The International Poetry Journal in Bengali and English

Letters to and from the Editor
E-mail Discussion on Bengali Poetry

Dear Mr. Abdullah,

I started my first correspondence with you to protest your editorial comment that "the period from the Seventy's and Eighty's was a dark age for Bangla poetry." All that followed focused on this central theme.

Abid Anwar, Dhaka
April 02, 2006

Sept 18, 2004
Is the 70's and the 80's the Dark Age in Poetry

Dear Hassanal Abdullah:
Thanks for your mail. I had to send that article via
Anwar Shahadat because I did not have your e-mail
address. I hope you haven't misunderstood me! What I
wanted to emphasise in that article is this:
The most important poets of the Seventies and Eighties
had their life spent in the remote rural areas of
Bangladesh or abroad and could not be exposed to the
gurus who give certificates to the younger ones. If
you examine the section of my article that deals with
the so-called evaluation and appreciation of a poet by
Abdul Mannan Syed, you will understand that some
'false idols' were created by our seniors to represent
the Seventies, ignoring the most important ones. I
raised and analyzed this issue elaborately in my
'Bangla Kobitar Aadhunikayon' [being translated with
the title: Modernism in Bangla Poetry: A Path
Analysis] published in 1997 from Agami Prokashoni. To
my utter surprise, Dr. Humayun Azad had a one-page
discussion with the 'Bichitra' on this book and
Shawkat Osman wrote a three-column article in the
Daily Janakantha where he commented: "ei deshe mononer
onushilon to nei bollayi cholay, biswas jachai dhatay
nei, shekhanay emon ekti gronther aabirbhab (hay,
aabirbhab-i bolbo) sottya-i obhabonio." In the first
chapter of this book I showed how our seniors have
promoted some false idols to show the readers the
extent of the poverty of poesy after their own works.
I tell you frankly I did not mean honest critics like
you or Shaheed Qadri who is outside the scene for a
long time. My points in that chapter were based on
critical analysis with sufficient data but not only on
subjective 'statements' which most of our critics do.

If you are interested I can send you a copy of this
book to share with Shaheed Qadri provided you send
your mailing address(es). Moreover, I can send you via
email a few pieces of poems written by a poet of the
Seventies who spent his life in remote rural areas.
After publication of his anthology under my own
supervision, poets and critics like Syed Ali Ahsan,
Shamsur Rahman, Humayun Azad, Mohammad Mahfuzullah,
Dr. Mahbub Sadik, Dr. Rafiqullah Khan and several
others, including some poets and critics of the latter
generations, evaluated and compared his poesy in the
greater context of Bangla poetry, and not in the
context of the new "ondhokar joog" that you
identified. I am sure both you and Shaheed Qadri will
change your attitude toward the Seventies! I am also
sure that your `darkness' resulted from being absent
from the scene and not from any "intellectual
Take care.

Abid Anwar

Sept 18, 2004
The poetry of the 70's and the 80's

Dear Abid Anwar:
I appreciate your mail. Moreover, I do have your book and I believe it is a significant publication. I also told Shaheed Quaderi about it when he was in Lynn.

I am happy that you disagree with me on the event that I stated the 70's and the 80's as the 'Dark Age' of Bengali poetry. Your disagreement opens a new venue of discussion which I am pretty much interested in. Well, nothing has yet been convinced me to think otherwise. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to read your article yet, since my computer did not support the font you used. But I will get it opened from another computer by Monday while I am at school. Please do send me the "...few pieces of poems written by a poet of the Seventies who spent his life in remote rural areas."

Please let me disagree with you if you don't mind that my comment was not the result of '...being absent from the scene...,' but it came out of the fact that was presented by the fellow poets, though there were some exceptions, which again might not be fair to illustrate on the basis of the overall achievement of the 20th century Bengali poetry. Still, if you believe that I need to study some poets of the era whom I did not, please suggest me. I will be very happy to get the books, and if they change my understanding I will definitely let the readers of poetry know about it.

