Prakalpana Movement

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The Prakalpana Movement of Kolkata was sparked off in the Bengali language on 6 September 1969, by Vattacharja Chandan with the assistance of Dilip Gupta and Asish Deb. They later declared the day as "Prakalpana Day" because to them "the earth stood still" on the natal day of the movement. Swatotsar, the journal of the movement was published by Vattacharja Chandan and named by Dilip Gupta. Swatotsar was dubbed to be an "anti-magazine" for, in keeping with its iconoclastic content, the magazine was printed to be read in Asian style—i.e. from back to front. In addition, Swatotsar was shaped like an axe blade, an axe (according to its editors) to be used against the roots of conventionalism. Up to that time, modern Bengali literature and art had been over-burdened by colonial styles, adaptations and ideas such as Surrealism, Absurdist literature, the Beat Generation, Existentialism, Concrete poetry, free verse, blank verse, etc. Consequently, the Prakalpana Movement seeks, as its goal, the defining and promulgating of a brand new, indigenous genre of literature for the literary world of the new millennium.

A tiny literary revolution[edit | edit source]

Steve LeBlanc who interviewed Vattacharja Chandan in the beginning of the nineties, wrote:

For all the cliches, deserved or not, and despite its ponderous social problems, Calcutta has, for the past 20 years or so nurtured a tiny literary revolution by the mysterious name of Prakalpana Literature. Championed by its founder and chief conspirator Vattacharja Chandan, Prakalpana Literature--the name of the movement and the title of its own bilingual (Bengali and English) chapbook lit-zine has tried to define a whole new kind of writing, one that draws from all genres, drama to poetry to fiction. For an obscure literary movement, Prakalpana has drawn fans far outside the borders of India including underground American writers and mail art fans from around the globe"...[1]

Vattacharja Chandan, the creator of the concept of this movement initially coined the term Prakalpana, deriving it from Prabandha(essay)+ Kabita(poetry)+ Galpa(story)+ Natak(drama). But later to make the new form globally more acceptable and perceptible, he extended the purview, span and scope of Prakalpana as the convergence of: P for prose, poetry, opera + R for story, drama + A for art, essay + K for kinema + L for culture + N for song, novel...etc.[2]

Influence[edit | edit source]

Since visuals are frequently used in Prakalpana, some critics think that the movement features concrete or visual poetry. Actually, Prakalpana is more narrative fiction than poetry, though poetry and visuals might be used in parts of Prakalpana if the concerned writer finds it suitable to mix genres in the same piece of writing. The resulting form is Prakalpana only—not any other of the discrete ingredients. Moreover, Swachhando or Flow verse, the rhythm of Sarbangin Poetry, is also not concrete poetry, visual poetry, free verse or other pre-conceived forms or meters, but was created from a mixing of prosaic and poetic rhythms and got its name from the pioneering, similarly named Bengali and English poems by Chandan.

Prakalpana World[edit | edit source]

Template:Cleanup list Prakalpana Sahitya: Prakalpana Literature magazine began its journey in 1977 to bring all the forms of Prakalpana literature and Sarbangin poetry movement under a single umbrella, as Swatotsar was publishing mostly Prakalpana. So Swatotsar was closed after more than ten years of its existence in 1979 having published twenty issues, in favour of Kobisena and Prakalpana Literature. Bilingual Prakalpana Literature has been publishing Prakalpana, Sarbangin Poetry and all other kinds experimental and avant-garde poetry, apart from essay, review, literary news, letter and artwork from around the globe. It has published sporadically twenty three issues so far. Ashish Deb had left Swatotsar after the first issue and he came back for a short stint in 2005. Dilip Gupta had deserted the movement in 1978 and returned after almost eight years in the eighties. From the very beginning of the movement it did not solely depend on the contributions from the members of the group only as usually like other movements. On the contrary over all these long years, countless non-commercial Indian as well as writers and artists from around the world have contributed to this movement, which have always fertilised and revitalised the movement with longer life and global ambience. To name some of them are: Sammohan Chattopadhyay, Dilip Gupta, Asish Deb, Sukla Mojumdar, Satya Ranjan Biswas, Bablu Roy Choudhury, Shyamoli Mukherjee Bhattacharjee, Ramratan Mukhopadhyay, Nikhil Bhaumik, Baudhayan Mukhopadhyay, Rishin Mitra, Utpal, Niva De, Shaswata Shikdar, Vattacharja Chandan, Uttar Basu,....and Fern G. Z. Carr (Canada), Hugo Pontes, (Brazil); Alfred A Walker, Gerald England (UK); Carla Bertola, (Italy); Jesse Glass,(Japan); Christian Burgaud (France); and John Byrum, Richard Kostelanetz, Don Webb, John M. Bennett, Sheila Murphy, Geof A. Huth, Jeramy Dodds, Brett K. Fletcher, Mick Cusimano &c.....(USA).

