kavita Parishad' to join hands with others in opposing the rule. Shamsur Rahman was made its President. For three years from 1988 to 1990 the country’s poets led by him observed with great enthusiasm on February 1 and 2 a poetry festival under a huge canopy in front of the Teacher-Student Centre (TSC) of Dhaka University. The sharpened arrow of poetry was targeted at the hated autocrat.     
In his poetic life of over half a century, Shamsur Rahman continuously experimented with the subjects and language of his poems. His autobiography has again and again voiced the truth that poetry was his constant companion in all matters of his personal life ' good or bad, ups or downs. When looking for rise or fall in his poems a common factor comes to the surface he reached the pinnacle of his poetical life in the five books published prior to the national life’s crucial year 1971. In the next three decades or more the number of his poetical books was sixty. With every passing day the flow of his creation became stronger. In mere number of published books, his position may not be equal but close to that of Rabindranath Tagore. But he falls back in the sphere of regular change in poetical scenes. In every one of his sixty books published after 1971 he presented at least several poems that were of superb quality. Since 1976 ‘Sahityaprakash’ had been publishing regularly ‘Shamsur Rahman-er Shrestha Kavita’ (Shamsur Rahman’s best poems) and every new edition became larger than the previous one.
Being a journalist many of the journalistic elements found place in his poems but all fermented in the liquid of poetry. The symbols we saw him using repeatedly in the poems of the first phase ‘horse, deer, lame man, ditch, beggar’ all disappeared yielding place to new symbols. There may be a debate as to which of these symbols were real and which were mere pictorial representations. From the very beginning his poems had clear manifestation of pictorial representation. In course of time this trend became more pronounced. Even at times it became apparent that because of over-picturisation the poems often became too heavy overshadowing his message. The poem Bangladesh Swapno Dekhey written after the tragic assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib with dazzling glow and abundance of complicated picturisation was a typical one. This poem hides in it answers to many questions like how mysteriously contemporary time and events come out clean through the indirect ways and pictorial symbolism of poems, how poems cover up scenes and give expression to things that lack expression, how readers are enthused and numbed in following the poet's footsteps along the dense forest of symbols and many other similar questions. In this poem, the sick king and the third prince have come from the land of a native fairy tale. But the poet did not confine himself in the fairy tale or the ancient story. The theme of his poem becomes superimposed in the European literature’s Electra, Hamlet, Agamemnon, Telemacus, and Greek myth’s Icarus-Dedalus. He enthusiastically joined the efforts of Elliot and Bishnu De (1909-1982) in superimposing the old into the present. Shamsur Rahman believed in the combined tradition of the poets of the thirties. This way he got into the international arena of poetry, into the world of Baudelaire (1821-1867), Aragon (1897-1982) and Neruda (1904-1973).
Shamsur Rahman’s deepest link was with the group of poets of the thirties, especially with the trio of Jibanananda, Buddhadev and Bishnu De. No true poet is, however, a product of mere combination of some elements or influences. He has to have originality, ability to gather, awareness of the environment, abundance of his imagination and eagerness, inwardness of emotion and uncertainty of philosophy. A combination of all this makes a poet’s personality. The tradition that has touched him as a poet and his own environment must complement each other. In this environment there is his country and time but more than that there is his mind’s world. The picturisation talked about is a manifestation of the fusion of countless inner and outer pictures.
Shamsur Rahman wrote poems in innumerable trends but his translated works also form part of his overall poetical output. Among his translations are Eugene O’Neil’s Marco Millions (1967), Robert Frost’s Nirbachita Kavita (1968), Khwaja Farider Kavita (1969, Tennessee Williams’ Hridoyer Ritu (1971). He did these works at different times at the persuasion of some people. His last work of translation done after a lapse of nearly two decades was Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Shamsur Rahman has left a distinct mark of originality in his poems. He has added a new dimension to modernism in Bengali poetry. He has assimilated contemporary time in his ever alert sensitivity and in his poetic activities until his death he has let his inner self coexist with the visible world outside. He has relieved the poetry of Bangladesh of its geographic limitations to let it become part of the mainstream of Bengali poetry and become part of his own modernism.
At the same time he has let the strong wind of world poetry blow into his own poetry and into the poetry of Bangladesh. This was his indelible achievement. His deeply-felt perception of life and the world and his liberal humanistic mind free from any narrowness have converged in the character of his poems. In his poems nothing is untouchable, nothing is inexpressible, their doors are open for the noblest of thoughts as well as for all feelings of conscious or subconscious minds. In this sphere all comparisons are futile for he can be compared only with himself.
For recognition of his contribution Shamsur Rahman received many honours during his life. He was awarded Adamjee Prize (1963), Bangla Academy Prize (1969), Jibanananda Prize (1973), Ekushey Padak (1977), Abul Mansur Ahmed Smriti Prize (1981), Nasiruddin Gold Medal (1981), Bhasani Prize (1982), Padaboli Prize (1984). He received Mitsubishi Prize from Japan in 1982 for his contribution to Journalism and in 1992 he was awarded the highest state honour Swadhinata Prize. In 1994, Kolkata’s Ananda Bazaar Patrika awarded him the Ananda Prize. The same year the Jadavpur University conferred upon him the Honourary Degree of DLitt. In 1996, the same Degree was conferred upon him by Kolkata’s Rabindravarati University.
He died on 18 August 2006 in Dhaka. n

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