Manohar Shetty

My first reaction after finishing Manohar Shetty’s Morning Light was the fear of his name being lost like a beautiful tender leaf crushed beneath a pile of dried flowers that blossom only in winters. The second was the sadness of this already happening retrospectively, and the third was of being a responsible reader.

Reviewed by: Nandini Varma
H.K. Kaul

Not quite belonging to the domain of international English poetry, nor integrated with the literary traditions of other Indian languages, Indian poetry in English has often been projected as a homeless genre. The poetry of H.K. Kaul demonstrates, to the contrary, that Indian English poetry possesses the power to express a sense of cultural rootedness in a language that connects it with the rest of the world.

Reviewed by: Radha Chakravarty
K. Srilata

These two sets of lines from two dif-ferent poems of K. Srilata’s Bookmarking the Oasis succinctly depict the vast range of experiences and metaphors she employs in her poetry. The collection offers its readers a spectrum of poetry that speaks of history and memory, politics and subjectivity, natural habitats and urban spaces, and the sensuous and cerebral.

Reviewed by: Yamini
Ranjit Hoskote

The skilled restorer of porcelain will collect not only the visible chips of a broken pot but also the dust
on the table where it rested,’ is a statement made by sociologist Richard Sennett and serves as the epigraph of the poems in the present volume. It proclaims the microscopic and macroscopic range of Hoskote’s compositions.

Reviewed by: Amitendu Bhattacharya
Kazim Ali

Kazim Ali’s poetry allows us more than a glimpse into his rich oeuvre of work resonating with a commitment to creating a language of spiritual and political urgency that walks with soft footsteps. If there was one word to describe Ali’s poetic style and methodology it could well be ‘palimpsestic’. The range of the poems in this collection is wide, poems that are re-imaginings of Quranic and Islamicate myths and figures, translations of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and prose-like poems mapping cities through an autobiographical lens, but in spite of the diversity of engagement they all work with a sense of an ‘always already’.

Reviewed by: Sonali Pattnaik
Mona Dash

A Certain Way is an interesting debut in more ways than one. For Word Masala Foundation and its publishing wing Skylark Publications, this is the first time that they have employed crowd-funding as an innovative method of raising finance to fund a book’s publication. It was clearly a successful venture; the outcome is a well-presented paperback—a first collection of poems by ‘Word Masala New Voice Award Winner’ Mona Dash.

Reviewed by: Debjani Chatterjee
Mani Rao

The book with the yellow cover arrived in a thick yellow envelope on a Sat-urday. It was mid-December, and winter in Delhi was late, though the days had started growing shorter. Over the next few days, I carried it around with me, reading it everywhere I could: in the metro, at work, in bed, and in the bathroom.

Reviewed by: Uttaran Das Gupta
Arundhathi Subramaniam

The moment Arundhathi Subra- maniam’s book came to my hands I was reminded of a song and a story. The song, composed by the eighteenth century Bengali Bhakti (Sakta) saint-poet Ramprasad Sen, is themed around the act of devouring the Goddess Kali (the opening words are: Ebar Kali tomay khabo ….) by Ramprasad, her ardent devotee.

Reviewed by: Nabanipa Bhattacharjee
Sridala Swami

Sridala Swami’s collection Escape Artist is not a sea of several-legged creatures and tangled weeds that confuse an entrant. It has the quiet and spaciousness of an art gallery where each poem focuses on a specific thing, like A sacred text on a grain of rice in her poem ‘Not Loss but Residue’, neatly framed by a larger context, or layers of it. The reader gets time to take in one feeling, one image at a time before they are invited to join the larger connectedness of things.

Reviewed by: Ankita Anand
Sampurna Chatterji

Always a little sceptical of science fic-tion, I would read time travel as a trip up-down memory lane and two-headed green creatures as projections of our own distrust of our diabolic selves, threatening our own planet with fire-balling shotguns, burning beautiful bridges down to dystopian dust. With the surge of TV series on Netflix speculating the futures, suspecting us to be the strangers our parents warned us about, showing us a world that has estranged us, where aliens are amongst us and technology is second pulse; the eternal rising question what is fact, what is fiction is staring back at us as we come to close another decade.

Reviewed by: Aditi Angiras
Tanya Mendonsa

Tanya Mendonsa’s journey across con-tinents, from India to France and back again to India is mirrored in her poetry as a hunger: a thirst for a spiritual way of life in harmony with the physical so that the potentialities of both are realized to the optimum.

Reviewed by: Indu Mallah
Vijay Seshadri

Language is our first line of defence—and also our last resort. Bob Dylan won’t tell you that you’ll be incinerated in a nuclear explosion. He will warn you about getting drenched in a hard rain. A Bengali matriarch, when she looks at the bottom of an empty rice jar will not say dhana shesh (the rice is finished) but dhana prachur (there’s too much rice), trusting that her son will get the message and buy a fresh bag. Language is driven, again and again, by defence mechanisms, obscuring all that we are afraid to acknowledge about ourselves and the world around us.

Reviewed by: Aditya Mani Jha
Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih

If you knew that a British Haiku Society was founded in 1990, you are much bet-ter informed than I am. What surprises me is why it took the Brits so long given their homegrown propensity to be stingy with words.

