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Kamala Das – The Mother Of Modern Indian English Poetry

Kamala Das was one of the most prominent feminist voices in the postcolonial era. She wrote in her mother tongue Malayalam as well as in English. To her Malayalam readers she was Madhavi Kutty and to her English patrons she was Kamala Das. On account of her extensive contribution to the poetry in our country, she earned the label ‘The Mother of Modern Indian English Poetry’. She has also been likened to literary greats like Sylvia Plath because of the confessional style of her writing. On the occasion of her birth anniversary, we look into the remarkable life of this literary icon.

Childhood

Kamala Das was born on 31st March 1934. A part of her childhood was spent in her ancestral home in Malabar, Kerala and the other part in Calcutta where her father was posted for work. Kamala Das belonged to a family considered the literary royalty of Kerala. Her mother Balamani Amma was a famous poet and her grand uncle Nalapat Narayana Menon a respected writer. Das’ childhood as described in her autobiography was very culturally enriched. Her fascination with writing began at a young age while watching her elders immersed in their work. When she was as young as six, she started a manuscript magazine where she would write ‘sad poems about dolls who had lost their heads and had to remain headless for eternity’ while her brother would illustrate the verses. As she grew older she put together a children’s theatre with her brother, where they performed plays ranging from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables to Kalidas’ Sakuntalam. The stage was set in the patio of their ancestral home and was open for all the villagers to come see. Read more

Source: Feminism in India

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Book Review: joining the dots by Goirick Brahmachari

By Kanwar Dinesh Singh

dots

Title: joining the dots
Author: Goirick Brahmachari
Publisher: Nivasini Publishers
Pages: 38
Price: Rs 125

 

Recipient of the Muse India-Satish Verma Young Writer Award (2016) and Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize (2016), Goirick Brahmachari is worth mentioning in the new tribe of Indian poets writing in English. He brought out his maiden collection of poems, For the Love of Pork (2016), from Les Editions du Zaporogue. Rich in content and craft, this slim collection of forty-five poems in the Neo-Beat parlance was received well by the critics and lovers of poetry. These poems have propelled him as a writer having maturity and solemn engagement with current social issues and humanity at large.

Goirick Brahmachari’s second chapbook of travel notes and experimental poems, joining the dots, published by Nivasini Publishers, is a significant addition to the genre of travel writing. His poetic eye captures the mystifying curves of the ascending mountains from Bilaspur to Kullu-Manali in Himachal Pradesh during an overnight journey by bus. In a transit from the plains of Punjab and Haryana to the mountain pass of Rohtang, these short poems, one after the other, bring about a newer mis en scène of people and places. Goirick writes in a fairly anti-romantic mode, artfully confronting the idealistic and panegyric outlook of the romantics: “clouds tear the moon apart” (p. 13), “moon melts / over the snow…” (p. 17), “those fat trucks make love to the / lonesome roads” (p. 30) and so on and so forth. His diction, imagery and style mostly verge on the anti-poetic: breaking away from the normal conventions of traditional poetry, carrying deliberate solecisms and omissions of syntax, punctuation and rhyme, besides incorporating anti-sentimental feelings and reactions in poetry. Goirick’s poems are experimental, down-to-earth, hard-headed and now and then purposely pessimistic and sceptical, and they have sufficient material to incense a stern grammarian. All the same they have their own significance and appeal to the contemporary audience.

All the poems along with the title of the book are in the lowercase. Using the lowercase throughout is not altogether new, as many poets have been writing in this mode―following in the tread of the American poet, E. E. Cummings. Even though scholars find this experimentation at odds with the standard orthography of English language and/or merely as a writer’s pretension to create a trademark, many critics have viewed the rebellious use of all-lowercase as an aesthetic conception under poetic license. In the present chapbook, the use of small letters seems to be either the traveller-poet’s need for typing out the poems on a laptop without interrupting the flow of typing by searching for the ‘Shift’ on the keyboard time and again. Or implicitly it may represent the smallness of a journeyer/sojourner in the mighty expanse of the universe, as manifest in the traveller-poet’s tedium of the mountains and “inertia / of hours of travel / on parabolic roads in an ordinary bus” (p. 23).

