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A Cultural Symphony

Rumki Basu

Edited by Sudeep Sen
HarperCollins, Delhi, 2012, pp. 542, Rs. 599.00


The Harper Collins Book of English Poetry edited by Sudeep Sen is an amazing and audacious project in more ways than one. It attempts to showcase poems of 85 post-Independence Indian poets writing in English. The majority of poems are unpublished and have been written for this volume which is rarely the case in existing anthologies of English poetry published in India. The poets presented live in India or represent the broader Indian diasporas such as the United States and Europe, Africa and Asia.   Readers would find poets in this volume not included in any available anthology published in the last two decades. Therefore, this one is a surprising new bouquet of new verse, new ideas, new concerns and new craft that would seem quite overwhelming to any lay reader or even to a discerning critic. No form—formal, informal or experimentative is missing in this anthology: lyrics, narratives, prose poetry, sonnets, rap, haiku or ghazals—the Indian poets offer a staggering variety in the 400 poems that have enriched our poetry from 1950-2012. The legacy of the Indian cultural landscape is seen to be carried as much by our non-resident poets as their resident counterparts.   This is a book that needs to be perused and enjoyed at leisure—if you have to be celebrating sixty years of Indian English poetry. There is something in it for everybody’s interest and taste in this generous selection. There are poems that delight, irritate, titillate or provoke some and not others, but there is always that one poem which appeals to both you and me, for reasons of head or heart or both. If there are five readers reading Sudeep’s book, their choice of favourite poems will differ and that is what makes this collection so eclectic and exciting. I must confess that the poems I like are purely of my own choice, reflecting only my individual aesthetics and sensibilities. My choice has been ruled more by the heart than the head, though craft has also been an important element of my choice of favourites. Here they are: Learning; No sentence; How some Hindus find their personal gods; Someone has been missing; On opening a box my mother left in my house; This be the pukka verse; Last night I dreamed; Letter from a Mughal emperor 2006; Day —St Anthony’s Art; Urban equity; Grand mother’s Garden; Parvati in Darling hurst; Arjuna’s ...

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