Book Review: SHAKTI


The Feminine Principle, Energy and Lifeforce (An International Anthology of Poetry)
Eds: Arindam Roy and Anumita Roy
Consultant and Associate Eds: Luz Maria Lopez, Neelam Saxena Chandra, Urna Bose
Kavya Kumbh, Allahabad,
p.259, Rs.600/ USD 25.00


Reviewed by: Professor Nandini Sahu, India

SHAKTI, The Feminine Principle, Energy and Lifeforce (An International Anthology of Poetry) with poems from 15 countries, 111 poets and 162 poems came to me as a pleasant surprise from the erudite editor, Arindam Roy, with a beautiful cover by the gifted poet and artist, Anumita Roy. I rather read all the Editorials and most of the poems at one go, each one in tandem with the other, and each piece addressing the very important theme, femininity and feminine power with a ‘secular, gender free and multicultural’ slant. The poems have an inclination to the theme, and as a teacher of English literature, I felt this seminal book is the need of the hour.

The intriguing title, Shakti, says half of the story. The Editorial by Arindam Roy, talking about a world that is ‘secular, gender free and multicultural’. The Editorial by Arindam Roy is a queer combination of emotions and a practical approach to women’s issues. It emphasizes the prerequisite for writing from the margins, good governance and conflict resolution vis-à-vis women’s issues, brainstorming on exclusion and discrimination against Adivasis, Dalits and other subaltern groups, crime against women and the debates thereof, need for liberal humanism and equal opportunity for all. While he rests his case with the standing of ‘unity in diversity’ in the global family, Lus Maria Lopez beseeches, advocates for celebrating womanhood—to her, women’s healing force and wisdom are the real sources of Shakti. Anumita Roy talks about Shiva and Shakti as the analogous, equivalent powers in human life and Neelam Saxena Chandra promotes the power of poetry in bringing home the authority of life, the culture of Shakti. Urna Bose concludes in her signature, indomitable style—“You are your own Shakti!”

The two standard stereotypes of women in literature as well as media are the figures of the mother and the adoring lover. In addition to these characters, there are two other typecasts – those of the refined city girl and the less sophisticated rural woman. The two are often compared in a straitjacketed manner to exaggerate the conflict between avant-gardism and orthodoxy. The urban woman is shown or commonly perceived as totally detached from life in the country or from kinsfolks who are not city dwellers. Even in our movies and television programs, two extreme kinds of women—the goddess and the demoness—are represented; the real women, the women like us who have their only too human pains and pleasures are mostly missing! This is a lopsided and simplistic representation of the feminine gender, which this anthology attempts to address.

If there’s something in Derrida that I fully appreciate, it’s his violation of polarizations in order to accentuate and accept those metamorphoses that are there in each one of us. In response to this thought, I discover many poets in this volume rethinking their feminism. People amend, circumstances change. Being a strong woman is to be meaningfully flexible – a strong woman is her own proprietor, her own ‘Shakti’—which is the essential tone and tenor of this book, as Urna points out.

Shakti is power. In an ideal man-woman relationship, dichotomies perhaps should not actually function. It’s only if a power-game is played that consciousness about who’s the subject or object comes out. At a certain level of communication, these kinds of dichotomies collapse. I wonder if all clashes should breakdown in order to multiply the opportunities of women! I discover today that the poetics of radicalism is pushed to the boundaries of the ivory tower of academia. I don’t alarm myself much as a feminist with critics and intellectuals as far as reading the poetry of this volume is concerned, even if I delight in reading them all at once. As far as the poems in this anthology are concerned, they speak of a female solidarity, authority, individuality and woman’s contest at a distinct level for persistence as well as on the shared level of touching patriarchal coercion. Catastrophe in one phase of women’s existence does not reduce them to adversity. It is their capacity to live life organically according to their own terms, without the shelter provided by men, (which sadly often becomes an ego booster) that defines them as tough units in any intimidating masculine world. Their courage, resilience and fortitude in the struggle against all odds make them independent women and survivors against tyranny, patriarchal or social, and the poets bring out these themes mellifluously in the book. And I am glad that they do so effortlessly!

This anthology talks of the success stories of women, of feminine power. The women here have evolved into stories of struggle and success that can often be paralleled to the bearings of postcoloniality. The genre Shakti has truly evolved and I am hopeful that there is more to come from the pen of the editors and poets represented here. Ecology and women have deep connections (hence, eco-feminism!). Ecofeminism explains the gender issue on a much wider perspective. The attention of the poems here is on creating women’s rights over land and water, for security. The poems have a deep awareness of environment and the need to follow ecological ideologies while following a development agenda for women. The book supports and questions developmental courses, talks of ecological history in relation to the rapport between Man and Nature, and between the two genders.

The book has a long way to go. Shakti is here to stay, flourish and thrive as a phenomenal book.

To rationalize my argument on the accent of gender-solidarity and inclusivity in the anthology, I would conclude with a poem by Abhishek Dutta Choudhury:

“In order and decorum, the Ying animus donating the Feminine energy,

I thought the entire universe was against me,

But at that moment,

I proceeded on my journey to merge with the infinite.

I stayed there sobered,

Submitting to the divine vision of the Goddess Supreme.

Like a phoenix, I was reborn.

Unlocking my true creative potential.”


About the Reviewer:

Prof. Nandini Sahu, Amazon’s best-selling author 2022, Professor of English and Former Director, School of Foreign Languages, IGNOU, New Delhi, India, is an established Indian English poet, creative writer and folklorist. She is the author/editor of seventeen books. She is the recipient of the Literary Award/Gold Medal from the hon’ble Vice President of India for her contribution to English Studies. Her areas of research interest cover New Literatures, Critical Theory, Folklore and Culture Studies, Children’s Literature and American Literature.

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