Review by Anjana Basu

Cuckoo in Crisis

An Anthology of Poems: Poems by Women Poets

Editors: Charu Sheel Singh & Binod Mishra

Akhand Publishing House

₹ 320.00 INR

Anjana Basu
This was an anthology that was a long time in the coming to fruition and one that possibly deserves the grace of two minutes silence at the outset because one of the editors, Charu Sheel Singh, succumbed to Covid – though he did have the pleasure of knowing that his dream of the book would be realised since it was already in press before his passing.

Charul Sheel Singh and Binod Mishra wanted to celebrate the work of Indian women poets. It was their theory that Indian women had yet to been given due recognition for their creativity and that gender marginalisation had crept into society with the coming of the nineteenth century and beyond – there had been women thinkers even in the time of the Upanishads and in medieval times, poets like Meerabai, the Tamil mystic Andal, Lal Ded. Even Zeb-un-nisa,  the daughter of Aurangzeb wrote poems under the name of Makhvi, the Hidden One and was imprisoned by her father for the last two decades of her life. Her poems only saw light of day after her death.

Cuckoo in Crisis is so named because the editors feel that India women have yet to find their identity. In a country where scriptural  tradition rejoices in the stories of Parvati/Sati, who rebelled against her father King Daksha, or the large hearted Kunti who asked Krishna for the boon of endless sorrow so that she could share his grief after Kurukshetra.

Charu Sheel Singh
The poets who have been brought together include names like Laksmisree Banerjee, Candice Louisa Daquin, Mandira Ghosh, Zilka Joseph, in all 25 accomplished women poets, a sterling silver collection of subtle words and soft undercurrents that nonetheless make their point. Cuckoo in Crisis is a carefully curated selection of women’s thoughts and feelings. Whenever there is a diversity of women, the thoughts are equally diverse. Women are more noted for their sensitivity than men and also for the variety of their emotions which roam the regions of housework, independence, activism, mysticism, natural bliss and of course romance. Nirbhaya, of course features, as an expression of the lurking fears that haunt the darkness of the establishment. Women have their own set of anxieties  in the world of #MeToo which are heightened by the melding of toxic rural and urban masculinity that spares no age beginning from attacks on baby girls. Caste and religion remain banners of provocation, though the Nirbhaya experience proves that a women doesn’t have to do anything but just be.

Binod Mishra
Kamala Das’ statements made their own impact but after her few women poets writing in English were able to reach such heights of free expression and modernity while remaining true to their Indian traditions. The editors are confident that the clutch of poets in Cuckoo in Crisis have managed to do this, wiping away women’s tears and addressing their issues.

Femininity lives in a world stalked by predators. Despite India’s 75 years of Independence, the independence of women remains an issue highlighted by episodes like Shaheen Bagh and many others Gauri Lakesh’s unsolved death, for one, the realise of Jessica Lal’s shooter . In troubled times, lyricism and verse are the best ways of speaking out.


Born in Allahabad, schooled for a time in the UK, Anjana Basu has to date published 9 novels and 2 books of poetry, The Chess Players and Other Poems from Writers Workshop and Picture Poems and Word Seasons from Authorpress. Her first poem was chosen for the Illustrated Weekly by the then Poetry Editor Kamala Das. Her poems have appeared in an anthology brought out by Penguin India. Since then she has featured in Kunapipi, The Blue Moon Review, The Phoenix Review, The Ginosco Review, the Salzburg Review, Prosopisia and Indian Literature, to name a few.  Most recently she was published in Muse, an anthology of NE poets

1 comment :

  1. Thanks Anajana madam for considering the efforts of two editors in bringing 25 women poets on a common platform and disseminating the felt experiences.
    Thanks again for the short but pointed review of the Cuckoo in Crisis.


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