Verses of struggle, dissent and horror from across the subcontinent.
This package includes:
Meena Kandasamy’s full-blooded and highly experimental poems challenge the dominant mode in contemporary Indian poetry in English: status-quoist, depoliticised, neatly sterilised. These caustic poems with their black humour, sharp sarcasm, tart repartees, semantic puns and semiotic plays irritate, shock and sting the readers until they are provoked into rethinking the ‘time-honoured’ traditions and entrenched hierarchies at work in contemporary society.
The poet stands myths and legends on their head to expose their regressive core. She uses words, images and metaphors as tools of subversion, asserting, in the process, her caste, gender and regional identities while also transcending them through the shared spaces of her socioaesthetic practice. She de-romanticises the world and de-mythifies religious and literary traditions by re-appropriating the hegemonic language in a heretical gesture of Promethean love for the dispossessed. The poet interrogates the tenets of a solipsistic modernism to create a counterpoetic community speech brimming with emancipatory energy.
Where the word becomes flesh, where reason is dazzled and magic reigns supreme: in that world delves Rajkumar. Sensuous and ferocious, the poetry of Rajkumar cracks open a world that offers the modern reader stunning glimpses into a magic-drenched, living dalit history. Born into a traditional shaman community in a border town between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Rajkumar revels in his ability to claim disparate discourses as his poetic subjects. His angry goddesses of unreason and excessive emotion embody unfettered power, independence and freedom—elements excised from the daily life of the dalit.
A Second Sunrise showcases the best poems of Cheran, an accomplished poet of our times. The Sri Lankan civil war looms over much of his work. Poems of the precariousness of love are interwoven with poems of war. With such a wide range, translators Lakshmi Holmström and Sascha Ebeling treat each poem both as fresh in its particularity and as part of the poet’s oeuvre. Their English renditions capture the resonances and rhythms that connect Cheran to a long Tamil poetic tradition that spans over two thousand years.
What happened between 8 and 18 May 2009 in Eelam? Did no one write diaries? Did no one have cameras? Were there no poets there? Not a single artist? Whatever happened on that last day? What is the poetry that can emerge from a ‘wounded landmass’ where ‘no bird is able to fly’, where people ‘ate death’? Five frontline Tamil poets lament the loss of their land, their language and thousands of people.
‘I am a venereal sore in the private part of language.’ That’s Namdeo Dhasal, the maverick Marathi poet who hardly had any formal education. Born in 1949 in a former ‘untouchable’ community in Pur-Kanersar village near Pune in Maharashtra, as a teenage taxi driver he lived among pimps, prostitutes, petty criminals, drug peddlers, gangsters and illicit traders in Bombay/Mumbai’s sinister and sordid underworld. In 1972, he founded Dalit Panther, the militant organisation modelled on Black Panther. The same year he published Golpitha that belongs to the tradition in modern urban poetry beginning with Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. Since then, he has published eight collections of poems from which this representative selection is drawn.
In 2004, India’s national academy of letters, Sahitya Akademi, honoured Dhasal with the only Lifetime Achievement Award it gave during its golden jubilee celebrations. Dhasal’s long-time friend and bilingual poet Dilip Chitre, acclaimed for his translations of the seventeenth century Marathi poet-saint Tukaram, considers Namdeo Dhasal to be one of the outstanding poets of the twentieth century. He died in 2014.
‘As a woman dalit poet, Meena Kandasamy writes angrily, often eloquently, about the politics of the body and caste in contemporary Indian society’—The Hindu, on Ms Militancy
‘Powerful liminalities, threshold moments of transit and transformation, are at play in the poems of N.D. Rajkumar’—Biblio, on Give Us This Day a Feast of Flesh
‘The poems are like mini-bombs set to blow a hole through your heart. They bear witness to the tragedy of the Sri Lankan civil war’—The Hindu, on A Second Sunrise
'The images evoke the ravaged world of the Sri Lankan Tamil'—DNA, on Waking is Another Dream
'From his pen rises the stink of bodily functions, the anguish of hunger and a compassion for lumpens (his word) like himself'—Outlook, on A Current of Blood