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?
Through sex-dolls and addictions, for whom poetry can be just another narcotic throbbing in your vein. Khandekar’s man has stretched himself to the limits of the Machiavellian primate, modifying his behaviour and absurdum to fit in with the changing patterns of a world spinning out of control on the wheel of progress. Meet the ghost in the machine Sanjeev Khandekar’s poetry grins impishly, then socks you in the eye. It makes you feel horns on your head and inspect your skin for green stripes. Khandekar breaks conventions of belief, language and genre to offer a world with no certainties, where you are just a gob of self-awareness floating in a matrix of virtual reality, mutating every moment to balance your inner needs with social expectations. You are the Mutatis Mutandis Man the human ‘with necessary changes’ carried out the modified man tossed between inscrutable science and enigmatic religious faith, the creature who gropes for love and creativity that may lure you towards self-destruction. Meet Khandekar’s Monster and see if he seems familiar.
Khandekar’s poetry, like his art, is disturbingly unconventional; and Abhay Sardesai and Nandita Wagle’s excellent translation from Marathi now brings it to the English reader.
-Antara Dev Sen
Das’ poetry more than delivers on the promise made in the penultimate lines of her titular Cyborg Proverbs, offering its reader the gift of penetrating (in)sight through thoughts “as precise as suspicion”. Her syllables breathe aloud, like hushes that unassumingly gasp in the gaps between echoes, in the interstitial moments of alighting bird wings, or roots that braid the air, or the slipperiness of netted fish, and the gush of rain as it nestles its way into the crevices of walls and swells its way through its parasitical, residential act.
Das exquisitely reimagines syntax and her frequently anthropomorphic poems shape-shift upon each ensuing page, making Cyborg Proverbs an enviable feat, aided in no small measure by her studied, patient, bird-watcher gaze and her unspeakable lust for articulating the tacitly sensual.
Menka Shivdasani’s poetry is both original and strikingly unusual, not just her tangential way of putting things across, but also how thought process and imagination run away with the poem, and make it exciting. An experience is translated into another experience and then gets mixed with fancy in a juice blender. Chopping lettuce, she’ll be assailed by visions—burning bride, politician, a ‘wounded Hiroshima’, and finally a finger-chopping Nazi. A poem about separation will end with her handling ‘alien porcelain’ at a tea party. For over three decades the excitement she brings to her fine poetry has never deserted her.