Review of Toshali 2023: Anthology of Poetry

Gopa Nayak

A rare anthology of poems Toshali 2023 is home to poems on varied themes by poets from equally divergent groups. As one ventures out to make sense of the 96 odd poems across the spectrum one is inundated with the flooding of thoughts from ‘Chunda’ to ‘cathedral’, from ‘dreams’ to ‘maya’ among others. A serious reader perhaps would be left pining for an organized text either along themes or any other viable category such as age, gender, translation among others. This anthology on the other hand, takes the poet’s given names as the first point of reference in organizing the content pages. Poetry, is perhaps a genre of written text where alphabetical organization along given names serves no purpose to the reader although it can make the job of the editors much easier and make the writers feel that there has been no discrimination. While the poets who not so famous can take pride in contributing to this publication, veteran poets such as Jayanta Mahapatra add excellence with their expressive words and others like me make an attempt to climb up the ladder and still others revel in the opportunity to maintain their momentum in poetry writing. The anthology thus makes an attempt to encourage many to hang out the renderings of their hearts in black and white. And this is no mean feat. Hence, the silver lining of this anthology, is perhaps the democratic fervor, the hallmark of Odisha as reflected in the Jaganath culture of meting out equal space to all, irrespective of their status, in the literary world.

Sunil Sharma’s words ‘Vibrant spaces, a blank canvas’ as if spells out the ambition of Toshali Literature Festival as the Anthology creates a vibrant space and opens it up like a blank canvas for poets to fill it with their colourful thoughts. And what a picturesque maze has been created. Much deserved credit due to the editors. Their optimism spelt out in their own words ‘manifestation of humanity’ by Ajit Das and ‘I surrender to the infinity’ by Pradeep Biswal, glorify the mission of the Anthology.

‘Future’ by Aneek Chatterji, ‘Blank page’ by Anjali Sahoo, ‘Arrival’ by Amit Shankar Saha - all reminding the readers of the optimism of life and fragility of time and as survivors of the tragic pandemic to sing the glory of life and its glue love. ‘Amazing Evolution’ by Akshaya Kumar Das, ‘Rain now and then’ by Anadi Charan Pradhan, ‘Present- Trench –Future’ by Agnivesh Mahapatra further accentuate the message of hope that the Anthology has rejuvenated in a post-pandemic world. ‘Let poems be simple’ by Makhan Kalita and translated by Dr Gogoi jots down all the contents that this review aims to touch upon and in his words – ‘all that is simple and touches the heart’.

Jayanta Mahapatra’s magical words ‘the logic of winning or the magic of living’ in his poem ‘Playing with the Magician’ elevates the anthology to the level of a book of poems par excellence. The lines – 
‘But the world is there, beginning to speak again, 
And I’ve lost the ability to disappear. 
Looks as if with all its silvery light 
the world cannot touch me 
with its last sentence, bold, sinless.

Poet Jenamani in her words ‘Asking for an answer an exercise in futility’ follows the traditional course of poetic seeking while Nandini Sahu’s ‘Manthan’ focuses on love and as ‘the secret to shine bright’ and the beloved as the ‘agenda of the light’.   My own poem ‘Maya’ dwells on the common manifestations of love which perhaps cannot be denounced as ‘maya’ or ‘pretentions’. Bina Singh’s poem again on the same theme of love in her poem ‘May Flower’ presents love as the universal ethos of humanity while ‘Love is just such a cut on a finger’ by Mandakini Bhattacharjee perhaps highlights the pain of love and yet normalizes it.

The translated Telugu poem – ‘Only after getting wounded’ is a pleasure to read with the first line – ‘I want to remain unhurt’ and the last line ‘I reach home only after getting wounded’ wrapping up the essence of life and its relentless fights. ‘A distant dream’ by Namita Rani Panda depicts a different kind of optimism. ‘Dream and how to make it memorable’ focuses on the struggles in the journey from birth to death and makes up the two poems of Braja K. Sorkar. ‘Depressing fold of time’ to ‘mind’s long hibernation’ in the poem of Bhaskaranand Jha are metaphoric yet true of the times gone by. ‘Aren’t we all wandering in time’ by Nisha Luthra sums up the illusion, the seeking and the answering of poetic justice in life.

While the opening poem with the line ‘relishing the cuddles of winter’ of Adyasha Priyadarshini kind of sets the tone for an exciting read, the concluding lines of the Anthology in the poem of Urna Ghosh titled “What No One Told Me” with the words ‘that the things you once loved so dearly, you can start hating too’- aptly summarizes the philosophy of life and literature that Toshali Literature sets out to celebrate. Let the Anthology infuse the readers with the right balance of love and hate in order to sustain the celebration and the excellence in the publication of such anthologies for times to come.  
Last but the least, Toshali Literature Festival draws its name from an ancient city in Kalinga or present day Odisha. This glorious place has been witness to Buddha and his teachings and to Emperor Ashoka’s transformation as the messenger of peace. Hope and pray that the poetic journey of Toshali Literature blends in intellectualism with spiritualism that has been the glory of the land, that is, Toshali!

Gopa Nayak is a bilingual poet who writes in English and Odia, her mother tongue. Born and brought up in Odisha, Gopa finished her education at the University of Oxford with a PhD in English Language Teaching.

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