Depoeticized Rhapsody by Sarwar Morshed | Book Review

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Depoeticized Rhapsody by Sarwar Morshed

It’s not Poetry from the Cuckooland

Depoeticized Rhapsody

Book Review by

Md. Mohin Uddin Mizan

Department of English Language and Literature
University of Chittagong


Book Name: Depoeticized Rhapsody

Author: Sarwar Morshed

Publisher: APPI (Academic Press & Pubishers Library)



Depoeticized Rhapsody is, oxymoronically speaking, a poetic endeavor that aims at delineating the constantly changing modern life-scape. Justifiably enough, the book can be termed as a miscellanea as it accommodates diverse literary genres i.e. poetry (rhymed or free verse), epistolary and fictional pieces within the precincts of a single book. Here, you readers are going to find out how the poet views elements of both the microcosm and macrocosm through an interesting and highly personalized lens. The realms of these poems vastly extend to encompass ecology, technology, emotion, politics, pollution, transcendentalism and so on. The ever fleeting ephemeral contemporary times and the quintessence of human psyche have been arrested in an unputdownable way.


Sarwar Morshed is not only a poet – he has been writing prose (inclusive of his columns and belles-lettres) both in English and the vernacular for over the last two decades. His verbophilia is well-known among his colleagues and students at the Department of English, Chittagong University. Apart from his academic research writings, he contributes columns to national dailies (Bangladesh) and magazines published from London and Oslo. His books have been reviewed in the leading dailies of Bangladesh like the Daily Star, Daily sun, Daily Jugantor, Dhaka Courier and journals of international repute like Asiatic (Kualalampur, Malaysia).  Apart from the book under discussion, he has to his credit some other amazing titles like Husam Uddiner Election Khela (2009), In the Castle of My Mind (2015) and Rendezvous with Words (2015, 2nd edition is forthcoming).


As this book is a diachronic collection of the poems penned by Sarwar Morshed over the last twenty years, Depoeticized Rhapsody emerges as a dazzling kaleidoscope of our times. The poems deal with issues relevant to our local and global contexts with an outstanding blending of romance, reality and humour. Let me talk about and quote some lines from the poems that touched me most.

If you start your reading journey with the ‘Contents’, let me presume that you will be tempted to go through and ultimately at the end of the perusal, (if you are a language and poetry connoisseur), you will be contented. The poet has written on the plight of the RMG workers (‘Cry No More, Penelope’), on the social media-addiction of the new generation (‘Portrait of a Bibliophile’), about the inhuman sufferings of the Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia (‘Orang Bangla’), on the lip-service paid by some ‘green-enthusiasts’ to the environment (‘Portrait of an Envirophile’) and last but not the least, the lust of the global super-powers for fossil fuels (‘In Praise of Hydrocarbon’), etc. Two sub-categories of poems that arrested my attention are ‘Medical Poetry’ and ‘Poems on IR’.


Let’s cast our glance at the ‘Poems on IR’. Under this head there are seven poems: ‘Requiem for UN’, ‘IS- A Terran Serpent’, ‘If Said could stone down’, ‘Dirge for SAARC’ etc. The controversial role of the UN (United Nations) has been artistically projected in ‘Requiem for UN’. The poem in its corpus houses all the major issues of the contemporary world – the unending Palestine-Israel conflict, civil war of Rwanda, Rohingya crisis, and that ‘humanity washed ashore’ incident:


“UN, UN you are non-existant
An ethereal entity, a papier mache
Ailan’s death has finally declared
You  biologically dead”


Like the UN, the poet nicely apostrophizes SAARC:

You are under the claws of a shark”
(‘Dirge for SAARC’)


The poem on IS is informative and entertaining at the same time. The readers come to discover that ISIS is a goddess from the polytheistic pantheon of Egypt:


ISIS is no Nile-flooding Isis

With any Osiris!


In a rather anorexic volume of poetry, Mr. Morshed has extended his poetic shadow on many topics and he has consummated the task quite wonderfully. The book has a poem with the title ‘SMS’ where the poet rechristens human beings as Homo Textus! In ‘To Currency’ how realistically he invokes money!-


You are a humanist to the core,

Brahmins can touch you and can

Kyasthas, Shudras and many more.

Christians can pocket you,

And Moslems and Buddhists and Jews

For you trans-belief travel who sues?


And in the poem ‘Portrait of a Bibliophile’, what a status is posted by the father warning his facebookaholic son! –


Fb, fb burning bright,

Stay not connected day and night.

Let your networking Rome in Cyber Tiber melt,

Don’t poke that girl svelt.


The young readers will find some cuckooland elements in poems like ‘The Physics of Love’, ‘Anatomical Complaints of a Lover’ (highly eulogized by some native speakers of English like Barry, Moya et al), ‘Yesterday’s Newspaper’, ‘Wearing You’ and ‘Texting Tears’.


The three poems that I believe will touch the readers most are ‘Orang Bangla’, ‘Cry No More, Penelope’ and ‘Nineveh Lands on Nimtali’. In ‘Orang Bangla’, the poet presents an almost videographic picture of the ordeals of an illegal Bangladeshi worker in Malaysia who reached his El Dorado on ‘Tarzan visa’ –


You came here through forests dense

On Tarzan visa.

Should I call your father, police?

‘Hello, Inspector Tansri Wahab’-


David Smalling considers this poem as ‘a true piece of anthropological write’. In ‘Cry No More, Penelope’ Sarwar Morshed delineates the (s)exploitation of our RMG girls by making reference to an episode in Homer’s Odyssey:

”Cry no more, Penelope, weave no more,
Cease embroidering your ante-diluvium dreams

Cease weaving and weeping,
For, never will your Odysseus come.
Ye the dream-laden Penelopes
Weep and weave……..” 



In ‘Nineveh Lands on Nimtali’ written on the Nimtali fire incident that claimed 124 lives in 2010, the poet highlights the Nietzschean spirit of our people:


Elemental gourmand,

We extinguished you and the lamentation


And know ye,

Hope in human breasts is a relay-race.


In After Strange Gods Eliot wrote: “I should say that in one’s prose reflections one may be legitimately occupied with ideals, whereas in the writing of verse one can deal only with actuality.” The name Depoeticized Rhapsody is reminiscent of the following lines from Anne Bradstreet’s‘The prologue’-

“Of Cities founded, Common-wealths begun,

For my mean Pen are too superior things;….

My obscure lines shall not so dim their worth.”


Here the poetess is seen to express her incapability of writing on mighty topics like wars, captains, kings, or cities of commonwealths; she blames her ill-formed feeble brain and Muse for giving her “broken, blemished” words. But, we readers know how much skillful she is and the poem itself is Bradstreet’s most intellectually stimulating one. Similarly, albeit the poet here has assumed Bradstreetesque humility, after going through this book even the lay reader of poetry can easily perceive how much poetic Sarwar Morshed’s craft is or how well-versed he is in versification.



Walt Whitman was once asked about the ideal stuff for making great poetry. In response, the American National poet said, ‘reject nothing’.  In Depoeticized Rhapsody, Sarwar Morshed has transformed the too mundane, prosaic stuff (even lota or bodna in ‘Ode to Bodna’) a la mode Whitman into ‘mouthwateringly tasty poetry’. I whole-heartedly thank Sarwar Morshed and APPL for publishing such an enticing book of verses that oozes with the juice of ripe strawberries from the garden of the poet.


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