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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.