Book Review: Commentaries elucidating poetics by Sutanuka Ghosh Roy

Review by Nishi Pulugurtha

Commentaries - elucidating poetics
Sutanuka Ghosh Roy
Hawakal Publishers, Calcutta
Year 2021
Price ₹ 350/-

            Of the various books that landed on my table in the last six months has been a neatly mounted, slim book. It stood in a pile of volumes of poetry that I was to read, some just for the sake of reading and some that I had to review. Poetry is something that I have been reading quite a bit in these times. This book stands out from the others and yet also has something in common with them, in that it does talk about poetry. It stands out from others in that it is compilation of book reviews done over a period of time. What links the reviews together is that they are all on poetry and most importantly about contemporary voices in poetry written in English in India. As a book reviewer myself this surely was a book that I read eagerly. The book under review is Commentaries: elucidating poetics by Sutanuka Ghosh Roy.

Nishi Pulugurtha

A book review critically evaluates a text. It makes an argument about the book and engages in a dialogue with the author’s work and with readers who are eager or might be eager to read the book.  While they are characterized by a sense of the succinct, they vary in tone, subject and style while they engage, evaluate and analyse. They do give a brief summary of the content and locate the work in a perspective while examining the various aspects of the book that might appeal to readers.   It is because of all this that a book review is also a form of literary criticism.

Poet, academic, translator and critic, Sutanuka Ghosh Roy has been writing book reviews for quite some time now. The book reviews in this volume, Commentaries, have been published in various online journals and magazines. As she writes, “the charisma of a book can ascertain who the book’s reader is”. Her training as an academic and the fact that she writes poetry are the reasons for her interest in them.

Sutanuka Ghosh Roy

The volume contains book reviews on volumes of poems by individual poets writing in English in India and also includes reviews of edited volumes of poetry. Some of the reviews in the book are – “A Resilient Tale , a review of Sita’s Sister”, a volume of poems by academic, translator and poet Sanjukta Dasgupta, “Pain and Paradox: a review of Banaras and The Other” by Ashwani Kumar,  “Memory Ecologies: a review of Fugitive Words” by Amit Shankar Saha, “Lyrical Tide: a review of Tidal Interlude” by Gopal Lahiri,  “Sitayayan: a review of Sita” by Nandini Sahu, “Selected Songs: Rabindranath Tagore,” Translated by Aditya Kumar Deva Majumdar edited by Gopal Lahiri, “Waltz to Life: a review of Dancing the Light” edited by Rob Harley and Jaydeep Sarangi, “Teasing Clues of Life: a review of Resonance” edited by Chittaranjan Misra, Jaydeep Sarangi and Mona Das and “Poetic Gallery of Urban Life, a review of Urban Reflections: Photography and Poetry In Dialogue” by Wilfred Raussert and Ketaki Datta.

Written in a simple idiom that works to bring out the intricacies and nuances of the poetry by these contemporary voices, the reviews are an important work of literary criticism. Ghosh Roy delves deep into the work under consideration to bring to light its major characteristics. In the first review in the volume, that of the volume of poems Sita’s Daughters by Sanjukta Dasgupta, she speaks of the various influences on the poems in the volume – “We thus have a Sita who dwells alike in the corridors of power, in our households, streets, and call centers, in the victimhood of a Nirbhaya, in the helpless tears and hidden fears of the poor or even in the innumerable single mothers who battle for legal rights and social acceptance of their children.” In the review of poet, editor, translator, dental surgeon and publisher, Kiriti Sengupta’s volume of poems Rituals by Dustin Pickering, Ghosh Roy describes the volume as a search – “not a disembodied spirit, but one with a distinct, beautiful form.” The review goes on to examine the poems in terms of their “technical detailing”, their sound, their rhythm that are intricately linked to “the social, philosophical, and political constructs that govern every interior poetical movement”.

The review of the anthology Bridging Continent: An Antholgy of Indo-American Poets” edited by Gopal Lahiri and Sharmila Ray, Ghosh Roy takes us into the world of this volume, a world that straddles two continents. Ghosh Roy points out to the Bengali translations in the volume done by the poet Tanmoy Chakraborty. It is not often that one comes across a bilingual anthology of poems. In the review of Nandini Sahu’s volume of poems, Zero Point, Ghosh Roy takes us into another journey of womanhood. Sahu’s poetry, she notes belong “to the broad genre of contemporary Indian English Poetry” and “lends itself to a feminist reading”. Urban Reflections: Photography and Poetry in Dialogue with poems by Ketaki Datta and photographs by Wilfred Raussert, are referred to as a work that “wishes to create a dialogue between photography, poetry, and street art”. Ghosh Roy’s review delves deep into the nuances of the photographs and the poems that accompany them as she weaves a tapestry much like the ones in the book that speaks at various levels.

The books reviewed in the volume, apart from the fact they are books of poems have also something else in common, they are all about contemporary and recent voices and have been published in recent times, between 2015 to 2020. Commentaries: elucidating poetics is a much needed companion for anyone interested in poetry written in English in India.

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