The Prism of Life is a collection of poems in English by Ivy Imogene Hansdak, published by Writers’ Workshop in 2022. Having completed her higher education from Jawaharlal Nehru University, she currently teaches English in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. In the poetry collection under review, the poet reflects upon the various shades of life and in doing so, aims to connect with the readers, which is evident in the beginning where she dedicates the book to ‘all those who have walked like me through the many shades of life’.
Shilpa Gupta’s sound installation, For, in Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit, is a result of years long research on persecuted poets across time and geographies. It was first shown in 2018 at the Edinburgh Art Festival and Yarat Contemporary Art Space. There are over a hundred microphones suspended from the ceiling and an audio loop of snippets of poems is played; the book is a result of that powerful endeavour undertaken a few years ago.
What struck me most in the Evening with a Sufi: Selected Poems by Afsar Mohammad translated by him with Shamala Gallagher are vivid, sometimes startling images such as of ‘a body like a wound peeks from your torn shirt’ or of wounds that ‘open their huge doors’ in a poem like ‘Name Calling’. Or consider the lines in ‘A Piece of Bread’ written in memory of Bismillah Khan
Amuch-admired traditional genre of poetry, elegy does register the harrowing nature of grief that one experiences at the departure of someone very close to us and whose nagging absence never ebbs. The conventional elegy unravels an ever-growing sense of total despair in the form of sorrow, longing, yearning and pining entwined with loneliness, but it also appears banal, repetitive and undramatic.
Having perused Vinayan Bhaskaran’s previous books, such as Beyond the Blue River and The Grand Story of Ikli Chokli (Tulika Books), both children’s books, it was (pleasantly) startling to come across his debut poetry collection, The Quiet Archway within Words. The fantastical story-telling, lush hyperboles and leaps of imagination of the former two, understandably, give way to a very different voice in the latter—a voice which is by turns lonely, rebellious, sardonic, and empathetic to what it perceives to be fundamentally apathetic world.
The idea of migration and the internal/external struggle that a migrant undergoes has been looked at through various lens and forms of writing. Migration can be a forced one or can be construed as a voluntary one forced by economic circumstances or for seeking a better quality of life. Either way the shift is not just in terms of geographical locations but also in the way one has come to perceive the world and one’s surroundings.
The tastefully produced Run for the Shadows reaches my desk. It’s a happy sign for poetry, for our ecosystem. This is Sridala Swami’s third book of poems. A Reluctant Survivor (2007) and Escape Artist (2014) are her other creations. Run for the Shadows is a bouquet of 46/50 poems (if one counts Three False Starts and a Conclusion as one or five poems).
To miss making one’s way through Sukrita Paul Kumar’s Vanishing Words and to forgo being absorbed into the vortex of its supraconscious stillness would be, for any reader of poetry, a serious deprivation. Many layered, teasing in its apparent simplicity, and haunting in its profundity, this slim collection of thirty-four poems interspersed with artwork by the poet herself, is dedicated to ‘all those who are struggling to survive the onslaught of disease and the loss of dear ones in the recent times.’
On reading the poems in Speak Woman! what comes up powerfully is how the world is perceived and made visible through the eyes of Agarwal. She is visible in her poems and makes sure that her presence and that of other women are not reduced to being in the background in comparison to traditional forms of writing where one is supposed to remove oneself from actively identifying with their works.
Jhilam Chattaraj is a Hyderabad-based academic and poet. Her debut poetry collection, Noise Cancellation, covers wide-ranging themes, including, but not limited to, food, politics, memory, and the body. In addition, the poet employs, in a versatile manner, disparate styles to explore, sketch, and examine these themes.
Sanjeev Sethi’s fourth collection of poetry, Bleb, depicts the transcendence of human soul from self-love to spirituality and detachment. Bleb explores varied aspects juxtaposed with love—sexual exploration, paternity, spirituality, and death. The providential merges with the personal, the everyday with the unusual, offering life lessons to artists and lay readers alike.