Shanta Acharya exercises her poetic licence by quoting Elizabeth Jennings, ‘We have a whole world to rearrange.’ While she dismantles our perceptions, she rearranges her sentiments and opinions as poems laced with observations. A reason is given by the title of one of her poems, ‘Not Everything Begins Elsewhere’ (p. 66). The idea is to make you confront your reality. Therefore, we see some impelled violence described in her poems elsewhere. In that, she has also a warning:
The world may appear to be your oyster
Remember it is not yours to keep or conquer. (p. 67)
The following lines capture what is Acharya’s core quest:
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer––
It sings because it has a song. (p. 44)
She has songs to part with, but they have spanning wings of views about everything around us, often political. To anchor us in this, her first poem takes us through the dooms of Brexit and influx of migrants, but it has hope: ‘a crack is all it takes for light to get in.’ Poet’s defiance is the light that tries to get through the crack. What is there to challenge? The distortions or fakery: ‘the quality of darkness is how it lets us see.’ With her light added through the crack, she wants us to see differently. This is the journey in this collection. A pondering poet often discharges a Guru’s wisdom: ‘When fate deals you a losing hand, play in silence.’ Emotions and passions also run riot: ‘barbarians run the city’, ‘a daughter, perfect almost, yet relegated/to live in the shade…’, ‘chasing other people’s dreams’, ‘a slow sclerosis of vision’ of the world, or ‘humans pretending to speak’.
Many of her poems have high pitch feminism, occasionally quite apocalyptic, as in her poem ‘Can You Hear Our Screams?’ with the line ‘flushed into toilets, poured into sewers’. These are speaking poems, not ‘showing’ poems. Speaking poems often tip over into shouting. A refrain I have seen in Venkateswaran––with no compromise on the message––difficult to achieve. Her distress is crystallized in ‘You learn an alphabet of erasure.’ Acharya also takes us to despair: ‘I believe in God, now I don’t know what to believe.’ However, poets capture a variety of momentary sentiments but make them last. Their poetry collections reflect such a medley. Acharya’s collection also cannot be judged by one poem. Thus, she also talks about ‘Belonging’, ‘Home’, ‘All You Can Do’, ‘The High Windows’, ‘Friendship’, and more. The poet has also many social concerns; they burst out vividly in her poem ‘Graffiti’. However, the darkness still lurks around as in ‘I sat holding his hand as he lay dying.’ The violence is not too far either, as in ‘The Bull Fight’. Finally, I am completely sold on the thought of ‘Once upon a time Good and Evil worked together/bringing out the best in each other.’ The poem is very playful with the images of ‘union of Devils’, ‘Gods…debating what to do with Evil,’ and ‘You can be any kind of Devil you want.’ You may even manage a laugh with ‘Devil’s tattoo’.