Reviews of Kobisena and Prakalpana Literature in the much-read US review magazine Factsheet Five and currently in Zine World and other reviews on line along with the enlistment in the International Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses, and Poet's Market, enabled the movement to get submissions from different parts of the world. In 1997 Vattacharja Chandan, representing Bengali Literature with Sunil Gangopadhyay and a few others, participated in the Asian Literary Leaders' Conference in Washington DC,USA, where he had informal discussions with some international writers on the movement. When he presented Kobisena to poet Derek Walcott, the Nobel laureate wrote on it:'With thanks'. His visit to some other countries including Bangladesh helped spread to some extent the gospel of this movement abroad. To reach the common non-literary audience, several issues of Kobisena and Prakalpana Literature were published with consumer datebooks which proved popular. In addition to the artists and mail artists like Jorge Ignacio Nazavel Cowan, Syamoli Mukherjee Bhattacharjee, Mick Cusimano, Christian Burgaud, Carla Bertola, Vattacharja Chandan, Norman J. Olson, Hugo Pontes etc., they have also published the works of eminent artists like Rabindranath Tagore, Ramkinkar Baij, Mukul Dey, Sunil Das, Rabin Mandal, Ramananda Bandyopadhyay, Pranabesh Maity &c. Here are samples how the international neutral critics are viewing this movement:

"...the other day, I received a brilliant small press mag from India, Prakalpana Literature, written half in Bengali and half in English, and filled with oddities from around the world. I am not sure that I can describe the delirious enthusiasm of this magazine, it begins with "Global Litmosphere", a report on various obscure works from France, Ireland, Taiwan, Ukraine, UK, US, India and even Canada. This leads into a hundred pages of tightly-packed prose, poetry, comics, drawings, and commentaries, some in Bengali, some in English....." –Natalie Simpson in Filling Station # 26[3]

"A collaborative effort by Indian writers and western writers.... It seems a positive gesture in establishing communication between different literary and geographical worlds." –Scavangers Newsletter[4]

Kobisena the Poet Troop[edit | edit source]

In September 1972 at a convention in Vidyasagar Hall in Kolkata, triggered off a new outfit named Kobisena (meaning Poet troop) of the poetry by the poetry and for the poetry. Accordingly, a pamphlet of four pages, edited by Vattacharja Chandan and published by Rabindra Bhattacharya was out in December, being the mouthpiece of the Sarbangin Poetry Movement—the poetry front of Prakalpana Movement. About Sarbangin Poetry (Kobita) Steve LeBlanc observed:

" In order to separate prakalpana from collage poetry and other forms of experimental literature, Chandan introduces the concept of 'Sarbangin Kobita'-- poetry that grows out of proper imagination, feeling and realization. Sarbangin Kobita reveals what Chandan describes as chetanavyasism (wholeness of cosmic matter and revealed sense) while utilizing the wholesome and artful repetition of words and visuals, sonorous and mathematical effects in Flow Verse rhythm. The term Sarbangin itself derives from Chandan's poem 'Kobitaay Sarbangin Amritakharan' and an accompanying theoretical essay 'Sarbangin Kobita Jagga' published in Kobisena, a sister publication of Prakalpana Literature." –Songs of Kobisena by Steve LeBlanc[5]

Rabindra Bhattacharya left the movement thereafter soon. But Kobisena has been continuing its run still today, piloted by the same editor to publish its new kind of Sarbangin Poetry and to popularise poetry through public performances of poetry reading even in unlikely places like outside the corn field in a village, in front of book stalls of Bengal Cultural Conference, at Kolkata Book Fair, or Kolkata Art Fair, in spite of being encountered by other stall owners which hampered their sales due to the gathering of large crowd attracted by their open readings. In 1973, Kobisenas even stormed into the East Zone Cultural Conference, convened by the government, in procession with posters and festoons and questioned the organizers as to why the new poetry and poets had not been included as the subject of discourses, which resulted in pandemonium and hurried closure of the day's session and thereafter the capture of the dias by the Kobisenas and rejuvenate the session.[6][7] Besides they kicked off crazy extempore readings at fairs, train, street, beneath the statue, even on the merry go round as well as at countless literary fests and seminars in different grounds and halls. Just as one was the Prakalpana Litfest 2009 on 6 September, the Prakalpana Day in Jibanananda Sabhaghar, Kolkata. Many eminent persons had graced these occasions in different times, to name some of them: Nagarjun, Monindra Roy, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Prakash Karmakar, Madison Morrison, Amitava Dasgupta, Ananda Ghoshhajra, Sandipan Chattopadhyay...&c. On several occasions Kobisenas used painted hats, belts and peculiar attires and musical instruments to attract the audience.[8] The performers of poetry who in different times made their marks were Bablu Roy Choudhury, Rabindra Bhattacharya, Kashinath Mandal, Narak Das, Ashok Bosu, Arun Kumar Chakraborty and Vattacharja Chandan. Chandan even uses his music and songs with his performance of poetry. Since the eighties Kobisena has been published bilingual to reach the global shore. So far it has forty-four issues infrequently published. And this small pamphlet has been an avid traveller around the world. But as to how it has fared, let us read a bit of unaffiliated independent reactions:
" This is an eight sided issues focusing avant garde/ experimental poetry which frequently includes graphics in the body of the work. The pamphlet is unusual in several ways, It is bilingual, printed in Bengali and English, and it carries the exhortation Please copy this issue and distribute anywhere in the globe....The poetry found in Kobisena is full of the same concerns poets write of everywhere: relationship and family, life and love, existence and imagination. This small pamphlet provides some interesting work, strong enough to make the reader pause for reflection." –John Crook in New Hope International Review Online, UK.[9]