In joining the dots, there are two sections: “dots” and “letters”. The captions assigned to “dots” are the geographical coordinates, probably to impart precise geographical identity to the places the poet traverses. In this way, the places remain well-defined in memory as well. The “letters” bear the postcodes as titles, probably with a view to recollecting the trail of travels undertaken by the poet in the past. The “dots” present not just idyllic descriptions of nature, but depicture the difficult and demanding life in the hills too:

hills can drain you

and leave you hungry

only to show up

with some ice and a big

round

white moon for free

(p. 14)

Here is a poignant exposé of the winters making human life unpleasantly cold, sluggish and unpredictable in the hills:

snow has painted everything white…

the cold has sketched wrinkles

over our weary, blue faces…

fire takes its own time to burn here

people talk in smoke

(p. 16)

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With poetry and a pen name

By Kannan Sundaram

Forced to drop out of school and virtually imprisoned at home, Salma’s firebrand poetry released her into a new public life

On a summer morning in 1994, I was working in my Kalachuvadu office. The room has large windows, and from my desk I can clearly see the front gate. A large vehicle had pulled up. Several heads came into sight, mostly women with saris firmly covering their hair. They walked into the front yard in a group.

We were expecting them. I knew one of them was Salma. She was coming to visit my father, the writer Sundara Ramaswamy. My father ran an open house, so we were used to visitors, some announced but most of them unannounced, dropping in at all times of the day. Food would always be cooked in excess; there were guest rooms upstairs. A Tamil literary magazine once wrote, “Don’t waste your money booking a hotel room when you go to Nagercoil. Just go to Suraa’s home.” Read more

Source: The Hindu


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Excerpts: The Sacred Sorrow of Sparrows by Siddharth Dasgupta

The Sacred Sorrow of Sparrows_05.12(1)IN SYMPHONIES WE FLOW

Life, in all its red-blooded bliss of ache, skin, soul, and sky is brief; wouldn’t you know…

And tonight, the night refuses to be anything but brutally young. Photographs keep washing on to the shore, and dreams keep playing truant with the light within your eyes.

As pupils blossom and in seeps the ocean’s silent sonata, you see an ancient wooden home by the waves, keeping time to the rebellious tides. You sense three stilled notes of pure, amazing grace. You uncover atonement in knowing that someone, somewhere is thinking of you at a café by the sea; wanting to be held in your arms, wanting your shoulder to rest her head on, wanting your lyrics to make up her song. That’s all there is. And you try and figure out the dots and the lines that lead to something resembling a picture; an image filtered through the rapidness of time, tide, man, and myth.

Were you destined to play the rebel to karma’s near-perfect script? Was it decreed that for this act, you be the joker of the pack; a Capricorn dissident wreaking disorder with the beautifully aged tarot cards? You cast such aspersions aside as you drink some wine and you smoke some moonlight and you try and keep innocence alive. It’s nothing. It’s everything. The ocean saves its best for last.

Beyond me, like an ancient sacred snake, winds the mighty Bosphorus. It is early morning now, and a soft layer of mist rises above the water. No life here in Istanbul is left untouched by the maiden’s majestic sweep. These are two different halves of the world, being unified by a cadence that sometimes flows in shades of pure blue, as it is doing now, or in billowing clouds of ink black, or, as when dusk is at its doorstep, in striking palettes of golden red, or, most thrillingly, as when the night is thick and filled with the moon’s romantic essence, in streaks of giddy silver.

I step on to Galata Bridge, taking the lower passage, and walk, keeping step with the shores as they flank different customs, different communities, different relationships, and even, as it feels at times, different eras. Beneath the onslaught, there are boats coming in with the day’s first catch and small ferries waiting to transport an anxious working-class horde to any of the city’s distant villages and tourist hotspots.

As the fishermen dock their precariously tiny vessels, one of them offers me a smoke. I accept gladly, and inhale the dark essence of dawn, nicotine, and rancidness. My senses are alive to every heartbeat. My ears are privy to every secret. Small makeshift cafés have already begun grilling the fish and handing them out in hastily wrapped paper.

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Book Review: Monk on a Hill by Guru T. Ladakhi

By Nilesh Mondal

monkBooks about mountains usually evoke the same sense of wanderlust and serenity in readers that they expect from an impromptu trip to a hill station over a weekend. It is the feeling of glossing over the calm surface of a land, visiting spots endorsed for their natural beauty and renowned as tourist attractions. The audience here expects to look at these lands through the eyes of a chance traveller, the voyeuristic gaze that finds only beauty, but not the struggle underlying this snowy exterior. Guru T. Ladakhi however, isn’t one of those poets, and his poems bring out the skeletons in the cold closets of places he belongs to, and has travelled to.