Reviewed by: Saleem Peeradina
Raza Mir

Urdu is quizzical. First, as a language that is both spoken and written, it communicates thoughts, references, situations, objects, and describes subjective emotions. Urdu has a tangible presence—as alfaaz (words) one can hear and speak Urdu.

Reviewed by: Aratrika Das
Nishat Zaidi

Urdu poetry, indeed, has traversed a long way from the obliquities of Mirza Ghalib, didacticism of Iqbal and the lyrical buoyancy of Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Regardless of countless premature obituaries, Urdu poetry thrives after three centuries, not alone in printed pages but in popular memory.

Reviewed by: Nishant Shah
Rohan Chettri

Rohan Chhetri’s Slow Startle is a true indulgence for lovers of poetry and the written word. His poetry spans various subjects: love, loss, relationships, memories that flood the past, shape the present, and the future. His poems about the pangs of growing up, of coming to terms with his grandfather’s death, a difficult relationship with a father given to uncontrolled spurts of violence, a resigned mother humbled by fate…

Reviewed by: Abrona Lee Pandi Aden
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

The poetic imagination works in mysterious ways but never more so than when it is being unpoetic. Other than what people believe, a poet is not a dreamer, with his head perpetually in the clouds, as the caricature has it. On the contrary, he is someone who walks the firm earth, especially those parts of it that are less than beautiful. Which is why when a well-meaning friend says ‘Come and stay in my cottage in the hills (or my house by the sea), you’ll feel inspired and write lots of poems,’ you know why you’ll never accept the invitation…

Reviewed by: Arvind Kumar
Aditi Rao

Acollection of intimate recollections, The Fingers Remember, Aditi Rao’s debut volume of poetry, provides a cache of memories for the intrepid reader.

Reviewed by: Pallavi Narayan
Rohinton Daruwala

The Sand Libraries of Timbuktu by Rohinton Daruwala is a collection of the poet’s interaction with life, people and situations. Experiences, objects and moments come alive in these poems and take the ordinary into focus. The collection is divided into nine sections.

Reviewed by: Deepti Bhardwaj
Sukrita Paul Kumar

Each time some poem is ripe and I believe ‘ready’ in my head—and my heart heavy with it—a compulsion to deliver urges me to confront the blank sheet … but then, the slow pain of deliverance has to be gone through! Soon enough I realize, it’s a poem in the making and not really ready and complete in the head. The blank sheet stares back at me in defiance each time I sit to write a poem.

Reviewed by: Sukrita Paul Kumar
Hoshang Merchant

‘… tuk-tuk … tuk-tuk … tuk-tuk …’, that’s how emotions are in the latest Hoshang Merchant’s work curated by poet Kazim Ali. The language of love gets explored subtly and consistently as they are introspected from within.

Reviewed by: Sujata Lakhani Mirchandani
Vijay Nambisan

‘The poems that I will make true were born in this interregnum’… Of all the poetic utterances—words that make one sit up and read again, words that hang between despair and a strange resignation, and words that make one begin to believe that, after all, ‘poetry is the only thing that matters’—these words are, as if, whispered into the reader’s ears explaining the birth of these poems into the arena of what we call public. It has been a long wait of twenty-two years; after, as the poet points out, maybe after coming of age at twenty-one.

Reviewed by: Kalpana Kannabiran
Saleem Peeradina

If you are looking for poetry that is as razor sharp as it is dreamy, as real as it is bound to imagination, then Saleem Peeradina’s Final Cut is for you. Decidedly urbane, Peeradina’s contemplations force the reader to pay attention to what has been in front of them all along, and yet has been taken for granted.

Reviewed by: Sucharita Sengupta
Jayanta Mahapatra

Hesitant Light is the latest collection of poems by the renowned poet Jayanta Mahapatra who has read his poetry across the country and around the world in various international poetry festivals. His poems find their rightful place in every globally distinguished journal.

Reviewed by: Lakshmi Kannan
Adil Jussawalla

We are at our best when we are young. And so the story goes downhill. From what I can remember, poetry meant something completely different to me when I was young and in school. It was that odd language, imperfectly printed, aligned and punctuated, and it stood for everything that I could not connect with. Worse still, it was unavoidable. Such is the predicament of our conversation with art at that febrile stage; it feels like a whole lot of smoke being blown in our face. Most of these conversations are taught, or ‘coached’, and it says something about the manner of doing so, that we carry it like a burden.

Reviewed by: Manjari Katju
Eunice de Souza

I will begin this review with a clichéd commonplace—in the similar manner in which several reviews of Eunice de Souza’s works begin—by foregrounding her India, and specifically ‘Goan’ identity. De Souza was born in 1940 into a Roman Catholic family in Pune. Her family originally belonged to Goa.

Reviewed by: Sachidananda Murthy
Vikram Seth

The better poems in this volume are exquisitely crafted and polished to near perfection. Richly layered with an inner life that reveals itself as each poem unfolds, Summer Requiem seduces the senses and draws the reader into a reverie that seems never-ending, awash with shifting moods and remembered experiences threading together the sublime and the pedestrian with gentle profundity.

Reviewed by: Ravi Acharya