Review of Kiriti Sengupta’s ‘The Earthen Flute’ by Dustin Pickering, Editor-in-chief of Harbinger Asylum

“The collection peruses the theme of the civilization’s blessings, as well as themes of spirit, resurrection, jubilation, and redemption. Most complex and elegant collection of Sengupta I read,” says Dustin Pickering while he reviews Dr. Kiriti Sengupta’s “The Earthen Flute.”   

the earthen flute book of poems, Kiriti Sengupta writer, Indian English writers, Indian English literature  In this small volume of delightful verses, Dr. Kiriti Sengupta speaks again of the human condition and the hidden truth of religion. The two remain inseparable in his work altogether. An odd affirmation of life is shaped here in this volume: Sengupta, in an age when so much is taken for granted and our strongest blessings are seen as hindrances, directs us to the somethings we have missed. As the poetic work draws toward its end he makes an interesting comparison, whether intentionally or by chance. He reflects on his engagement ring after comparing civilization to a diamond. The symbolism here implies we are married metaphorically to our condition, and the fact that he ties his engagement ring with the sense of “what is missing” reveals his feeling for the skeptical pessimism driving the contemporary world. He believes it is humanity in its nonage, still kicking in the womb.

            In “Mother Water,” our earth is further recognized as a womb and Sengupta clarifies that this womb, like a mother’s womb, is built to withstand force, penetration, stretching, and suffering. The Ganga absorbs the fallen and the dead into its mouth. It swells; it fills the persons of Hinduism with reverence and awe. It is recognized that this swelling river is a force itself, and not just an expression of force. It swallows the dead, cleanses the earth, and by its violent motions is a concentrated power that demands adulation. Its furies are the callings of the dead to the living to live and heal.

            The poem “Kajal Deeghi” also employs intense water symbolism.

“Leisure around the water
It was named Kajal Deeghi”

In this poem, a woman’s eyes are compared to a lake and the poet is enticed into them. They appear to be a “bird’s nest” that is both a home, and reflection. This implicates that thought resides within, and the eyes are thought’s deepest expression outwardly.

            There is also the poem the title is taken from, “Cryptic Idioms.” This is an interesting poem because it asks an age-old question. The answer is revealed in these lines: “A flute sounds along the serpentine track/ Breath tunes it from mute to high … to crack!” This is a powerful discussion invoked. In political and scientific terms, the poet defines catastrophe theory, laws of emergence, and social complexity. He performs this feat in two simple lines. I am a poet obsessed with political theory and how natural science explains many things besides the material world. All natural things (all existing and living things are part of the natural world in some way, even literature) abide by the laws of nature. There is analysis of the dispersion of fairy tales across cultures using the same methods developed in genetics. A collection of poems, without the knowledge of the poet, follows a rhythm and develops its own rules according to inherent laws of nature that science seeks to uncover. Troy Camplin, an interdisciplinary scholar, discusses the “fractal distribution” of words in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. In this amazing essay, he finds patterns of word repetitions and analyzes their essential fractal geometry. This essay, “Introduction to the Fractal Distribution of Words in a Text,” is available online at

earthen flute poems, writer Kiriti Sengupta, Indian English literature, Indian English writers

            This collection of poems, “The Earthen Flute” is not nearly as simple as it appears.  Let’s take a look at “Let the Flowers Bloom”. The prose poem is highly symbolic of Indian history. This piece is a small miracle of literature. Ultimately, the young boy recalls an India of the Copper Age. The Continent hasn’t been the same after Partition. Bangladesh and India, once of the same continent, are currently shaped by relations of either-or. Sometimes accepting each other as neighbors and at other moments falling into disputes over immigration, the Ganges River waters that Bangladeshis feel robbed of, border disputes, the shortsighted statement of political leaders, or several other things that stir tension, Bangladesh and India are still part of the same soul. The symbolic use of the familiar “Uncle” expresses a sense of discontinuity — who is India really? Partition and religious conflict wrecked the continent, confusing identity. Sengupta assesses the problem fairly in other parts of the collection, as in “Do You Have a Christian Name?”:

“But now I have altered my answer
I say:
‘I’m not sure if Jesus offered names…’”

The most intriguing part of this poem is how subtle the historical question is posed: “A name is usually pre or post-natal!”  Sengupta firmly negates this assumption of his own in the poem.

            Listen to this wordsmith with his delicate use of depth metaphor, calmness and brevity in language, and subtlety of speech. He truly has a vision, and it is a writer’s vision of the world. It defies political realities and ideologies, and it asserts the truly human spirit. The human heart is spoken of bravely, in its lusts and wars, its struggles and despair, its intention to overcome. Hope isn’t toyed with in these poems because the author is brazenly serious, and he does not intend to fool you. But, like a poet, he stuns you with wordplay, imagination, and webs of wisdom. Listen: we know the world suffers. There is nothing we can do. The poet can promise the end of war, a reunion of brothers and sisters, the unity of a war torn country, the happiness of a widow. Art, the hope of our hidden world of complexity, is a light, a shadow cast by alternating and residual struggle: art, it is the lion, the breakfast we savor, the eagle come to sky…art, the reminder we are human; and no matter how old, we are still children seeking refuge in hope, a tearful night in our Mother’s lap with her breast to our mouths.

          Dr. Kiriti Sengupta says what is said in these poems. However, much more is spoken in the crevices of his thought and the steering of his river of wisdom. There is nothing seeking apology here.

Dustin Pickering
Houston, Texas 

(Dustin Pickering is the editor-in-chief of Harbinger Asylum, and he is the founder of Transcendent Zero Press)

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