A new anthology brings together poetry of dissent from all over India
Nabina Das & Nirupama Dutt
They say memories make our art and writing. But all along the pandemic of 2020 and now into 2021, my personal experience has been of gradual memory-less-ness. Even attaching pre- and post- to talk about our experiential accounts of the Covid-19 scourge, it has not illuminated much of my memory.
Every day I tried to think hard of the times I’ve spent in the blue-green open, among joyous milling crowd, in sweet love-locked positions, holding and cooing at young ones, speaking and singing even with strangers, marching in rallies, and travelling to see faraway dawns and shores. But my memory failed me, or let’s say, failed to spark any spontaneous creativity in me.
It became a task for me to imagine a blemish-free disease-free period in my life and the visual frames seemed to fade away. I write about these personal hurdles here as my dissent, a political stance.
In this stark period, I also lost people I trusted from two decades ago, those that unfortunately could not sense my bodily and intellectual anguish. As the editor of this significant anthology, my journey therefore has been painful. I felt unless there was an empathetic environment of kindness and unquestioning support that has our backs to regain creative balance, there would be no point in continuing as a poet or editor.
True, I merely wrote poems about garlic pods, the constant sky from my balcony where I was confined, and sanitiser swipes all over surfaces. And finally, in that, I have found the slow path to love, the biggest dissent!
It is true then, “the art of losing isn’t hard to master!” Amid this haplessness, one thing did not fade out for me, whether in the framework of memory or of immediate happenings. And it was seeing people’s reactions to structural oppression, discrimination, injustice, and violence inflicted all around, all of it institutionalised for centuries. That consciousness never withered from my senses.
Not for a moment I could let the overwhelming sense of rage, love, and healing subside from my head. One might say, these feelings are archival. Although, what I’ve seen first-hand, living in these times fraught with aggression and denial, is that even archives of history and culture and coexistence are being plundered by the powers that be. Poetry was not to be lost in this inferno: ik aag ka¯ dariya¯ hai aur duub ke jaana¯ hai...
From the Introduction
Chop off every tongue if you may
the words have been uttered...
Words reach out with a rare rage, urgency, indignation, and angst as poets turn witness to dissent across the length and breadth of the sub-continent in contemporary poetry in this colossal anthology containing 250 poets.(To be contd)