My poetry-journey1

According to my brother Chitta, when I was four or five years old, I used to say things in poetry form. I could not read or write anything, but I used to say things, going on and on and my brother would write them down. Then, when I was seven or eight years old, he said I became fluent in talking. How I managed to create rhymes, God alone knows. My brother was so amazed at my rhyming capacity when I was seven or eight. At that time I did not write anything.

Then, when I came to the Ashram, Chitta taught me Bengali metre. It took him about a week or so. He had studied this subject and he was well versed in Bengali metre. There are quite a few Bengali metres. English also has got iamb, trochee, spondee and others, but Bengali has more metres. Chitta taught me and my ear was fortunately very well trained. Tagore's poems he took as examples and then he said, "This is how it was done." There are many poems of Tagore's that are very, very easy to scan and then there are some metres that are very, very complicated. Those also I learned.

There are two Bengali metres that are very common. One deals with the words and the other deals with the sounds. In India, I composed poems using both sound and letter metres, but here it seems to me I have written the sound metre more often than the letter metre. When I started writing Uthe jakhan pub gagane savita2 my brother was in the seventh Heaven of delight because the metre was correct. Again, I have written some poems using both metres together, the sound metre and the letter metre. Those poems were very difficult, very difficult.

I started writing in June or July 1944. How many of my disciples had been born at that time? In 1945, I wrote two hundred poems. I sent about fifty of them to Dilip Roy to read. He lived on the same block. The house where I lived was at one end and his was at the other end. He read the poems and said nice things about them. Only one spelling mistake he found. The word was shardul (tiger). I spelt it one way and he corrected it. There was one thing that I did not know. When the peacock raises all its plumage, there is a special verb in Bengali to describe it. I did not know the word, so he wrote it. At the end, he gave a very kind comment.

My Bengali teacher was very fond of me. He translated my play The Descent of the Blue into Bengali. He was a very close friend of my eldest brother's. He also used to write poems. Whenever I finished a poem, I used to run to show it to my Bengali teacher. He was so kind to me. Another person who helped, me was Biren Palit, who wrote the poem Tomari hok jai. I used to literally run to show him my creations and he showered his flood of appreciation and affection on me. This is how I started my poetry-journey.

Once, I went with fifty poems to the Ashram's greatest poet. His name was Nishikanto. He was absolutely the greatest poet among the Ashramites, by far and he was very, very kind to me. When I was around seventeen, one literary society declared a poetry competition. I thought it was for young people like us, so I submitted my poem Alo Pakhi Alo.3 Who ever imagined that Nishikanto and Dilip Roy would join the competition! The organisers selected about forty poems, I think, to publish in a book. I could not believe it: mine was third! First was Nishikanto's and second was Dilip Roy's. Then came mine.

  1. WSI 31. 19 August 2002, Aspiration-Ground, Jamaica, New York

  2. WSI 31,3. Sri Chinmoy, Pole-Star Promise-Light, Part 3, song 1, New York: Agni Press, 1975

  3. WSI 31, 6. It is believed that Sri Chinmoy is referring to his poem Ekti Katha. Sri Chinmoy, The Garden of Love-Light, Part 1, song 43, Santurce, Puerto Rico: Aum Press, 1973