Again I do appreciate your mail and please keep in touch. Thanks.
My mailing address:

Hassanal Abdullah
85-22 85th Street
Woodhaven, NY 11421


Hassanal Abdullah


Sept 26, 2004
About your Article

Dear Abid Anwar:
Finally, I got a chance to read your article. You are honest and clear.
There is a very few poets of the 70's like you in prose, as I noticed
it while reading your book on poetry. I am satisfied with your
argument that poets and writers usually recognize others only
from their close circle. Moreover, the ones are well known in
any certain era may not be that good. For example, Mohadav Saha
of the 60's is a very weak one. And so is Abdul Mannan Syed.
In the interview with Shaheed Quaderi, the views Quaderi
expressed were totally his own. I, sometimes, disagreed on
something keeping in mind that I was the interviewer. I should've not
influenced him through my questioning. Abid Azad, in my view,
is okay to read though not significant in the realm of poetry,
but Shihab Sharkar is not even worth mentioning. Since Quaderi
mentioned those poets, I let him kept it as it was. One may write
about the 70's to find out why there is no good poet in this era,
and why the group was not honest to the rich history of the Bengali
poetry. The same thing could be done to the group of the 80's. But,
the latter group is comparatively better, though their achievement
is again very limited.
I am really happy that you came to defend the generation with your
expertise in a respectable way. Obviously, your article will open a
new window of discussion which we as poets need it very much.
But one thing for sure, my editorial for Shabdaguchha was at least
a year older than Quaderi's comment on the issue. So I was not
influenced by Quaderi on the topic as you mentioned. An older
poet can also be influenced by the younger ones, as Tagore was
near the end. Sure, It's not a crime I guess! Secondly, there was a
very little literary communication between the East and the West
even in the 80's when you were in the United States. Obviously, no
Information Supper Highway was even invented at that time too.
So, living in the global village, I would not say my editorial view
was a lack of information. Rather, it was an honest effort of my
continual study of Bengali and world poetry, if you allow me
to say it. Also I need to edit the list of the my poetic heritage by
limiting to Shamsur Rahman, Al Mahmud, Shaheed Quaderi as the
major poet of Bangladesh after the 30's. Humayun Azad,
Nirmolendu Goon and Rafiq Azad are also significant but not as
powerful as the three mentioned above. Please pardon me that
I throw the names of the six poets out from your list as I do not
think that they are notable. Probably, this is where we differ from
each other.
Otherwise, I agree with most part of your article and I would
say you did a great job explaining the intellectual failure of
our society. I would like to publish the article in the next
issue of Shabdaguchha with your permission.
Thank you.


Hassanal Abdullah

Sept 27, 2004
Selected Poems

Dear Hassanal Abdullah:
Here is what you asked for. This is an 80-page soft
copy of "Selected Poems" by a poet of the Seventies.
The document contains more than 100 pieces--both in
pdf and normal MS Word with Sutonnymj fontface. Please
open any one of the two attachments. I know you are an
honest critic and editor. Read and evaluate these
pieces in the broader context of Bangla poetry
starting from Tagore to the present time and not only
in the context of the Seventies.

The copy of my article that I forwarded earlier was
not meant for publication in your Magazine. I don't
want it to be published twice.


Abid Anwar

Sept 28, 2004
Selected Poems

Dear Abid Anwar:
Thank you for sending the Selected Poems of a poet of the Seventies. I'm privileged reading the work I am already familiar with. The poet has a very good hold on rhythm, but that is not the only tool to produce an 'extraordinary' piece of poetry. Let me ask you a question instead, is there any poem in the collection that is as powerful as Bonolata Sen[GD], Bodh[GD], Shassoti[SD], Ghorswar[BD], Shit Rater Prarthona[BB], Shongoti[AC], Bristi Bristi[SQ], Shonali Kabin[AM], Dhukho[SR], Ahondho RelGari[HA], Hulia[NG] or Tumi Bish Basher Agea O Porey[RA]? If you say yes, then I have to admit that I don't understand poetry. And please pardon me for that. At the same time, this poet is much vivid comparing with the others of the 70's. And in the collection, Swairinir Ghorsongsar,(2nd edition, 1998) the poet presented a superb translation, Baudelaire-er Shob[Page 47-48], which could also be added to the Selected Poems. In this group, the piece by the title BacheBorthea Achhi is a good one too.

Since you did not mention the name of the poet, I would also keep it like that. I would like to congratulate the poet for his Selected Poems. Let me know the name of the publisher, I will get a copy.

