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.
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,
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.
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