"...there's a definite charge that comes with having something this weird show up in your mailbox. The poems are adorned with faces and illustrations that have been xeroxed and xeroxed to the point where their resolution is beginning to degenerate: I can't tell you if these are part of the poem or just layout ornamentation together, which, far from detracting, is part of the appeal some people in India cobbled this fragile packet of meaning together and somehow it traveled from person to person until a stranger sent it to me in Chicago and I put the words on the Internet and they found way to you. Musing on this process makes this strange document a potent testament to both the durability and the ephermerality of human communication. Like holding a grain of sand that came from halfway around the world". –JPB in[10]

Sample Sarbangin Poems[edit | edit source]

Brett K. Fletcher : IM

IM ancient
No I was N
Times of antiquity
Yet IM 2
Though time is A
Passing phase
IM life
And death is
NO stranger

Dilip Gupta : 303-0020

I'm full in three (3)
I come
To naught in zero (0)
Again I become full in three (3)
In full-in naught-in full
playrolls thus eternal;

He who is naught, never be full,
So, come to naught twice (00)
Then, my egotism puts me

: : : : : : to equivalence (2);

Again, come back to naught (0)!

Charlene Mary-Cath Smith : E-M-I-T

June rainlet replace

July lightning bold that's my

memory of you

Amari Hamadene : The Algerian Summer

Oh Algeneralities!
There was all to purge in the bran-tub of our bodies

The intuition was deployed out there
until the tame tips of our eyebrows
(who remembers again?)

of the smirk of the French schoolmistress who lapped up an ice-cream cone (in bikini on its balcony), to the swarthy butcher (in front of her) who delighted himself and in the same attitude, codified
his teeth with a matchstick,
of the harmonious tracing of the hand of the bus driver who shrewdly rolled a cigarette to his ear, to the summer in roadstead, beach towel on the shoulder and a parasol tinkered with planks, carried to four, by children,

Direction the beach ===========>

Oh Algeneralities!
There is all to not forget from the souvenirs of our bodies
ALL of these beautiful years

(remember you again?)

of the tough oafs in dark glasses (put on the dog), to the runts going for a ride with a Hi-fi on
the top of the seats of their motorcycles,

of the poodle of the false blonde who pissed to the bottom of every arbor on the beach, to the burnt head of the Jamaican in dreadlocks who "tanned his hide" until the sunset,

of the razor-shearers of the scorcher which smoked the North African spitroast lamb in our heads, to the strident din of cicadas behind furniture of the hotel rooms,

and of the deep' do you remember again? (the only reality in here) and of the beggar outside the gate of the mosque, who on earth, meditated while having a forty winks on her chador,
wrapped in a pillow, do you remember again?, and of the black moustaches of the entertainer who peered at us in the rear-view mirror of his dark Peugeot, do you remember again
the tattoo in his arm?
"You + Me = forever".

Translation: Paul Kazantzaki

Bablu Roy Choudhury : Really Nothing Loses

1 day every sense of life

in this systematic world
becomes slave

Echo fades ...........
in the atoms...........
of space .............

Edward Mycue : DIS DOCUMENT

You well and toasty warm? Life not dissing you?
(dis for disrespect, disturbed, disregarded, etc.)
When you spell it dys as in dyslexic,
dysfunctional, dyscalcularic, it sounds maybe
like "diced" as in chopped and diced. Better we
should think distinguished and such more
positive add-ons. though some days you kinda
feel dismembered by all that went on.
(funny isn't it that you get dis-membered, but
that you are be-headed, can you be
bemembered and disheaded?)

