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     Volume 5 Issue 121 | November 24, 2006 |

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Book Review

Blocks of Pain

Time of my life by Rubana writers.ink;
pp 104; Tk 200

Stumbling on blocks of pain
Rips the sole of a recent Scholl purchase
Her soul has been reported missing
In today's daily

From “Blocks of Pain”
Time of my life

Loss and melancholia appeal to Rubana's artistic senses the most, or so most of her corpus should make one think so. These two age-worn and over-worked leitmotifs turn up in precisely fifty poems that adorn the sleek pages her newest collection of poems. The poet, new though she is, handles her themes in a playful and sensuous way, so Romanticism gives away for web-logging and a game for snakes and ladders. But, loss, overpowering and (a trifle) overbearing at times, rules over her infant oeuvre:

Ten months of treatment, toys, trips and tears
That is all we had together.
That is all I look back on, fall back on,
When I need to touch him the most
From flesh to a photograph
From a son to a spirit,
From a mother to a loner

Rubana, however, in no way indulges dull somnolence or Ketsian indolence, for in "A lover's verse" she declares:

When you made your entry,
Swept me off my land
I loved the sweep, craved for the dance,
Relished your tune.

The poet, in fact, is even better when she takes on Post-colonial and Post-modern issues. In 'Wake up Mrs. Bangladesh', surprisingly studded with political motifs, she, actually tells a story. But this story does not have a linear story line, there is no grand or metanarrative here; it instead handles exploitations--both social and economic-- and Rubana paints three different lives with the blatancy of a social observer. If my bad poetry doesn't get to you, Disaster will, the poet declares. Before this she warns:

Amra kotipoye amlar stri, the old poem
Talking about the wives of the bureaucrats?
With diamond studded lives,
Children graduating,
Working abroad,
Joining your empire,
Taking your grandchildren to the club
For a swim,
Or a gelato in summer,
This is not what the desh needs right now.
Your nightmare has to cease.
The picture-perfect scenario is unreal here.

It is ambiguous sometimes though, because its first person plural narrator with a bite at a Korean restaurant nearby and a regimental life (Breakfast at 8, lunch at 2, a cuppa at 5, Dinner at 9…), should belong to the other side of the great divide, the upper side of her country's class-ridden infrastructure. Though Rubana, throughout the poem, her best in the collection, harps on the plights of women, irrespective of their class and creed, life, is not the same for Hanufa bua and the diamond-studded wives of fat bureaucrats.

Rubana, as a poet, should be admired and encouraged; her latest work gives the readers ample reasons to do so and one only hopes that, next time, her muse will endow her with an illumination that has a keener vision.

--Ahmede Hussain


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