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Poems by Bashabi Fraser

Dr Bashabi Fraser, CBE is Professor Emerita of English and Creative Writing, Edinburgh Napier University; Director, Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies (ScoTs); a Royal Literary Fund Writer and an Honorary Fellow at the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh.

Bashabi is a poet, children’s writer, editor and academic. She is the recipient of a CBE (2021 Queen’s New Year Honours) for Education, Culture and Integration and has been declared Outstanding Woman of Scotland by Saltire Society in 2015.  Her other awards include Kavi Salam from Poetry Paradigm and Voice of the Republic in India in 2019; the Word Masala Foundation Award for Excellence in Poetry in 2017; Special Felicitation as a Poet on International Women’s Day by Public Relations Society of India, 2017; Rabindra Bharati Society Honour, 2014; Women Empowered: Arts and Culture Award in 2010 and the AIO Prize for Literary Services in Scotland in 2009.  

Bashabi has authored and edited 23 books, published several articles and chapters, both academic and creative and as a poet, has been widely anthologised. Her recent publications include Patient Dignity (2021), Rabindranath Tagore, a critical biography (2019), The Ramayana, A Stage Play and a Screen Play (2019) and My Mum’s Sari (2019).


When you walk beneath my boughs

They make a canopy above your gaze –

So intricate that the sky appears in glimpses

And if you invade my domain

You will find your steps impeded by the foliage

That flourishes between the stalwart trunks

Of my populace – this earth’s rich heritage.

You can feel the deep silence of my presence

Which embraces your every alert sense.

This is where the leopards lurk

The deer stand still or leap away,

Here I have the foxes’ den

The pheasants’ call, the rhino’s horn

The bison herds between my bark

And birds of every hue and cry

Send sharp signals

To all prey

Who slink away

Amidst my intense density

Where monkeys chatter

And squirrels scatter

Nuts and fruits

Against my roots

And blooms that vie

In shape and colour

To attract and capture

The insect life that is enraptured

By the habitat I provide.

But you have set a tidal wave

That sweeps under the forest glade

Pushing my treeline back

To the edge of life’s brink.

You have cleared me to plant cash crops

You have cleared me to graze cattle

You have cleared me to cultivate

You have cleared me to build your homes,

Your roads, your factories and fires,

To paper walls, to write your tales,

To feed your staggering race

That overfills this planet’s face.

You have set in motion soil erosion

You have let landslides, mudslides crush.

My roots that keep the earth soil porous,

Now removed, cause floods that flash.

I hold carbon dioxide

I release your precious oxygen

You slash at your very lungs

With every tree you crash for gain

As the air above turns heavy with

Greenhouse gases that spell death.

Every day you calmly clear

Twenty football field-size land

Of virgin forest that today stand

Between you and your destruction.

So twelve million hectares

Disappear every year.

This is a war you now wage

With cutting-edge technology –

Bulldozers that neatly raze

And road graders and log skidders

That bare the earth’s surface –

Till in a hundred years from now

My forests will exist no more

Replaced by a silence

More terrifying than war.

(Published earlier in Scottish PEB online journal in an issue on Climate Change and Global warming)

The White Space 

The forest calls out from its still centre to the leaf of the book  that came from its heart, in the silent scream of a shared creative agony

The white space

Is like a still lake

Undiscovered in

An emerald grove,

Its silence borne

From the depths

Of a forest

From which

It was torn –

The screams

Of death


But smothered

In our factories

And gathered

Into pages

Waiting to be

Ruffled into

Ripples that will

Shatter the surface

And reveal

The secret

Of sighs

Of rustling leaves,

The shooting

Desires of tendrils,

The wisdom

Of the dark bark

And the ambition

Of branches

Waiting to find

A voice to spill

Over and fill

The white space.


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