A few years ago, one of the poets of the 70's told me that I was "ill-defined" among the poets in Dhaka. Probably, that is because I am an honest critic. I believe, the main cause of our literary failure in the recent era is that there is no criticism at all. What I usually see in the papers are the book reviews done by friends of the writers. I call this kind of reviews a 'pithalochona'--as if, one is putting one's hand on the back of the other and saying you are doing well my friend, keep on doing it. Whether the writer/poet has any credibility or not is not the point here at all.
While I was in Dhaka in the last summer, a notable essayist and translator, Zakaria Shirazi, said, "The Dhakia supplements do not even publish book reviews of a poet or a writer who does not have friendship with the newsmakers here." It's sad. Sad for all of us. It is not supposed to be like that. Last night Shaheed Quaderi told me, "If we would have some good critics and editors, many poets would even stop writing long ago. They would go to another sector of writing to see if they could accomplish anything." Well, I am not sure about that, but what I know is, there is no good poetry editor either in Bangladesh or in West Bengal. It's a great tragedy!


Hassanal Abdullah

Sept 29, 2004
Selected Poems

Dear Hassanal Abdullah:
Thanks for your quick response. I am happy you could
identify the so-called poet of the Seventies. As you
have mentioned, if I say 'yes' in response to your big
question it would mean you don't understand poetry. I
am not made up to dishonour a reader this way. So, let
me say a GREAT NO for your peace. However, the problem
is: it's too late for this so-called poet to "go to
another sector of writing" as advised by Shaheed Qadri
and you. He has already visited other sectors,
including essays, literary criticism, juvenile rhymes,
lyrics for singers, and short stories. If a reader of
your level (I mean you and Shaheed Qadri) fails to
identify a single piece of poem that can be comparable
even with Hulia (NG), he should just retire rather
than going to some other sectors! And before
retirement he should mercilessly rebuke the
critics/readers like Syed Ali Ahsan, Shamsur Rahman,
Humayun Azad, mohammad Mahfuzullah, Abdullah Abu
Syeed, Shirshendu Mukherjee, and others for their
stupidity and misdeed that inspired him to continue
his literary pursuit killing so much time that could
be spent in some other wage-earning activities for a
prosperous and happy family life!

I am happy that you included Ohndho RelGari (HA) in
your list because for the first time I explained this
piece to be a remarkable creation in my review of
Humayun Azad's Poetry. The review was published in the
the Sangbad Supplement in 1985. Since then, almost all
critics started talking about this poem. The other
pieces of remarkable poems in your list were also
first discovered by others.

Who told you that you are "ill-defined" in Dhaka?
Everybody treats you as a remarkable person.
Otherwise, why should I correspond with you?

Bhalo Thakun.

Abid Anwar

Sept 29, 2004
Re: Selected Poems

Dear Abid Anwar:
Dr. Humayun Azad did not admit that Andho RelGari was his best poem. After I reviewed his poetry in 1998, I got a chance to talk with him many times. I mentioned the poem in that review, and quoted from it on Kobiter Chhando, a book published by Bangla Academy in 1997. I did not know of your article then. Dr. Azad explained the background of the poem in an interview with me which will be publish in the next issue of Shabdaguchha, the Humayun Azad Issue.

I am really sorry that you misunderstood me. This was an overall conversation with Shaheed Quaderi about the Twenty First Century Bengali Poetry as a whole, especially poetry after the 30's. Quaderi did not mention you, nor did I have the guts to say someone like you or anybody at all not to write poetry. We were just speaking about the poor condition of the poetic field of the Bangla region.

Do you have more of Humayun Azad's poetry in translation? If so, would you send some of them for the next issue of Shabdaguchha? Thank you very much for being so kind with me.


Hassanal Abdullah

Sept 30, 2004
About Dr. Azad and...

Did I tell you or mention in my 1985 review that
Ohndho RelGari is Humayun Azad's best poem? Does the
term `remarkable' mean `the best'? Rather, you
included this in your list of best poems by others to
throw a challenge toward me that I failed to write
none like those! This implies you rated this poem to
be the best of Humayun Azad's. Please read your
previous message again and try to understand what I
want to mean. What I emphasized (about this poem)in my
review is the use of a rich symbol and the
appropriateness or the logic of not using any
punctuation marks. The pattern of prosody
(chhondo)--7-meter Matrabritto--was also discussed in
my review. I didn't also tell you that you are not
capable of doing the same without reading my review
published more than ten years before your book was
published from Bangla Academy. I don't understand what
you are talking about!

