Nabanita Kanungo’s collection is simultaneously an elegy and a victory song. A documentation of the heartbreaks that have plagued our subcontinent for the past century or so, her poems re-define the lyric form, chronicling the unfolding of a personal self framed by larger political events. Here, history appears as a long, continuous saga of violence, in which Partition memories remain juxtaposed within the everyday lived realities and violences of neoliberal Indian cities. With this collection, Kanungo provides a ghostly account of quotidian survival?stories that remain forever out of official histories?and re-defines the meaning of Anglophone India political poetry of contemporary times.Nabanita Kanungo’s poems ache with an awareness of how poetry cannot truly evoke anything but absence, of how ‘It rains and words say nothing’; ‘Only memory is green’. In this tragedy, Kanungo finds the only solace available to the poet: a luminous quality in the every day, the ‘Mirror where things are simply written with light’. These poems work in the liminal spaces of the world and of the self, between the present moment and its turning into memory, between words and rain.
Flesh Tint Like a painting by Velazquez A woman stands Alone in the frame Touched by the brush of light Blossoming. How did Flesh Tint reflect Naples Yellow In this greenish blue room? What made the sun Suddenly rise on the palette?
Hardback awakening The air is thick, and has revived my books, anticipating the first spell of a Bombay monsoon. Ambient moisture has slaked pages that shuffle and twist, arise to a wakefulness, unleaving. Feeling the discomfort of nearness,
Ashwani Kumar’s poems in ‘Banaras and The Other” are a mischievous irreverence turned at times to the present and at times to the past. The personal and the political, memories and nostalgia, mythical characters and contemporary parodies mix and mingle in these poems in diverse proportions to produce a rare poetic energy that belongs entirely to our times of pain and paradox. –K. Satchidanandan
Ashwani Kumar’s Banaras and the Other captivates us as a delightful romp through myth, folklore and history. Read past the revelry, however, and you will see that it engages passionately and provocatively with the fissured, schismatic scenarios of 21st century India.–Ranjit Hoskote