Mutter... mutter

Nitoo Das teaches English at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. She was born in Assam, in Guwahati, came to Delhi for higher studies and decided to stay on. Her first book of poetry is now out from Timberline, an imprint of the Virtual Artists Collective.

Boki…. A word that means nothing in English, but when you come to the poem that it’s in – well, there it stands for a shouted syllable, a deconstruction of someone’s name – someone who “went around / with scowling hair, // her long betel-spittled / lips exploding sex-words” while “She sat in street-corners / and exposed glistening secrets / like roots with / shifty-eyed knowledge.” A “nonsense” word that brings so much from its two syllables, is surely what poetry is about. The creation of image from sound. “To bok” in Assamese means to mutter/speak meaninglessly and repetitively. The Sanskrit word, Vak, from which this irreverent Assamese derivative takes its origins, means Speech. And Nitoo Das’ Boki speaks in an explosion of images in which she demonstrates an uncanny ability to create poems that surprise us, hold us, move us to see things in new ways. “A poem / laughs / when you tell it to sit.” These poems not only laugh but insist on dancing. They taste “lush and orange” on the tongue like Disco-Papita, and they will leave you turning the pages for more.
The potency and the appeal of any poem lies in the literary experience it provides to its readers. And that is why, when it comes to a poetry collection, this experience needs to be spectral, and multidimensional. Nitoo Das’s newly published poetry collection delivers this multidimensionality. Well... at least most of it.

The Boki poems are mainly based on gender and sexuality, interweaving these two realms across a plethora of social, political as well as private issues. The richness of ‘Boki’ lies in the polymorphous, shifting identity of its poet’s voice, which is fluid and surreal at times, and concrete and established at others. An Associate Professor of English in Delhi University, Das has worked on an experiment on Poetry as hypertext on her blog. Many of the poems in this collection have been taken from her blog. A self proclaimed ‘ventriloquist’, Das employs a well articulated suspension of the self styled ‘I’ or the ‘eye’ of the voice in the poems, that gives each poem in the collection a strong, self independent feel. From one poem to another, the poetic voice varies between different voices, making each poem a different experience to read- unpredictable, even shocking at places, but crisp and fresh.

Flipping through the pages of this collection, one can see the objectivity of everyday objects, situations, places and people transform under the subjective gaze of the poetic voice, rather voices, which renders a new, mundane dimension to them, making them unfamiliar to the familiarity of one’s perception, and forcing one to stop, take a moment and try to understand this difference.

Stark, sensual imagery, full of curiously intermixed sensory depictions appeals to the reader’s eyes, and does justice to the theme of gender and sexuality prevailing through the collection. A self proclaimed feminist, Das experiments with various poetic forms in the collection, to give pliancy to the feminist issues addressed in her poems. There are a lot of historical, folk, as well as popular culture references in the poems, which simultaneously give the poems a subjective as well as objective colouring. Most poems are short, crisp and written in simple words, even though rich on the interpretative scale, which makes the collection a good read for the occasional reader, as well as to the more trained eye.

Nature, the body, the gaze, the private and the public, all whirl together to make this collection of poems fresh and vibrant. 

In paperback, 82 pages, Rs 250. ISBN 9780979882548. Write to us!