Probably I met with him less than you did, but is this
an important factor? What I did are: (1) I wrote the
first in-depth analysis of his poems based on the
first two books at my own initiative in the Sangbad in
1985, (2) I wrote the first review of his first novel
Chhappanno Hajar Borgomile but being requested by the
writer himself through Abeer Hassan, then working in
Ajker Kagoj (now in Janakantha), (3) I wrote the first
review of his first and only book on Semantics (Ortho
Biggyan) but being requested by Sajjad Sharif of
Prothom Alo. These were not `pithalochona's;
especially the one on Ortho Biggyan in Prothom Alo was
a merciless criticism for using an age-old model of
human communication, and I analyzed the latest models
in my review. I wrote on Humayun Azad's works on two
other occasions: a tribute on the completion of his
fifty years of life and a memoir (also to be included
in a publication from Agamee Prakashani very soon). I

I am indebted to Humayun Azad for a personal cause
also. He and Poet Ahsan Habib were selected advisors
of Anindya Prokashoni. The owner of that publishing
firm Mr. Nazmul asked his advisors to name a few poets
whose collections could be published. Dr. Azad
suggested a single name--Abid Anwar--even without
seeing me because I started my so-called literary
prusuit from remote rural areas while working as a
government servant. His choice coincided with the
other advisor Poet Ahsan Habib's, but Habib Bhai
mentioned one other name with mine. After publication
of my first book of poetry I met with Dr. Azad and
presented him a copy of the book. To my surprise, he
reviewed the book and I am sure you saw his comments,
along with others', that I proudly printed on the
back-covers of many of my poetry books. Now I see what
he wrote about my poetry is right: I will have to wait
for a generation of readers well-tuned to value the
imageries [in his words "Ovinibeshi pathok somprodaye
jara chintar sutro onushorone sokhhom, chitrokolper
shova o byanjona onudhabone somortho."

I could be more than happy if I would have a
translation of Humayun Azad's poem to contribute to
your esteemed magazine. The only piece of Humayun
Azad's poem that I translated was published in the
early eighties in a worthless English publication of
Bangla Academy.

Wishing you a grand success in the publication of your
Special Issue on Humayun Azad,

Abid Anwar

Sept 30, 2004
About Dr. Azad and...

Thank you.And would you please let me know where the article was published. I mean the article you sent me earlier.

Hassanal Abdullah

Sept 30, 2004
Your email exchange with Abid Anwar

Dear Hassanal:
Although, except for you, I am unfamiliar with Bengali poets
and poetry, I do have some insight into your seriousness and integrity, both
as a poet and a critic. So it was exciting to read the lively exchange
between you and Abid Anwar. It is the sort of discussion that is not only
stimulating to all concerned, but which also keeps the matter of excellence
alive. Thank you for sharing it with me. With best wishes,

D. H. Melhem

Sept 30, 2004
Re:Your email exchange with Abid Anwar

Dear D. H.:
Thank you very much. I really appreciate your comment.
You are one of the very few poets I always admire.
I believe you added a significant section to
the contemporary American poetry.


Hassanal Abdullah

Sept 22, 2005
Poetry Criticism

Dear Hassanal:
Thanks for giving the news on your book. I will read and try to review it. I read an interview of Shaheed Quaderi in Kaler Jatra, 2 June 2004. Probably it was reprinted. However, Poet Abid Anwar have written an artile on it "Sattor-Aashir Kavita : Anyarakam Aalor naam-o Andhoker" by name. It is placed in his recent book "Chitrakalpo o Bichitra Gadya" , Agami Prokashani, 2005. Have you seen it. He criticised you and also poet Shaheed Quaderi.

