Book Review: Bridging the gaps

Reviewed by Sutanuka Ghosh Roy

Bridging Continents: An Anthology of Indo-American Poets
Editors: Sharmila Ray, Gopal Lahiri
ISBN: 978-81-939828-6-0 ( Paperback)
Page: 134
Edition: (2019)
Publisher: Zahir Publication Kolkata-India.
Price: ₹ 350.00 INR: UD$ 5.00

 The editors Sahrmila Ray and Gopal Lahiri makes it clear in the beginning of this anthology that they are not going to bore the readers with a foreword or introduction, they do not want their readers to read poetry through their minds. Rather they would love to include the readers and their different interpretations as a part of this anthology, unseen but vibrant and vibrating. The title Bridging Continents: An Anthology of Indo-American Poets is significant and apt. Poetry is a bridge and the poems of the twenty poets bridge one continent to another, one person to another, one time to another. Standing on a threshold we expect that poetry can change us. Both the continents America and India have a rich literary lineage, and “Bridging Continents” is the bridge through which readers walk the course. 

Sutanuka Ghosh Roy
The Anthology opens with the poetry of Alan Britt. His opening poem “Western Music” is led by the creative impulse of the talented Mozart and driven by the youthful verve of Beethoven, the poem is an attempt to venture into uncharted territory for both the talented musicians with the verses eschewing the world and its myriad cares to delve into the troubled minds of two individuals. “The Daffodils” of Andrea Witzke Slot evokes a series of nightmarish situations where the human spirit, symbolized by the recurrent image of daffodils, is crushed by monstrous creatures that stand for the vicious agents of humanity. Her spare lines forcefully evoke the agony and the trauma of human beings in oppressive situations down the ages. Ayaz Rasool Nazki’s “Morning At A Dying Lake” speaks of nature in all her temperamentality and shifting moods. “ The wide green lotus leaf/Like a cradle holds/ A bunch of crystals/Sparkling up into blue sky/As rows upon rows of lotus/ Stand guard to last secrets of the lake” (24). Bibhu Padhi’s verses in “Stranger In The House”, “Poem for my Son”, “Listening Through the Rain” are fluid lines that etch out a lifetime. “Today/the rains are once again here,/ and I can almost remember/your wet voice/through my son’s loud singing,/through the humming sound/of motor cars crowding the road/and, beyond all this”. Dah Helmer’s poem “A Night of Radiant Beauty” is one of deep contemplation and of the evanescence of life and volatility of nature. Gjeke Marinaj is a poet, writer, literary critic, literary critic, and founder of the Protonism Theory. He has stepped away from established isms to embrace new practices and stake out unchartered territory. He does not use poetry as a mute surface but gets inside the fibre of poetry to engage in a partnership with it, exploring its diversity, its tactile richness, its plastic possibilities. Marinaj romances the medium and turns it into the message: the words and verses that he himself makes becomes a sentient material of disturbing implications as he articulates subtle inflections in it. He thus writes:” Unconcerned for the desperate comets panting up yonder,/At once, like a flowery honey-drenched dream, entered the bold/New evening, and undid the top two buttons of her black shirt:/And for us she hung on her neck the moon washed in gold.”(“Twenty-Four Hours of Love”, 38). Heath Brougher’s poems are intriguing and layered narrative that swells with hope and despair, with a considerable measure of humour thrown in. In his poems “Whirlpools”, “My Hills, My Valleys”, “The Stone Carver” H.K.Kaul turns ecstatic, lugubrious, positive, morbid, maudlin and a whole lot other things, as he negotiates a relationship with his readers. Jaydeep Sarangi in “Lake of the Mind” whips up a frenzy of lines to create an arboreal universe heaving with life where Rhododendron sanctuary is the embodiment of nature’s creativity itself. In the lake of his mind he has a liberating vision, for it hints at the possibility of the renewal of life itself. “But mind knows another story/Calm like Lachung river/Emptying into Teesta in a virgin dawn”(50). The effect is one of deep contemplation and of the evanescence of life and volatility of nature. Mandira Ghosh in “I” begins to answer fundamental questions such as where she has come from and where she has to ultimately reach in search of identity. “I can’t wait, I can’t wait/Eternity calls me/I move on/I move on/ Or, every corpuscle/And over every living cell/ I can lie, I can rest.” (52). Martha Collins speaks of a new space, a field of vision in her poem “Field”. Michael Miassian romances the medium called poetry and turns it into the message: the words that he himself makes become a sentient material of disturbing implications as he articulates subtle inflections in it. “You, who could never/ wrap your mind around/the idea of reincarnation/can now remember you other/lives, yes even the ant/and the elephant./And now you wonder,/what is it that is coming next.” (“ You Are On The History Channel” 60). Parneet Jaggi’s poems “Love Transforms”, “Space” lay bare the poet’s psyche. Her verses are pervaded by a sense of brooding contemplation. I “Love Transforms” she writes, “Mind waits not for the lover to appear and make love/Pain within carries the strength/enough to move the planets/This is how love transforms”.(64). Pradeep Biswal, Rainer Shulte, Frederick Turner have charmed the readers through their natural lyricism of poetic movements and touches to keep the poetry unpredictable. “Volume” of Sanjeev Sethi is a masterwork of technique and form for its complete rejection of all superfluous details in the composition.” Accoutred in platinum they were parked in a rococo/berg resort./ They liquored up on premium swigs and/ bounced to current beats with heavyweights from/across the big blue marble./Three hundred television stations plus other media certified it as the wedding of the year”(76). Sanjukta Dasgupta’s poems are deeply philosophical in nature. “If Winter Comes” is poised between argument and empathy. She weaves a dream like yarn here. In “Autumn” there is a sense of isolation, the fluid lines are spontaneous yet fitful. She thus writes: “Autumn prepares me with compassion/For the everlasting hibernation/For Winter now tip toes close behind” (81). Scott Thomas Outlar’s poems speak of the poet’s struggle to overcome the hurdles to be himself in a restless world. Sunil Sharma in “Water Dear” has shifted his focus to the tremendous, mysterious life force that nature is and its formidable power to create and to destroy. “Thin pale-faced rivers gasp/and ponds die daily, as cities move upwards/in a smoggy sky/and grey clouds are now very rare in a June/July sky of/Delhi”. ( 88). Memory is a motif in Vinita Agrawal’s “What Lies in Stock” as part of her assertion of identity chequered by deletions and insertions induced by compulsions in her motherland. “What lies in stock after festive spring has gone/ Or a lost sweet memory for which we mourn”. Gopal Lahiri’s Poems forays into diverse disciplines, picks what can be termed collateral scraps to conjure a tenuous art of ideas, excerpts and improvisation. An art without labels and firm boundaries that seeks to trace patterns of unbidden, formless flow within an amorphous form. “The temple bell unsettles our dream on the edge of wilderness and the sound crosses the fanning coconut palm out into the distant sea.
fly over the
coconut palm (“Coconut Palm”, 101).

Sharmila Ray in “Home” deals with the concept of home. A home provides shelter. But paradoxically it can also fragment. Resolutions need to be sought within these binaries. She probes and discovers, questions and contemplates, conjuring worlds of thought. “As street lamps come to life in the evening and light from the sky dims, one realizes home is a single flickering glow within us.” (104). The editors Gopal lahiri and Sharmila Ray through their poems and in editing the anthology has achieved something extraordinary, this meticulously crafted anthology is much more than an attempt at bridging the gap of the two continents. With the Bengali translations deftly done by poet Tanmoy Chakraborty “Bridging Continents” is going to be a new kind of anthology with a wider readership. 

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