Dreams Shattered and Other Poems by Manab Manik / Book Review by Paul C. Blake

Dreams Shattered and Other Poems by Manab Manik

Authorspress (January 1, 2019),
Pages (paperback): 82 pages.
ISBN 978-93-88332-89-7,
Paperback $ 15.00,
Book Review by Paul C. Blake

Dreams Shattered
And Other Poems

In a diverse, social and contemporary milieu, the poet, Manab Manik, has attended to the social issues hampering or shattering the dreams of ordinary and everyday people, in all walks of life. In his poetic genre, he has commented on the domestic hardships perpetuated by the customs, ideas, and archaic perceptions of long standing religious and political institutions. The poet’s acute realization of the systematic, stringent traditional systems has allowed him to illuminate these social issues in his work, Dreams Shattered and Other Poems.

Manab Manik’s poems, for the most part, are composed in the sonnet form, reflecting that aspect of poetry written in the 17th and later in the 18th Century by the great English
Romantic poets—Shelley, Keats, Byron, and Wordsworth, just to mention a few. However, Manab has disregarded the content that regards the wistful, the imaginative and the passionate. Instead, he has chosen to embrace Realism, a content in which the practice accepts a situation as is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly without preference or guise.

In the here and now, and between the lines, Manab has entered a quiet yet hopeful place where dreamers dream of liberty. It’s the interior wilderness of one’s yearning for something mostly liberating that the poet begins to conceptualize and surmise in the framework of his poem, Dreamland. In this place, he dreams of becoming a pigeon, a gentle breeze or the hot sun with reflections on the many dreamers he recalls in his writing.

In Dreamland where a pigeon is tapped for its flight, Manab hopes that he too could fly away. He draws our attention not just to the captive’s plight but to the misperceptions of the owners regarding the captured in his poem, A Caged Bird’s Cry and Tear. Then, with great clarity, he makes us realize that the intentional, recreational activity of men is sometimes too the unintentional incarceration of the captive soul, badly bruised and battered in the struggle for the elusive freedom looming over distant horizons. Here, the song and dance flutter of the caged bird is mostly mistaken for happiness by the keeper of the house. However, the reality of the situation is really about the pain in the desperate struggle for freedom that seems so far away. In this content, he paints the bloody struggle in a couple or more lines.

“Seeing the free birds flying and singing I feel a painful feeling.
I struggle and struggle and struggle to escape,
I make the bars bloody to see the happy birds’ landscape.”

The dose or the pause ironically seems to also suggest a continuation of dreams for liberty which is sometimes interrupted by a calling bell, perhaps a metaphor for the alarming curfew by the state to awaken the dreamer back to reality—suggesting that one’s station in life remains the same despite the dream.

“Being tired with loud cries I doze and dream of a free kingdom.
Suddenly someone spoils his dream switching on the calling bell”

In his poem, Traffic Police, the pause to dream that upgrades their status is also a return passage to reality as the emergency alerts along life’s road is all but the happiness they longed for.

“Then they’re the aristocracy in the world dreamy,
But the wild ambulance bells break the dreams and make them gloomy.”

In other poems like Coal Miners and Life- battle, the dreamers’ hopes are not dashed. Aware of the laborious task of the miners, or the catastrophic destruction of their homes, Manab attends to the momentarily transformations regarding their status in the dream and to their optimism in the struggle for hope or survival. Concerning the coal miners, he writes:

“Their blackened bodies can’t blacken their soul…
In dreams they’re factory owners,
Suddenly they awake and see themselves as miners.
Yet they hope and dream and dream and hope,
That one day all their pains’ll be perished by the Pope.”

Concerning those struggling in Life-Battle, he highlights their creative endeavor in the grasp for their salvation:

“Out of banana-stems floating vessels they made,
With the last hope they held and held the life-thread.”

Momentarily, and at some point in Dreamland, Manab pauses as the gentle breeze whispering and whispering in the ears of all, to bring harmony with his peaceful call. Relatively speaking, in Heart-Rending Appeal to ‘Allah’, he considers the impetus of prayer in the third quatrain of his devotional sonnet. He said,

“The heart-rending appeal to ‘Allah’ makes my heart cry,
To mix with the Infinite my soul does cry and try.
To visit mosque, or temple or church is to get mind’s calmness,
So I stop my teachings and listen to the prayer for my soul’s happiness.”

Now filled with conviction and power to create a transformation in Dreamland, he declares.