Tapan Bagchi
Deputy Director (KM)
D.Net Development Research Network, Dhaka

Sept 23, 2005
Re:Poetry Criticism

Dear Dr. Tapan Bagchi:
Yes, probably I read the article. Mr. Abid Anwar e-mailed me an article of similar title almost a year ago. But, I did not see the book. Moreover, I was not concerned that it was published in his book. Thank you for the information.
I always welcome criticisms. And I, myself, am also a critic. Mr. Anwar reacted on Shaheed Quaderi's interview, and the Shabdaguchha editorial from a few years back, where I mentioned "Bangla Kobatay Sattor abond Ashi andhokar jug." Well, I still believe it. I do not find a poet similar to Shaheed Quaderi, Al Mahmud or Shamsur Rhaman or even the ones in the sixties. But, Mr. Anwar has a different view. He sent me 100 of his own poems and requested me to commenting on them. He was very displeased on my commentary.
How is your writing going on? How are the poets of the nineties? Are they doing any better than the poets of the seventies and the eighties?


Hassanal Abdullah

Sept 24, 2005
We aren't doing better

Dear Hassanal:
I read both the articles by you and Abid Anwar. I honour criticism. But, I do not fully agree with you. I don't think that Sattar and Ashi is an "Andhakar Yug". They don't overcome the 50s and 60s, yet they have done much. so we cann't say it an "andhakar yug". Abid Azad, Abid Anwar, Rudra Muhammad shahidullah are also countable.
Your last two questions are very tough to answer--"How are the poets of the nineties? Are they doing any better than the poets of the seventies and the eighties?"
You may know that I have reviewd about 40 books of poems by the poets of the 90s in various newspapers and magazines. So, many of them avoid me. They do not accept me. They try to ignore me as a poet. They want to call me a 'critic' but not a 'poet'. There is some conspiracy. So, now I don't write no more critical article on my time.
I think that they and we aren't doing better than 50s to 80s. How is our Shaheed Quaderi bhai? I did not meet him. But I respect him.

Tapan Bagchi

Sept 27, 2005
Re: story on Farhad Mazhar

Dear Tapon Bagchi:
I read your article on Mollah Mazhar. Well, I disagree with you right at the beginning. He did not write any good poetry at all. All he did was tried to stimulate peoples consciousness in a wrong way. His intention is questionable. Probably, he does not know what he says. Even if he knows it, he does it for setting a complete chaos in the society and facilitating fundamentalism into power. This Mollah gets money from NGO (non-government organization) through foreign aids and enjoys all kinds of western luxuries, but votes against buying tractors, as you wrote, for poor agriculturalists and push for cow-pull ploughs for them. It's nuisance. I posted your letter, about poetry, on the same website ( shabdaweb) where I posted Abid Anwer's letters a year ago, though I disagree with you in many ways. I believe, literature is a very interesting subject where one cannot be impartial. No emotion is allowed here. The names you mentioned of the Seventies would not be able to stay in form for any longer than a decade or so, except Rudro. Can you give me the names of five poets of the 1870s? Probably not. I will not be able to do that too. But you and I will easily remember Modhusudhan Datta and Rabindranath Tagore out of hundreds of poets and activists. That is because Datta and Tagore made some significant changes in literature. So did the poets (and writers) of the thirties, the fifties, and the nineties. I believe, we got to read more and try to see the differences. Thank you for sharing your poetic feelings with me.

Hassanal Abdullah

Earlier on 25th Sept 2005 Tapan Bagchi informed:
Pls read my write-up on Farhad Mazhar.

Sept 27, 2005
Re: story on Farhad Mazhar

Dear Hassanal:
You may disagree with me. I honour you for this. Now 'Mollah Mazhar' is clear. But his 'Khokon o tar Protipurush', 'Lieutenant Gen Trac o Anyanya' and other poems attracted me one time.
Your evaluation on Mazhar is very appreciable. You may write to our Bengali newspapers. Man may aware.

You disagreed with me about poets of 70s, 80s. I honour your opinion. But I think that it is not the last speech. the three name I mentioned Abid Anwar, Rudra Mumahhad Shahidullah and Abid Azad are real poet of 70s. Thanks

Tapan Bagchi

This page started with the protest of the editoral comments in Issue 14, 2001, and it has been dragging the readers attention to the contemporary state of Bengali Poetry. Any one interested in responding, please do
so now by e-mailing to Shabdaguchha. Your thoughtful response will be posted on this page.

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  • Shabdaguchha, A Journal of Bengali and English Poetry, Published in New York, Edited by Hassanal Abdullah.