Will the lockdown end soon? Or are we in for a longer haul? Whatever it is, I find it very soothing to read poetry when I am anxious. Here are four more Indian English poets to read during the lockdown, listed in no particular order.
1. Ampat Koshy – Author of several books in multiple genres, Ampat Koshy is known best for his rebellious, anti-establishment poems, the hallmark of a modern, mature Shelley. Instances of these traits can be seen in his brilliant poetry collections like Allusions To Simplicity (2015) and Birds Of Different Feathers (2018). One simply needs to glance at a poem like “Setting The World On Fire”, a composition breathtaking in its scope as Krishna’s revelation to Arjuna of his cosmic self; a poem that sweeps through and then transcends the known universe. Dr. Koshy has contributed to the cause of poetry in many ways: he is the founder of the prestigious Reuel International Prize, and has authored a book on teaching the art of poetry to willing learners, entitled A Treatise On Poetry For Beginners (2012).
2. Sanjukta Dasgupta – Prof. Dasgupta’s poetry burns like a bright torch in the realms of firebrand feminism. Her fifth collection of poetry, Lakhsmi Unbound (2017), takes and acknowledges the inspiration for its title to P.B. Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, and seeks to liberate women from the traps of patriarchy. Although many of the poems employ the first-person narrative technique, the “I” of the poems is the persona, the narrator(s) who are victims and survivors of crimes against women. A chilling poem like “I killed him M’ Lord” narrates a horrific tale of domestic violence along with deceptively beautiful similes to play up the horror. Sita’s Sisters (2019), the latest of Dasgupta’s books, contains poetry that debunks the myths of Sita as the perfect, submissive wife, as well as more eclectic compositions.
3. Sharmila Ray – Dr. Ray, a professor of history, makes a profound observation in her short poem “Sarnath”: ‘Remembered history plays/snakes and ladders with/intricate time.’ This poem is an extract from her eighth collection of poetry, Scrawls and Scribbles (2016), a volume where the beauty of expression bazes up like a sudden star. In the poem “Coffee Bar” the poet longs for coffee with cinnamon but defers it because she is in the process of writing a poem, and attempts to conquer her longing for coffee, a beverage symbolic of pleasures and temptations. Ray’s poetry is reminiscent of the Great Metaphysicals, both contemporary and looking forward to the future.
4. Gopal Lahiri – Lahiri’s collections are shot through with multiple colors in theme and style. His last volume of poems, Return To Solitude (2019) contains haiku that paint vivid pictures, some of which are adapted to Indian themes. His longer poetry can be accessed in collections like Tidal Interlude (2015): the opening piece, “Secret Code” is a poem on peace and happiness, reflected in ‘the eyes of rain-washed birds/tempered with silken feathers and rummaged greenery…”. The concrete and the abstract blend seamlessly in Lahiri’s compositions, thus giving them a touch of magic that is the domain of the greatest and the best.
Apart from Ampat Koshy’s collections, most of the other poets’ books are published by Hawakal Prokashana, Kolkata, and can be ordered from their website.