There is something to be said about the pause demanded by poetry. A form that refuses to be contained – with sentences that fall out of typical alignment to create unexpected visual designs, to words that spill out of their conventional meanings to hold larger transcendental ephemeralities. Poems can feel like short, sharp stabs, long loving seductions, a wry amusing look-about-town or even a warm conversation with a wistful friend. In whatever form it appears, when good, it cannot be ignored and must be carried within. This list contains an expansive range – from the ghazals of 18th-century Urdu poet Mir Taqi Mir to the poetry of the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to give you something new and interesting to fall in love with.
English/Apocalypso by Jeet Thayil
“Poem is as poem does & is done by.”
Sensory, intense and always evocative, a quintessential voice in contemporary Indian-English Literature, Jeet Thayil’s “English” and “Apocalypso” find a wonderfully shared home in this Penguin ‘flipbook’.
“English” contains meditations on shapeshifting, figures trapped in the crystalline amber of memory, and a travelling liminal self. A body of weaved and varied histories, combining sound and sensation in his distinct idiolect, Thayil starts his “English” with a prophetic vision of him, a citizen who only belongs to the Republic of “English”, witnessing the apocalyptic havoc of 9/11.
“Apocalypso” romance and love apocalyptically told, a sense of ending/doom/limitation that mars all soaring sensations, and heaven as blissful stasis where “nothing happens”. Multiply revised and hacked down in size, this version, according to Thayil, deserves regard as the work of a younger poet.
Singing in the Dark: A Global Anthology of Poetry Under Lockdown ed. by K. Satchidanadan and Nishi Chawla
“Pigeons have suddenly grown less in number
As if they too have set on their sad trips back
to their village-homes like the migrant workers”
A triumphant attempt at chronicling the pandemic, “Singing in the Dark” collects over a hundred of the most exquisite lyrical responses to COVID-19 and all its attendant trials. Detailing altered perceptions of time, unique experiences of loneliness, a longing for touch and often political explorations of the discriminatory unevenness of traumatic experiences, the collection tenderly chronicles and preserves that alien state of global restriction.
Soma: Poems by A.K. Ramanujan
“Would you believe it?
Soma, once eye of heaven,
Now a mushroom at my feet.”
A series of unpublished poems, the collection, discovered, compiled and edited by Guillermo Rodríguez and Krishna Ramanujan, reveals a surprisingly unfamiliar side of acclaimed poet A.K. Ramanujan. Written in his experimental phase in the 1970’s, the poems chronicle his fascination with the mystical ‘Soma’ plant, the fabled elixir, and its origins. The 22 poems reveal a critical moment in Ramanujan’s literary career, and require a bold reader who’d be unshrinking in the face of unnerving experimentalism.
The Hidden Garden: Mir Taqi Mir by Gopi Chand Narang
“Kuchh nahein bahr-e-jahaan ki mauj par mat bhuul Mir
Duur se dariya nazar aata hai lekin hai saraab”
“It is nothing, Mir.
Don’t get deceived
by the high waves of the world.
What you see as a river
from the distance
is nothing but a mirage”
‘God of Urdu Poetry’ (Khuda-e-Sukhan), 18th-century poet Mir Taqi Mir’s ghazals, carefully selected and organised in this collection, emerge as a display of the poet’s breadth of knowledge and deftness of skill. Expert in Agra’s Braj, to Delhi’s Persian and Lucknow’s Awadhi, Mir combines all the sounds of Urdu poetry in his elevated verses– all of which are faithfully preserved by translator Surinder Deol, as he makes provisions for companion transliterations that precede each translated verse. More accessible than ever before, Gopal Chand Narang delivers the pleasures of Mir to the doorsteps of all who can read and feel.
Hunchprose by Ranjit Hoskote
“The rain speaks first
you get the second line”
Indian poet, art critic, curator and recipient of the Sahitya Akademi award, Ranjit Hoskote’s collection is a visually striking experiment in the form and shape of poetry. Largely exploring the subject of humanity, “Hunchprose” is written through a wry and keen eye and narrated by a tongue that is in constant transfiguration. With sentences that appear to cascade and language that is at once simple yet infinitely layered, Hoskote is an essential find for anyone looking for brilliant contemporaries in the realm of Indian English Literature.
Pick up a spellbinding collection of Indian Poetry from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.