Bangladeshi poet and television personality Rezauddin Stalin: Women are changemakers

Rezauddin Stalin

Rezauddin Stalin

By Ashraf Aboul-Yazid
President, Asia Journalists Association

CAIRO: Rezauddin Stalin, a poet and television personality from Bangladesh whose poems have been translated into more than 28 languages, said that he was always keen on avoiding anti-cultural activities and that his poems always stand with the human rights movements. He paid special tribute to women as potent forces and as drivers of positive change.

Here he talks about his origins, his passion for poetry and literature, influences on his style, and his ambitions

Thinking of your perspectives in writing, there must be roots; what are the early seeds of Rezauddin’s poetic experience?

When I was much younger, I saw many unlawful systems of the society that were very painful for general people as they had to go through dictatorship and non-democratic acts of the capitalists in the society which destroyed our dreams. Therefore, I always wanted to speak for the people but against the system and hence I started writing poems. I believe poetry can clean all our pollution and give us strength to unite and fight for what is right.

Tell me about the family, the village and the society where you have grown up:

My village is in Nalbhanga, Jessore, where I was born and lived with my family for many years. Nalbhanga is a picture-perfect village in Bangladesh filled with greenery. The vicinity of that place is so serene and peaceful. I spent most of my childhood days in the green fields it was like Marc Chagall ’s village. In my small village, we had a small family consisting of five members where I am the eldest son of my parents. I have two siblings both are sisters. My mother Rebeka Sultana who died in 2018 was a school teacher in Jessore and father Sheikh Borhan Uddin Ahmed is also a head teacher in higher secondary school in Jessore. My immediate younger sister Suhita Sultana is also a well-known poet and my little sister Setara Elin is an artist. I moved to Dhaka city for higher education in 1983 and got into the hustle of the city life that is much busier than my village. I got married to Wahida Akhter few years later after I moved to Dhaka in 1989, she is also an artist and I am blessed with a lovely daughter Tanzila Reza, she is my only child, she is studying business. Now I am living in Dhaka and twice a year I go to my village that is my root and from where I started my writing journey. The transition from my village, which was very conservative, to a big city was another important phase of life as I got fresh perspectives that helped me more in my writings.

When was the first publishing experience?

When I was in class 5, I wrote my first poem “Shopot” in English which means “Promise” and it was published in “Shotodol Magazine” in 1970 and my first book “ Phirini Obaddho Ami” in English it means “ I never returned” was published in 1986.

How many books have you published? And in which languages?

I have about more than 100 books out of which 60 books consist of poems, seven books are collection of articles, one novel and the rest are children’s literature. My poems got translated in more than 28 languages in the world including English, Hindi, Chinese, Orisha, Turkish, Japanese, Russian, Greek, Spanish, Swedish, French, German, Nigerian, Bosnian, Arabic, Urdu, Italian, Uzbekistani, etc. and many more.  My book was published in English, Arabic and Greek languages.

You are digging deeply in the global myths, when did you start that inspiration?

Great poet of Bengal Michael Madhusudan Dutt , Rabindranath Tagore , National poet Kazi Nuzrul Islam, they used global myths in their poems and the mythological aspects in their poems inspires me to write postmodern poems.

Women in your poetry range from icons to victims; how do you observe that?

Women are the change makers. I myself was raised by a strong woman and my wife always supported and encouraged me to write poetry. I have two sisters and a daughter. In my life, the importance of women is significant as they have been my strength and this reflects in my poems. The role of women is as fearless as they are and they are the pillars of the society. They need to be treated equally as men as they deserve. Sometimes, the imbalance of the society might deprive them of their simple basic rights no matter what their social status is. However, in my poetry I try to convey that message of women empowerment and make a difference in the world so that the world is a better place for us to live in.

A poet is always a rebel, yet, at the same time, a poet must be a dreamer; how much of a balance did Rezauddin make?

Poets have great dreams to change the world through their poetry and protest against injustice and unlawful acts of the society being a rebel. Poets like Pablo Neruda, Federico García Lorca, Darvish Mayakovsky, George Bernard Shaw, Nazim Hikmet all were rebel and definitely a dreamer. Sherman Alexie gave a new definition of modern poetry, which is: Poetry combines of dream, rage and time and I second that.

As a poet, what is your mega dream?

I wish to be a poet who everyone in the world would remember and recognize as someone who tried to make the world a better place for all living things to live in through his poems.

As a citizen, how do you expect the future of the state, the society, the family and the global children?

I would like to be live in a world that is safe, democratic, hunger-free, green with zero-carbon footprint and peaceful. I wish everyone’s life to be like a poetry every day and that is how I perceive the future to be for all. As a responsible citizen, I believe that everyone should fulfill their core responsibility towards the state, society, family and the children. A beautiful world today will give a beautiful future tomorrow.

 Tell me about your secrets in translating poetry:

It is not always easy to translate poems, as the essence of the message that the poet wants to deliver might be lost while translating. Robert Frost said that poetry is easy to love but hard to understand. He also said whatever is lost while translation is called poetry. However, I think to understand the underlying message of the poem first would be the key to translating any poems.

Tell me more about the art in your life and literary work.

I believe how much the courage is, that much is art and that much is poem. I in my literary life with complete honesty used arts wisely and I avoid anti-cultural activities. My poems always stand with the human rights movements. The great poets Homer, Dante Alighieri, Edward Gorey, William Shakespeare, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, William Butler Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud are the inspiration of my literary works.

What about Arabic literature?

Arab literature is very rich. Jorge Luis Borges said that the magic realism theory comes from story of Arabian Nights, which I feel like is true indeed. The classic poets of Arabic Imru’ al-Qais, Hassan ibn Thabit and modern Arabic poets Adunis, Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani , Salem Jubran , Mahmoud Darwish,  Abdel Rahman el-Abnudi are also my most favorite poets of all times. Ashraf Aboul-Yazid is a great poet and a dear friend whose poems I admire. I want the poems and poets of Arabs to reach out to the whole universe. I am eternally grateful to the readers in Arab countries and all over the globe who took the time to read my poems and it is thanks to my readers’ love and support that I am who I am today, a poet.

I would like to conclude by quoting few lines from  Jorge Luis Borges in which I strongly believe as a poet,

“My name is someone and anyone. I walk slowly like one who comes from so far away. He does not expect to arrive.”


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