In his debut collection of poetry Monk on a Hill, he divides his poems into sections: people, places, seasons, haikus and postscripts, meticulously fleshing out a narrative that is unafraid, loud and clear. He doesn’t take the easy way out with his poems, instead choosing to delve deeper into the heart of the mountains and bring out for us pieces steeped in the fragrance of melting snow as much as it carries the stench of spilled blood. The very first poem, For Robin the Poet, makes it abundantly clear that he’s not one to shy away from harsh truths, choosing instead to ask questions that have echoed in the repressed corners of every poet’s mind:

Shit, grime, murder, mediocrity.
How much more must a poet endure
and still keep faith aglow
in the dark lust-paved streets of his brain
?”

In the first section, aptly titled “People”, he talks about the strife between pursuing dreams and falling into despair, trading a voyeur’s usual tone of judgement for an endearing voice that is pain stricken and honest about the despair and pain around him. His poems traverse a multitude of emotions, stemming from his ability to both feel and sympathise with the pathos of the people he talks about; from the ache of loss to the jubilance of victory. When talking about death, his voice remains sombre, but resolved, that of a poet who has accepted death as an inevitability but isn’t afraid to shed tears when it does occur. “Departure”, a poem that has been described as a sister’s lament at the loss of her brother, portrays this best:

“In the wake of departure you have left
a mother battered by insomnia
clinging to the sheets you slept on,
and a father unhealed, grasping at shadows,
hoping to make amends.
I reject your relentless absence.”

In the next section, titled “Places”, he delves into the intricacies of the land. His voice remains the same, honest and not scared to reveal truths about these places, but it also contains an aching depiction of nostalgia. These are places he has had a deep connection with, and has watched them change and weather trying times, as all lands must do. This duality becomes apparent in his poem “Shillong, 1992”, where he is both drawn towards, as well as repulsed by the city’s changing landscape:

“Farewell, Shillong, I came because you beckoned
but I must leave now,
for the songs on your lips have died
and you live clinging to the ghost of yesterday”

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“EroText is an avant-garde experimental book” – Sudeep Sen

screen-shot-2016-01-02-at-1-14-18-amSudeep Sen on his latest book EroText.

Why is EroText a book of fiction? 

A novel is a meditation on existence . . . The form is unlimited freedom. — Milan Kundera

Kundera’s ‘unlimited freedom’; my own remoulding of the ekphrastic technique; Rodin’s passionate dictum where ‘the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation’ form the essential keystone for the soul and syntactical structure of the experimental fiction in Erotext. So, unsurprisingly, I use a highly wrought stylized mode of micro-fiction that overlaps with aspects of prose-poetry, and poetry that overlaps with aspects of fiction.

In EroText, I have also experimented with language like one would in the rendition of classical Indian raga, where the same piece of song or text can be variously sung or interpreted by different practitioners, albeit in a highly controlled and dextrous manner. So an old poem may have been revived or reincarnated as a prose text to convey a different angle of the same story, a happenstance, or another hidden moment in time.

Changing the form without at all altering the textual content can be very rewarding, albeit risky at the same time. But then, what is cutting-edge avant-garde writing, if there is no risk-taking. What is the point if one is not willing to bend and push the conventional boundaries of genre to come up with an alternate score or a variation, much like the formal play in classical music and jazz improvisation.

EroText is an avant-garde experimental book. It attempts to redefine or extend the standard genre-classifications of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I can tell you, from what I can see from the early market and critical response, that as a book of micro-fiction it is generating interest from an entirely different set of audiences who see themselves as consumers of general, commercial and literary fiction, and not perhaps of poetry. So that is a very healthy and positive sign.

Tell us about the ‘Disease’ or ‘BodyText’ section of the book.

In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing, about the dark times. — Bertolt Brecht

The ‘Disease’ or ‘BodyText’ section of this book contends with private and uncomfortable areas of pain, illness and disease — an example of how a prolonged anesthetic medical experience can give rise to lyrical writing, inspired by and in spite of its sterile surroundings. Commenting on this, literary critic Pramod Nayar, wrote, ‘While excavating a set of images from physics, chemistry and biology, Sen does an extraordinary job of imbricating the corporeal with the natural elements and processes [in] a brilliant formalizing of these themes . . . the images are startlingly fresh and extremely evocative.’