“I would turn the warring world into Mary.
Another Jesus the Mary-world would give birth,
Into kingdom and heaven would turn this earth.”

Soon than later, Manab has also realized that somewhere in Dreamland, there seems to be a spiritual problem when a political majority begins to justify its bias actions under the mantle of its religious affiliations.

 

Manab Manik

At this juncture, the potency of his work is deeply felt in his decry of the politics of religion. In Dreamland, he also writes with strong conviction in the following excerpt,

“Had I been the hot Sun,
I would force Buddhism to run.
The saffron dress I would burn with my fiery light,
I would make it naked for the world’s sight.
Is it Buddhism only to wear a saffron dress?
Is it Buddhism to kill and serve Islam in trays?”

Relatively speaking, Manab further describes the atrocities in his poem, To the Rohingyas in Myanmar. Here, he addresses the ethnic cleansing and mass genocide of the Rohingya—the ethic Muslim minority, now carried out by the Rakhine—the dominant ethnic Buddhist group supported by the central government in the region. He sees the crisis not just as an international problem, but also a religious/political state-run endeavor. So, he shares this plea in the concluding lines of in the poem,

“Buddha! Don’t remain with a heart and stone,
The whole world shakes when the Rohingyas moan and groan.
Their soul’re heading towards His holy state,
To the politics and guile’re shut the golden gate.”

In Democracy Destroyed, the poet attends to the rulers and their rule as poly tricks as they spread anarchy and terror everywhere with much insincerity while shattering the dreams of ordinary men and women. In the final couplet, he writes,

“In the palms of politics the simple lives’re toyed,
Thus dream and hope and peace of all’re destroyed.”

At the heart of the struggle, are perhaps the most painful dreams—dreams nailed to the patriarchal columns of long standing traditions and old customs—dreams shattered in the hearts and souls of a woman’s long last outcry for the moment of self-actualization. Perhaps, most dearest to the poet’s heart, is the plea of the rank and file to her Patriarchy in Dreams Shattered, a poem eclipsed in the title of his book.
In a telling narrative, a woman shares her depression regarding her marital station in life. As she relates the anchoring disappointments, line by line, in the falling paired stressed and
unstressed syllables, pronounced in the form of the trochaic hexameter, her constantly sad tone is also rehearsed by the movement of this metrical form. The last goodbye in her mummied face at Doomsday is the striking reality about her lifetime of unhappiness, as the poet concludes, the final couplet,

“Adieu! Adieu! Ne’er look at my dead face,
At Doomsday I’ll tell my aching tale in any case.”

The poet continues to attend to the exploitation of women in the work place in terms, more or less, alluding to sexual harassment and low pay after working long hours. They have had no time for festivity or celebrations, only hard work, the poet tells us in the opening lines in
Behind May Day,

“A long line of women carrying bricks,
They know not what May Day is.”

In the second quatrain, the harassment is alluded to in a couple of lines,

“Each face has a sad story to tell,
Cunningly covered by every male.”

It, then, continues with a discriminatory practice of their low paying jobs,

“Being women they’re given little wages,
As ‘inferior’ them patriarchy acknowledges.”

In these most revealing moments of truth, Manab Manik has given us an alarming tour of ‘Dreamland’, a brooding wilderness of unrest where men and women, from all walks of life, have struggled against the inner beast of uncertainty, imposed hardships, and unfair judgement. However, most critical to the struggles are the momentary pauses taken by these dreamers to dream, to yearn for the elusive pursuit of happiness—that is the liberation of the body, heart, mind, and soul from the hampering customs and traditions including the belief systems and the politics that have sustained them. It’s not just the interruptions or the illusions, but the sometimes shattering of these dreams that has become the painful crux of the matter in Manab’s poems.

A long time ago, the brothers once said,
“Here comes the dreamer; let’s slay him. We’ll see what becomes of his dreams.”
Now, one leader of the ‘free world’ ironically has declared,
“no amnesty for the ‘Dreamers’; let’s build the wall!” Still, not so long ago, we are reminded of another great dreamer who once said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed:”

The poet, Manab Manik, in his work, has spoken with great national and international urgency of so many dreamers not just of the ones still not so long ago, but of those in the present perfect continuous tense of his time. I would like to give a big shout out to the poet who has raised our consciousness to dream or to aspire for the triumphant self in these sometimes repressive moments of life.

 

Independent thinker/writer Paul C. Blake
Paul C. Blake is an independent thinker, writer and art critic in the USA.

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