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A Mixed Bag of Verse

Rumki Basu

Edited by K. Satchidanandan
Yoda Press, Delhi, 2011, pp. 150, Rs.195.00

By Sanjiv Bhatla
Crabwise Press, Thane(India), 2010, pp. 71, Rs.150.00

By Anita Nair
Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 151, Rs.199.00

By Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih
Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 151, Rs.199.00


The four books use distinct and different vocabularies of poetry and therefore comparative parameters cannot truly be used for review. The first book The Golden Boat, is an anthology edited by the eminent poet, critic and translator K. Satchidanandan. The book takes its name from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore and carries 49 poems written by Indian poets about or around rivers. The idea of this anthology came from a poetry reading session called Riversutra coordinated by the editor as part of the annual festival of the India International Centre 2009. The anthology is divided into two sections. In section 1, poems are in their original script, along with their English translations. Section 2 contains only English translations or poems written originally in English. In India, every river is a source of myth, legend and poetry. Name any river in India and one encounters gods, kings, demons and fairies whose tales they invoke. The anthology opens with a hymn to the waters or apas from the Rigveda, perhaps one of the oldest poetic tributes man ever paid to water, the saviour and the sustainer of all life. The anthology ends with a poem by Mohammed Iqbal on the river Raavi which for the poet is evocative of many historical associations. Each one of the selected poems is a celebration of our river-rich India and carries the flavour of the soil along which they flow. There are several poems on Ganga featured in this anthology. Keki Daruwalla curses his upbringing that taught him hygiene and wonders whether Dante would have placed Benaras where corpse fires and cooking fires burn side by side in Paradise or Purgatory. In 'Vignette I' these are his lines: 'The Ganga flows through the land/not to lighten the misery/but to show it.' In Lakshmi Kannan's 'Ganga' a woman while gingerly taking a bath in the dirtied river loses her consciousness as the cold water dissolves her name and she is carried along with the drifting rag and plastic towards the sea. Kedarnath Singh is at his philosophical best in 'Banaras': 'Everything that is/is more restless/everything that is not tries to be.' Anamika in 'Pehlja Ghat and River Ganga' recalls a scene from her childhood, her coin thrown from the steamer into the Ganga rushing down the river's navel in the heavy rain when the evening light becomes another river with her mother's fingers knitting tales. ...

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