Shayok Chowhury’s “Creation Myth: My Childbride Great-Grandmother and a Hilsa Fish

Poem: “Creation Myth: My Childbride Great-Grandmother and a Hilsa Fish”
Poet: Shayok Chowhury
Magazine: Lantern Review
http://www.lanternreview.com/issue3/1_2.html
Blogger: A. Schafer

Shayok Chowdhury’s poem, “Creation Myth: My Chilbride Great-Grandmother and a Hilsa Fish” weaves a compelling story that experiments with line breaks, yielding interesting results. The poem’s structure is built around a regular framework of seventeen stanzas each two lines long. Despite its apparent rigidity of form the poem moves with exceptional fluidity, and I found myself reading the poem in a way that reminded me of a shallow river cascading through its bed, sometimes with a faster pace, sometimes with a much slower pace.

Chowdhury’s utilization of line breaks expresses a remarkable amount of creativity. In the fourth stanza, which reads, “the cold packed dirt that holds her/ captive in this new murder, shh-she” the author wiggles in a little rhyme shared between the phrase “hold her” and “murder.” The line break strategically remodels the rhythm of the stanza, with the first line wrapping up in seven syllables, and the second line culminating in its seventh syllable just at the end of “murder,” emphasizing the rhyme in a way typically observed in an end rhyme scheme, except with a subtlety that pervades the rest of the piece.

Soft “s” sounds add a quiet tone to the poem that blends nicely with the subtleness of the poem’s rhythm. The assonance in stanza ten and stanza eleven creates an effective transition from the focus on the girl’s actions and the fish. Stanza ten, which reads, “swimming with sweatstung tears/ and the sting of skin” breaks almost unnoticeably into stanza eleven, “ stripped from flesh/ divided into iron pans: here.”

Chowdhury’s innovative approach to structure controls the pace of the poem, and each line often prompts revisiting. Repetitive sounds in the opening stanzas slow the poem’s pace. Chowdhury ends the second stanza and begins the third stanza with the same phrase, “with ease.” The third stanza repeats “shh-she” in the first and second line, and the sound of “ease” and “breathes” produces another interior rhyme that shapes the pace and tone of the stanza with subtlety. Chowdhury’s couplet structure is incorporated fantastically into the shaping of the poem’s narrative and allows precise control of the poem’s tone and pace. This poem is innovative and fresh, and its mechanics speak as loudly as each word.

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