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(From the interview given to Prothom Alo (First Light), a leading Bengali newspaper of Bangladesh and published on 3rd June 2016).
Prothom Alo : On reading your poetry , it seems that a poem first comes to you in the form of an idea, followed by a philosophical realization. Thereafter the whole thing culminates into a poem. This process of conceiving a poem through an idea and to find its philosophical dimension - how exactly this happens in your creative mind?
Ranajit Das: A poet's creative mind is formed by his emotional and intellectual affinities: If a poet's mind is philosophical in nature, then his poetry will have a philosophical touch. I must say that after the age of thirty, I could realize that any event, idea, experience or feeling without a philosophical dimension does not appeal to me as a subject for a poem. In other words, I don't get poetically excited unless l find that a feeling can be transformed into a thought. This is a well-discussed literary concept about which Eliot wrote so brilliantly. In my case, much before I have learnt about these literary theories, the natural philosophical inclinations of my mind became active in my poetry. Gradually my quest for philosophical significance has become a dominant feature of my poetry. And I think it will continue till the end of my life.
Prothom Alo: Your liking for idea and philosophy is your strength as a poet. But at times don't you feel that this tendency also acts as a limitation to your poetry?
Ranajit Das: I don't think so. First of all, let me tell you what Hegel said about this ‘idea’ concept. He said that poems are not made of words, but of poetic ideas. Therefore, any good poem can easily be translated into any language. He also said that the real test of a good poem is whether it can be perfectly translated into another language. Of course I don't subscribe to Hegel's theory, but he has a valid point in his notion about the poetic idea. Ideas are essential to my poetry. Idea - not in the sense of concept or ideology - but in the sense of idealism and spiritualism - is what I mean in this context. A poetic idea is what my heart conceives about life through my intellect, and not vice versa. So idea is inseparable from my poetry. And my personal aptitude for philosophy moulds my poetic worldview. Tagore, Goethe - they are also limited by their specific worldviews. And yet we can see how vast their poetic domains are – like an immense starry sky! So in a sense limitation, is a positive thing -it's your unique character as a poet, and it renders strength to your poetry. Picasso painted almost all his paintings in cubist form, and that is the mark of his strength. So a poet’s limitation is really his strength. And this should be realized very early by a poet so that he can stick to his. mettle and does not try too many things in his poetry.
Prothom Alo: You said in an interview that you cannot write a poem without having a subject in it. Is it possible to write a poem on the basis of a subject?
Ranajit Das: I would ask you a counter-question. Is it possible to write a poem without a subject? The moment a poet writes a sentence, instantly an emerging subject creeps into that sentence, because any cluster of words will invariably create a subject through their meanings and associations. This is the basic nature and function of language. Therefore, a modernist poet, in his experimental zeal, may try to create the most obscure poetic riddles in his poems to subvert truth and meaning, but such poems written as cynical language - games do not go very far: Do you think a poem means an obscure impulse written in a more abstruse form? Never. One thing I can tell you firmly. Every great and good poem from ancient times to the present day has a clear inner meaning in it. That meaning is the subject of a poem. Thoughts and images are also subjects of a poem. Continued...