Letters/Litters: “where in the waste is the wisdom?” – A Review of …Urine, Yoghurt, Psychotomy

…Urine, Yoghurt, Psychotomy by Richik Banerjee

Reviewed by Rishiraj Pal


A conglomerate of poems and not-poems, writings and (k)not-writings, words and (k)not-words, Richik Banerjee in his new book, …Urine, Yoghurt, Psychotomy, has effectively created a knot and nots. Punctuated not only with “Two Commas and That Voice” but with multiple warnings and invites, the textual space of this particular book attempts to offer a perverse logic of the garbage. Poetry here is cunningly visual, visceral, quite often mathematical, and more often than not, scatological. His faecal-poetry is as obnoxious and disgusting as it gets, leading the reader through his dark, dingy, labyrinthine sewage tunnel.

That Banerjee has been studying a lot of Western thinkers is betrayed or is evident in his quick references—“Rhizomes”, or “the logic of the cut”, among others—but that does not overwhelm the corporeality of his poetics. It is this corporeal aesthetics of his word-matter that draws our attention to his body of poems marked by debilitating dots and disgruntling denials. It is the corporeal aesthetics of his word-matter that draws our attention to his body of poems (bawdy poems) marked by debilitating dots and disgruntling denials. The sheet of the paper is marked/mocked by self-reflexive and ironical word-play. And a form of braiding would emerge – the flesh of the poem intertwines with a readerly flesh that wanders and returns, exclaims and sighs. Richik’s poetry frustrates our expectations and prepares us for his upcoming volumes as the book declares at the end—”More Excreta Coming Up.”

…Urine, Yoghurt, Psychotomy ruffles the more comfortable arrangement that poetry has often patronized. It not only brings about a defamiliarizing effect upon the middle-class, bilingual, Bengali sensibilities but also opens up a new vista in twenty-first experimental poetry in a global format. I hope this book finds its right audience for it to be fully appreciated not for what it has done but especially for what it consciously avoids doing. It is this negotiation that creates a curiously tense environment. As one of the blurbs aptly suggests, it is almost a neo-Dadaist form of writing marked by scatological humor and rough-hewn sensuality. Social and cultural references abound but almost in a stream of consciousness style; the references lose their valences immediately because of their irrelevance. The labyrinthine sewage-tunnel of poetry that we enter and roam around in without a directional sense is, perhaps, the shared mindscape where his perverse poetics unfold.

“One person’s trash, even in its most nauseating forms, is another person’s data. Garbage, be it flushed, discarded or recycled, carries a wealth of information about people’s decisions and behaviours, which you often can’t get anywhere else.” (Chris Baraniuk, “Garbology: How to spot patterns in people’s waste”, BBC.com). Richik Banerjee, almost like a garbologist, sifts through human detritus to reveal the secrets and conspiracies of human existence. He works his way through the metaphor and materiality of human bodily waste to present a critique of consumerism and market-driven economy, the fetishized desires of the middle-class folks who got comfortably numb while all the social evils are swept under the rug.

A combination of letters and litters, Banerjee’s book is an experimentation in fine nonsense. As Beckett wrote of James Joyce and Finnegans Wake, “His writing is not about something. It is that something itself.” (Samuel Beckett, “Dante… Bruno. Vico… Joyce”). Similarly, in …Urine, Yoghurt, Psychotomy writing has a narcissistic gaze; it embellishes its tricky operations through fluid language and non-language; at times, almost bidding adieu to language, the page stares at the reader laughing at her predicament. Banerjee’s poetry is untameable here. A commedia of human existence, debunking the autonomy expression, he stretches the limits of expression to its logical extreme and the gibberish takes up algebraic and pseudo-arithmetic form. Meaning resides in that liminal space of reading/experiencing where the jerks of eye muscles meet the textures of word-flesh and where wisdom is attained through a realisation of the waste. The pleasure of experiencing this kind of poetry is heightened if one is initiated into the works of Marquis de Sade, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salvador Dali and Alejandro Jodorowsky.