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Shakti Chattopadhay ( ) (November 25, 1934 - March 23, 1995) was a Bengali poet. Shakti started writing in 1950s, but is usually associated with the generation of poets in 1960's. Regarded with great acclaim in Bengali literature, Shakti is equally well known for his legendary bohemian lifestyle. Most of Shakti's life was spent in Kolkatamarker, Indiamarker. During Allen Ginsberg's stay in India, the American poet is said to have developed a close friendship with Chattopadhay, and both are said to have influenced each other in various ways.

Shakti Chattopadhyay’s first collection of poems, named হে প্রেম, হে নৈঃশব্দ্য He Prem, He Noihshôbdo (O Love, O silence) came out in 1962. These poems were written at Chaibasa, Singbhum district in Bihar (now in Jharkhand) where he was guest of Samir Roychoudhury for a few years and fell in love with Samir's sister-in-law, which changed Shakti from a novelist to the best lyric poet after Rabindranath Tagore. In the next thirty-two years, he wrote around two thousand five hundred poems which were published through forty-five books.

Along with Sunil Gangopadhyay, Shakti remains the most famous poet of his generation. He was the leader of the Hungryalists (হাংরি আন্দোলন), also known as the Hungry generation poets, which changed the course of Bengali poetry once for all. He, along with Malay Roy Choudhury, Samir Roychoudhury and Debi Ray had launched the movement in November 1961 from Patna where Malay resided at that time. In fact, till date Hungryalism (হাংরি আন্দোলন) remains the only literary movement in Bengal. With Sunil, he was instrumental in the influential Krittibash magazine. These two poets are often referred together as "Sunil-Shakti" due to their friendship, poems and personal exploits. Together with two other friends, they feature in what is probably the most representative poem of that generation of poets, containing the now famous line মধ্যরাতে কলকাতা শাসন করে চারজন যুবক Moddhorate Kolkata shashon kôre charjon jubok (In midnight, Kolkatamarker is ruled by four young men).

In 1983, he received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his collection of entitled যেতে পারি কিন্তু কেন যাবো Jete Pari Kintu Kêno Jabo (I can go but why?).

This ever-bohemian legend died on March 23, 1995.

Selected works

Poetry

  • হে প্রেম হে নৈঃশব্দ্য He prem he noishshôbdo
  • ধর্মেও আছো জিরাফেও আছো Dhôrmeo achho jirafeo achho
  • সোনার মাছি খুন করেছি Shonar machhi khun korechhi
  • হেমন্তের অরণ্যে আমি পোস্টম্যান Hemonter ôronne ami posṭmên
  • মাটির বাড়ি Parer kantha maṭir baṛi
  • চতুর্দশপদী কবিতাবলি Choturdôshpodi kobitaboli
  • প্রভু নষ্ট হয়ে যাই Probhu nôshṭo hoe jai
  • সুখে আছি Shukhe achhi
  • ইশ্বর থাকেন জলে Ishshor thaken jôle
  • অস্ত্রের গৌরবহীন একা Ostrer gourobhin êka
  • জ্বলন্ত রুমাল Jôlonto rumal
  • ছিন্ন বিচ্ছিন্ন Chhinno Bichhinno
  • সুন্দর এখানে নয় Shundor ekhane nôe
  • কবিতার তুলো ওরে Kobitar tulo ore
  • আমি ছিঁড়ে ফেলি ছন্দ তন্তুজাল Ami chhĩṛe feli chhôndo tontujal
  • হেমন্ত যেখানে থাকে Hemonto jekhane thake
  • আয় আমি যে পাথরে Ae ami je pathore
  • যেতে পারি কিন্তু কেন যাবো Jete pari kintu kêno jabo


Sample work

Following is the translation of a poem called চাবি Chabi (The key) from one of his early collections, ধর্মেও আছো জিরাফেও আছো Dhôrmeo achho jirafeo achho (In religion and in giraffe).

The Key

Till this day here lies with me

Lost long ago, your dearest key

You open still that chest of yours?

Touching your lips, that beauty spot,

A new land has my own heart got?

Now, right now, I write to thee.

Your key is there in loving care,

The time has come for you to dare,

Please write, if you do want it back?

In memories of no big need

Your tears, malay .., lie like a seed

Please write, if you do want it back?

অবনী, বাড়ি আছো Ôboni, Baṛi Achho (Oboni, are you home?)

Following is a recitation from a section of a poem written by Shakti.


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