An artistic collection of Ekphrastic poetry

Published at August 19, 2015 12:01 AM 2Comment(s)14022views

Book: Ink and Line

Author: Paintings Sukrita Paul Kumar and Poems by Sonnet Mondal

Reviewer: Waseem Majazi

An artistic collection of Ekphrastic poetry

Waseem Majazi

About the poet

Sonnet Mondal is an Indian poet, born in West Bengal. He has authored eight books about poetry. He was featured as one of the Famous Five of Bengali Youths in India Today Magazine in 2010 and was long listed in The Forbes Magazine’s top 100 celebrities in 2014 edition. In March 2015 ‘The Cultural Trip London’ listed him among the Top Five Literary Entrepreneurs of Indian English Poetry. His works have appeared in several international literary publications. His works have been translated in Macedonian, Italian, Albanian, Urdu, Arabic, Chinese, Turkish, Hindi, Telugu and Bengali. Sonnet Mondal is the pioneer of 21 line Fusion sonnet form of poetry.

About the artist

Sukrita Paul Kumar is also a poet and teaches literature at the University of Delhi. She has published several collections of poems in English. Her two bilingual collections are Poems Come Home (with Hindustani translations by Gulzar) and Rowing Together (With Hindi translations by Savita Singh). As a Director of a UNESCO project on “The Culture of Peace”, she edited Mapping Memories, a volume of Urdu short stories. Sukrita is deeply interested in painting and oral tradition of India, her most recent co-edited book is Chamba Achamba: Women’s Oral Culture from Chamba and Bharmour, published by Sahitya Akademi. A solo exhibition of her paintings was held at AIFACS, Delhi.


Ink and Line is the collection of paintings and poems summarize in two celebrated dicta— “painting within poetry” and “poetry within painting”. It is a collection of unique experiment of ekphrastic poetry where paintings decode poetry and poetry explains paintings in an artistic way. Well known examples of ekphrastic poetry, that use art for inspiration are John Keats and P.B Shelley. The visual representation by bringing the image into language and language into image, an ideal conflation of pen and brush, has its roots in the Renaissance. The most influential idea of the Renaissance, the “humanistic theory”, and “ut picture poesis: the imitation of idealized nature in art”, sprung to life during the Renaissance from Aristotle’s Poetics and Horace's Ars Poetica. Some renaissance artists and critics like Leon Battista Alberti, Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino known as Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci shouldered Aristotle’s idea of ideal imitation and Lee Krasner says, “Painting rises above the mere imitation of things with direct experience to nature.”The theory ut picture poesis—as is painting so is poetry— developed by renaissance art critics in an attempt to get for painting the heights of pride and honor that poetry had received as an art since ages.

Ink and Line is a fine collection of twenty poems, encapsulates with a message the twenty beautiful paintings in the same collection. It has also been mentioned by the artist, Sukrita Paul, in “A Note by the Artist” in the beginning of the collection that the poems in Ink and Line are “…inspired by my paintings and sketches, I had half-expected to see the poems as mere interpretations of the images I had created. But the medium, they say, is the message”.

While going through the collection one confronts the stand of a Greek lyricist, Simonides of Ceos, painting as “mute poetry” and poetry as a “speaking picture”. The very first poem in the collection decodes a sketch with an old saint with a white beard and a poet, Sonnet Mondal beautifully creates a verbal art from the visual, “The saintly face will be recalled/ when atheists come nodding/their belief-less heads”. The poem is a well explanation of frenetic brush strokes of the artist and both, the poet and the artist, prove William Richard Wagner’s saying, “correspondences of the arts”, quite appropriate. The artistic excellence of this collection lies in its creative use of imagery and symbolism in the poems which conjure up with the exact image which is real inspiration of the poem. Sometimes, a reader baffles to know whether it is the poet who inspires the artist to paint or the artist who inspires the poet to verbalise. The poet and the artist have tried their brush and pen on every walk of life. The poem, purity walled by shadow of centuries force slaves to raise hands and claim the awaited freedom.

The poet and the painter have beautifully painted and verbalized the graver issues of the contemporary world. Ink and Line is rich in entertainment, which is the real essence of any work of art, and welds it together with the didactic value of the book which remains indisputably the most remarkable quality of this collection.

The poet paints a verbal picture of moral deterioration of her society where women are treated as sex slaves rather than objects of admiration. The poem is a satire on the prevailing social circumstances and the misogynistic behavior of men casting an existential threat to the “Second Sex”, “...Now, that my old and ripened skin/worth no bucks….” On the opposite page of the poem the artist, Sukrita Paul has painted a heartrending painting of a woman like a headless tree who is standing all alone without having the charm and appeal like a naked autumnal tree. “Maddened by seductive forces,/waves jump as starving males struggling…” is another poem with a mesmerising painting on the opposite side of the page. The painting as well as the poem further unfolds the tail of sexual exploitation of women. The choice of diction and metaphor is too exact to heighten the tragic effect of the poem. The poet has used the diction in a way that after going through a single verse the whole essence of the poem and the painting strikes our mind, like he uses in the second line of the poem “starving males” and in the third line he uses “to grasp the lady, moon”.

The usage of the terms and phrases makes us to comprehend the depth of anger of waves which are trying to grasp the moon high above the sky and the poet appropriately chooses the simile “as starving males”.

The poem is a fine reflection of the dark underside of the contemporary world which is based on the ideal of patriarchy. However, these poems cover variety of themes ranging between two contrary states of a woman’s place in contemporary world; a slave and a princess whose directions are followed by the breezes, “Grasses/accept slavery under her/bare feet and trees bend to imbibe/the divine beat of her footsteps….” The poet and the artist have penned and painted, I would love to call it ‘artistic arrest’, the absurdity and ambiguity of the contemporary world in the poem, “We have lost ourselves to the rush,/ to the word ‘futility’...” and while going through it one feels like each verse and each phrase expresses the story of its own.

The painting of this poem speaks volumes about the life’s disturbed ring and tells more than the poem. On every turn, like “I have failed to see trees, foliage/and all that decorates our life./My mistakes was my will to form/ a couplet without knowing the/poetry of life…” the reader confronts a new theme with a new painting. The poems like, “Each hair of me like banyan…”, “I am still stored in the coffins”, “Her eyes have never witnessed waves…”, and “The water in the kettle boils/ and she absorbs the sizzling heat…” takes a reader to the reality of life and the paintings, attached to each poem, gives the reader a never ending pleasure.

The choice of diction is too poetic and the design of paintings so well in craft and divinely perfect that the book presents a fine example of literary marvel. Both the poet and the artist have beautifully describe the Godless nature of the contemporary society, helplessness of woman, poverty, love, hatred, futility, pain, nostalgia and a variety of other themes.

The poems in the collection, Ink and Line, demystify the paintings and the paintings demythologize the poems which gives a clear comprehension of this artistic collection of the ekphrastic poetry. The book is a marvelous gift to the lovers of poetry.

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