Monday, August 31, 2009

Feature: Nabina Das Day 2

Othello’s Path

Butterflies dropped dead from branches
Where they never grew
Dewdrops of nights that stifled dawns
Lay on your path

Or were they tiny handkerchiefs
Outlining a long sorrowful track?

White of course
Black with guile

Wordsmiths called
It green, envy
But when the foliage died
No one was left to pry

So, don’t walk that path dear Othello
Don’t wipe your eyes with
Those thunderstruck fingers, they’ll teach
You rage and us a loss forever to linger.

© Nabina Das (First published in Lit Up Magazine)

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Interview Question:

When did you first have an interest in poetry?


--Wrote from age 7. Grew up in an Indian family in Assam, the beautiful green state from the northeast where poetry, music and painting were literally an everyday affair after bread and butter.

My grandma was a natural storyteller and folk artist. Dad's a writer/poet/singer and used to play the Indian flute. Mom is another natural artist and plays the Sitar. My brother wrote short plays, performed spoken poetry and played the Tabla before getting sucked into his corporate job. I just followed all this instinctively.

Being bilinguals -- we spoke Assamese and Bengali -- our family had this unique access to both the native cultures, other than the English literary tradition, as well as literature's from the rest of the subcontinent. If politics and the geopolitical and partition trauma of British India (in Assam and Bengal) shaped my parents' approach to literature, the later sociopolitical movements in Assam introduced elements in the poetry I wrote in Assamese and Bengali. It also made me realize poetry to be an effective social tool.

I write in English now and would be proud to write in two more languages if I could! Pardon me for this introduction in reply to the rather specific question above. I thought it would help those who haven't read my work before.

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Photo © Jen Pezzo


  1. Reading this is like watching a Renaissance Zapruder film. However many times we track the motorcade's movement toward murder and tragedy, we always think, "It hasn't happened yet!...Stop the cars...don't turn down that avenue!"

    And so it is here. We know how things will end up, but if only we could whisper or scream: "Don't believe Iago, he's setting everybody up!"

    What is remarkable here is how the lines build up a saying that can't be computed through particular words or construed through explicit images. A different semantics and semiotics is at work. The expression and meaning slips through between the lines...butterflown, if you will. To use a fancy-pants word, a "penumbra" of mood oozes out from those lines and hovers like mist over the stanzas.

    That is what a poem can do, if made well and with vision. With a play, there's too much action and yakkin' dialogue.

  2. I like the fine suggestive quality of this poem. The mood is subtly insinuated before the final climactic moment. This one is a beauty - it has the assured touch of a fine 'craftsman'.

  3. I like the imagery of the butterfly... and love particularly the first two lines...
    "Butterflies dropped dead from branches
    Where they never grew"....

    You are fortunate to have the family background you had.. it explains why you are such a good writer and prolific one... It comes very naturally to you.

    Thank you ...