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Conveying an Indian Ethos


Nishat Zaidi

CLOSURE: SOME POEMS AND A CONVERSATION
By Kamala Das and Suresh Kohli
Harper Collins Publishers in a joint venture with The India Today Group, New Delhi, 2009, pp. x+158, Rs. 299.00

50 POEMS: 30 SELECTED 20 NEW
By Zulfikar Ghose
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2010, pp.xiii+98, Rs. 250.00

SLOW DANCE
By Saleem Peeradina
Ridgeway Press, Michigan, 2009, pp.91, $15.00

POEMS
By Margaret Chatterjee
Promilla & Co. in association with Bibliophile South Asia, New Delhi, 2010, pp.65, Rs. 125.00

LUMINOUS ILLUSIONS
By P. K .Mohanty
Pitambar Mishra, Cuttack, 2009, pp.67, Rs. 125.00

WHISPERING MIND
By K. P. Shashidharan
Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, 2010, pp.319, Rs. 499.00

SEVENTEEN OCEANS
By Sandeep Mitra
Salasaar Imaging Systems, New Delhi, 2010, pp.131, 0.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 4 April 2012

Poetry as a form in the twentieth century is more appreciated than read and poetry in English in the Indian sub-continent has remained overshadowed by the booming success of fiction having found fa-vour with readers across the world. Often vi-ewed as juvenile or amateurish, Indian poetry in English has yet to prove its seriousness and register its presence on the global literary map. The seven books under review, which include anthologies by amateurs as well as profes-sionals, novices and veterans, help us chart the furrowed terrain of English poetry in the Indian subcontinent in its post-Independence phase. Most anthologists of Indian poetry in English have underlined the presence of a streak of romanticism which often seems to blunt the edges of the sharp potential of Indian poets (at times even redeeming it). Besides love, relationships (with humans, animals and spaces), tensions (of self, history and memory), social sufferings (presented in anger and angst), geographies (of places, body, mind and emo-tions) and an engagement with the dialectics of reality and illusion constitute some of the re-current themes in contemporary Indian Eng-lish poetry. Closure, a collaborative endeavour by Kamala Das and Suresh Kohli, is a collection of their poems and a conversation between them. The collection, as Kohli's introductory note informs us, was 'supposed to carry our reflection of each other's poems.' It includes forty poems by each poet, intersected by the conversation between the two that took place in late 2006 and early 2008 triggering the idea of this anthology. Poems by Kamala Das include her last poems, also a poem entitled 'Alzheimer's', which Kohli says is 'indeed Kamala Das's last poem'.  The direct, bare and sharp imagery of Kamala Das's poems such as 'Fame is merely the smoke / the kitchen chimney emits / when you cook a meal/.../ Smoke is ordinary, / all it does is / cloud your vision.' Or 'Alzheimer's disease/is a spider/ deadlier even than/the tarantula.' Suresh Kohli's poems, which traverse diverse terrains ranging from distant lands to personal experie-nces and lost memories, though different in tone and tenor from that of Kamala Das, are moving. The USP of the volume, however, is the conversation where Kamala Das, indeed one of the greatest contemporary and arguably one of the most controversial Indian English poets, bares it all. Das's candid views on her poetry, her other works, her conversion to Islam, her views on religion, feminism and a ...


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