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
Ravi Shankar’s poems are immortal in the flesh, finding in The life of the mind its interpretations, its instrumentality. The surpassing, transient, lyrical moment; and in the life of the World’s body the permanent, unflinching presence of thought, Unconfined by time and space. They are the verbal artifacts of a Singular, many-sided, and distinguished consciousness.Pulitzer Prize winner Vijay Seshadri Engorged with image, thick, viscous and churning, Ravi Shankar’s Poems have the density of mercury as well as its fluidity and Mobility…The energy is visceral. The language is restless, hungry For surprise, the register swinging between the formal and the Demotic (both American and Indian). Underlying this is an Almost voluptuous need to embrace myth, history, metaphysics And pop culture, and bring all of it into a single book, and Sometimes a single poem. This is matched by an alertness to form with references ranging from the Bop to the pada — making for A playful, stylistically supple poetry. – Arundhathi Subramaniam Ravi Shankar’s poems have a fine-tuned sense of form, a rare Delight in language. Through wit and abstraction, they reveal a Metaphysics of longing, binding us to the elements of our moving World. – Meena Alexander
Ravi Shankar is truly, now, one of America’s finest younger poets.-Dick Allen
Tukaram was born in 1608 and vanished without a trace in 1650. what little we know of his life is a reconstruction from his own autobiographical poems, the contemporary poetess Bahinabai’s memoirs in verse, and the later biographer of Marathi poet-saints, Mahipati’s account. The rest is all folklore, though it cannot be dismissed on those grounds alone. Modern scholars such as the late V. S. Bendre have made arduous efforts to collate evidence from disparate contemporary sources to establish a well-researched biography of Tukaram. But even this is largely conjectural.
Tukaram is therefore not only the last great Bhakti poet in Marathi but he is also the first truly modern Marathi poet in terms of temper and thematic choice, technique and vision. He is certainly the most vital link between medieval and modern Marathi poetry. Tukaram’s stature in Marathi literature is comparable to that of Shakespeare in English or Goethe in German. He could be called the quintessential Marathi poet reflecting the genius of the language as well as its characteristic literary culture. There is no other Marathi writer who has so deeply and widely influenced Marathi literary culture since. Tukaram’s poetry has shaped the Marathi language, as it is spoken by 70 million people today and not just the literary language. Perhaps one should compare his influence with that of the King James version of the Bible upon speakers of the English language. For Tukaram’s poetry is also used by illiterate millions to voice their prayers or to express their love of God.
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