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Robert’s Final – Mukhopadyay’s “The Sunset Hour”

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Cognitive Poetry: Mukhopadhyay’s “The Sunset Hour”

We would normally expect the metaphor of the sun as a scrambled egg to be associated with sunrise, dawn, or morning. In “The Sunset Hour,” however, Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadyay unexpectedly associates this with the setting sun. This reversed association – or, at least reversed for most neurotypical readers – strengthens Mukhopadyay’s poetic style. Reading his work, neurotypical readers must visualize and combine normally unrelated images and concepts. For the neurotypical reader, this experience might mirror an autistic person’s experience reading neurotypical literature. In “The Sunset Hour,” as in many of Mukhopadyay’s poems, unexpected metaphors and associations create a uniquely stimulating cognitive poetic experience. Many of our expectations of sunset – comfort, security, and routine – are presented alongside of discomfort, vulnerability, and chaos.

Sunset can be associated with positive concepts of rest or returning home. “The Sunset Hour” partially holds true to this. Two birds sat on the electric wires and were “chatting perhaps about each other’s nests,” (4-5) like humans gossiping about their home life at the end of another long and eventful day. The next line of the poem, however, provides an unanticipated context to this otherwise domestic scene; while the birds chatted, the “light of the sun got scrambled” (6). Scrambling, as discussed earlier, carries connections to breakfast and morning. By inverting this connection, Mukhopadyay provides us with an interesting and logical perspective: eggs can be scrambled at any time of day.

From yet another perspective, however, scrambling is hectic and far from homey. Throughout much of the poem, Mukhopadyay presents several uncomfortable images that contrast with the comforting images of the sunset hours. The “downtown seemed to tremble” and “the streets were…congested” (7-8), highlighting an all too common reality of sunset and the end of the day: after work traffic. This contrasts with the earlier image of cozy domestic avian conversations and reinforces Mukhopadyay’s realistic perspective on this often cliché hour of the day. Reading further, we learn that “the cars, too, seemed scrambled” as their drivers rushed home “as restlessly / as the city veering into purple” (13-15). To get home to cozy conversations about their “nests,” the people must put up with uncomfortable traffic.

Purple appears many times throughout the poem – 4 out of 6 stanzas – and brings with it implications of bruising or shadow. As expected, sunset can be viewed as “darkness” arriving in a literal and figurative way. In this poem, though, purple serves more to convey the pain of a sunset. Returning to the notion of scrambling, we might think that, in response to the sun’s no doubt painful scrambling, the earth turning purple (3) and “the pavement turning purple” (9) function as the sun’s bruises.

Mukhopadyay ends the poem with a return to comforting images. “The street lamps lit up as usual / glowing through the darkness,” (16-17) even as the sun finally disappeared from view “into a tomb of velvet purple” (19). Like the rest of the poem, we encounter here a continued struggle between comfort, security, and routine – the streetlamps turn on the same as always – and discomfort, vulnerability, and chaos – the streets clogging, the sun dying, the sun scrambling. Rethinking sunset with these metaphors, as Mukhopadyay says in “More than a thing to ignore: an interview with TRM” by Ralph James Savarese, “becomes the stepping stone to better cognition.”

[Words: 549]

Written by Robert

December 8th, 2010 at 11:23 am

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