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This octogenarian poet seeks new ways to promote Punjabi literature

By Vishal Gulati

After making a name in the world of Punjabi literature, an octogenarian poet, short-story writer and editor is now seeking to promote more collaborative ventures among Punjabi authors so that they get a better deal.

He feels the authors should get a fair remuneration if they are to keep writing and producing quality work. The publisher, on the other hand, should promote literary writings by teaming up writers of the same stature.

“I think it is high time for publishers to help promote collaborative publications of literary works by encouraging four or more writers of a particular language to write collectively,” poet S. Swarn, who turned 80 last November, told IANS in an interview while on a visit here.

Based in Mumbai since the 1950s, he was candid in the belief that “let’s think of solutions to help the growth of great Punjabi literature instead of applauding a neo-culture of paying from your pocket to the publisher to get the material published”. Read more

Source: Daiji World

 


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Book Review: My Elementary Life by Amit Sharma

By Nilesh Mondal

elementary-life

When we talk about a poetry collection, the opinion about individual poems often contradict each other, which in turn makes it harder for the reader to take a stance regarding his/her feelings about the collection as a whole. These flaws become glaringly evident as one navigates one’s way through the new poetry collection of Amit Sharma.

My Elementary Life is a collection of poems with no dearth of ambitions. The collection contains 70 poems exploring a varied range of emotions — love, loss, spirituality and everything in between. The poems are short, and thus do not ramble or lose their way in a muddled narration of emotional outpouring. The cover is colourful and almost surreal, as if foreshadowing the circle of life and colours of different seasons that this collection tries to decipher. I say tries, because although the effort behind this collection garners applause, it unfortunately falls prey to its own ambitions.

Amit mentions in his foreword that this collection contains poems written in a span of 6 years. Although one must praise Mr. Sharma for being passionate and patient about this book for so long, this long time span of writing effects the consistency of the collection adversely. While some of the poems deal with concepts of love and spirituality in a commendable way, some fall despairingly short. To his credit, the poet uses simple and lucid language, which no doubt will find appeal with even the readers who don’t usually read poetry. But the biggest problem this collection faces is its lack of freshness in some of the poems. These poems thus appear blunt and don’t create an imprint on the reader’s mind, which leads to them fading away from memory with as much as a turn of the page. For example, here’s an excerpt from the poem “Those smiles of gay”:
There’s no end to my sorrows,
but the time of love in my heart
pulls me away from the scuffles of my mind.
Carrying these bewildered emotions within me
I walk nonchalant on the obsolete paths;
the path, they’ve crossed before me.
Without ostentations, I loved them all
not in the hope for recompose,
but for their own gay.

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JLF 2017: Poets Gulzar and Anne Waldman stress direct action

By Zehra Kazmi

In the end, the first session at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival was all about the voices. Lyricist and poet Gulzar’s familiar baritone – gentle, gravelly – and American poet Anne Waldman’s powerful, breathless recitation of her verse.

It was a morning of poetry for the eager audience at Diggi Palace’s front lawns. Voicing his thoughts, Gulzar told the audience that he often asked himself the question, “If I didn’t write, would it make a difference to the world?”

He explained his creative process as water coming to a boil: the ubaal, or boiling over, is what drives him to put pen to paper; the bhaap, or steam, is his writing, his poetry. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times


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Ghalib was a people’s poet, that was his greatness

By Muqbil Ahmar

My grandmother was a nagging woman. During one such exchange when my grandfather, Mohammad Ghassan, was quietly sipping tea, a full-on barrage of complaints and abuse was being unleashed. The wife-loving old man — I usually marveled at his patience — looked at me, adding with a wry smile:

Har ek baat pe kahte ho tum ki tū kyā hai

Tumhīñ kaho ki ye andāz-e-guftugū kyā hai

The satire and the andāz-e-bayaan stayed with me. I could so easily visualise his helplessness and the torment. The couplet stayed with me although I didn’t know the author of the lines or their context. But whenever such a situation presented itself, I was tempted to use the lines. This is the greatness of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. Read more

Source: DailyO