This Path: Selected Poems of Mohammad Rafiq
Translated by Carolyn B. Brown
This Path gathers poems by Mohammad Rafiq written over the course of more than forty years. During this time, Bengali readers have witnessed not only the evolution of a poet’s distinctive personal vision and voice but also a reflection of the changing fortunes of his homeland. Myths, folklore, and recent history are interwoven with timeless images of water and sky, sun and rain, clouds and dust. Now readers of English will have the opportunity to enter a poetic world populated by villagers, farmers, and boatmen, freedom fighters and autocrats, prostitutes and queens, where the wind carries the “burnt smell of sandalwood and sorrow” and hands are “spilling over with mud-spattered flowers.” The poet’s capacious imagination is reflected in striking juxtapositions: the river Styx flows beside the Padma and Jamuna; Adam and Eve coexist with Kuber and Kapila; and Cinderella’s face is a step away from Behula’s bridal chamber.
This Path includes notes from the author and translator and a foreword from Clinton B. Seely, University of Chicago professor emeritus, scholar of Bengali language and literature.
Born in the Bagerhat district of Bangladesh in 1943, Mohammad Rafiq came of age during a time of political instability. As a university student, he joined protests against the Pakistani government. During Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War, he served as an officer motivating Sector-1 freedom fighters and with the radio station Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro. Recognition as a major poet came in 1979 with his third volume, Kirtinasha. In the early 1980s, his “Open Poem” became a rallying cry for the protest movement that eventually brought down the Ershad regime. Rafiq taught in the English department at Jahangirnagar University for 3 decades before retiring in 2009. The award- winning poet has published 23 volumes of poetry, 7 of prose, and a short story collection.