Remember to forget?

Vattacharja Chandan : Words

The restless night couldn't sleep as we are not asleep
So many words stored in store to be restored in heart
As we awake ↔ the world awakes
, we sleep ↔ the world sleeps

In the drowsy fragrance of chhatim flower
arises how unspeakable sweet revengeful desire
We are awake so we beget words
words beget words
words grow,
Night grows in words
Pain grows in words
, eases in words

Pain eases in words / Pain grows in words
Night grows in words/ Words grow words
Words beget words

We are awake so we beget words

Peyman Javadi : Zero to Zero

Echo after echo
the bow is heard as well as the
arrow, and row after row,
heaven hosts the remains of the
earth's romantic boasts by admitting
the lonely souls who gave
their all to be two, achieved their
coup, died and finally
turned charmless blue.

Norman J. Olson : To The Military Minded

I am eaten by your uniform

and huddled on the grass. My whispers are most comical but all

of this will pass.

.....for dinka diddle is my glop and oily rivers flow****

I will not count another drop until the flame is low.

So winkle in the viddy-mouth and jab the sinkle star.

for I have 8 fashion plate and am peeing in a jar.

I am eaten by your uniform

and huddled on the grass. My whispers are most comical but all of

this will pass.

Utpal : Meaning World



Who hears?


Who hears whom?


It's a vociferous world O

Meaning ↔

Literature that crosses the boundaries[edit | edit source]

It is uncertain how many, or if any, other movements in the modern literary world can be found like Prakalpana Movement, which has been running even after crossing the hurdles of four decades. Still the humble impact of Prakalpana Movement as arguably perhaps one of the most important among the experimental and avant garde literary scene in India that has a global presence at this point of time, is evident from the fact that the experimental short stories in Bengali literature seem to have been arranged and deranged on the lines of prakalpana form, which paradoxically is not at all short story. And also the sporadic use of signs, symbols, pictures and henceforth considered unliterary material are being used now in some literature as has been used by Prakalpanites and Kobisenas long ago. Nowadays adopting the western ways and styles is the trendy high tide, rampant and go with the flow downstream everywhere else as in Bengali Literature and art since the colonial days. But being based in Bengali literature, export of the indigenous new concepts of Prakalpana, Chetanavyasism, Sarbangin Poetry, Flow Verse... etc. into the global literary arena in reverse swing from India is an arduous task in the low tide against strong high tides to the upstream. This is more so especially for a non-commercial non-conforming yet non-confronting alternative movement like Prakalpana, being completely independent of the myth of mainstream establishment and anti-establishment and new media communications.

This goal might seem however implausible and ambitious to be achieved by an independent alternative literary and art movement like Prakalpana, but not to its artificer and mentor Vattacharja Chandan, who has been spearheading the Movement in each and every theory and practice so far without bothering for any obstacles from the very beginning. And with his world vision catalogue, he still wants to gear up this movement, simply and solely banking on the virtual latent support of some independent, known and unknown brand new and old band of writers, artists and readers scattered around the world. His immediate associate Prakalpanite teammates currently include Ramratan Mukhopadhyay, Nikhil Bhaumik, Bablu Roy Choudhury, Syamoli Mukherjee Bhattacharjee, Boudhayan Mukhopadhyay, and Utpal.

The Prakalpanites simply want to plant and spread the seeds of a few new Chetanavyasist species in the literary and art world. But whether they will weather the storm or wither away in some unfavorable literary climate, or forest and flower in a new earth in the new millennium, only the future will say. But so far their spirit is, as one daily newspaper once commented:

" The blue blood of the Kobisenas' pen never dries up".

[11] And as of this time,
"For literature that crosses the boundaries this is a good place to look".

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Songs of Kobisena by Steve LeBlanc, Version 90, PMS Cafe Press, Alston, MS, USA.
  2. Sarbangin Artmosphere, Generator, Number 7, Mentor, OH, USA.
  3. Natalie Simpson in Filling Station # 26, Calgary, Canada.
  4. Scavangers Newsletter, Osage City, KS, USA.
  5. Songs of Kobisenaby Steve LeBlanc, Version 90, PMS Cafe Press, Alston, MS, USA.
  6. Ananda Bazar Patrika, Kolkata, 30 December 1973.
  7. Purba Bharatiya Sanskritir Ruprekha P 271, Dr. Nilkanta Singh, West Bengal Government, Kolkata, 1977.
  8. Satyajug, Kolkata, 10 January 1983.
  9. John Crook in New Hope International Review Online, UK.
  10. JPB in zines/ reviews.
  11. Dainik Basumati, Kolkata.
  12. Ku in New Hope International Review On Line, UK.
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