Listen: From Mihir Vatsa to Linda Ashok, six poets under 40 recite their poems on post-globalisation
40 Under 40: An Anthology of Post-Globalisation Poetry looks at the post-globalisation years through the eyes of 40 poets writing in English.
40 Under 40: An Anthology of Post-Globalisation Poetry looks at the post-globalisation years through the eyes of 40 poets — all of whom are under that age as well — writing in English. It has been published by the Mumbai-based imprint Poetrywala. In order to get an idea about what to expect from the future, the anthology fittingly looks at our immediate past.
Here are six poems from the book, recited by the poets themselves.
The Difficulty with Mixing Two Languages Together by Mihir Vatsa
Unfortunately, there were no knights;
but we could do with insurgents. I met one
in a reverie. We sat under a banyan tree,
and talked about remorse. A million
raindrops lonely in a closet. He said he lived
where it was a custom for the children
to smoke coal-dust in joints. I wanted
to stop him, Don’t go there, John!
Don’t follow the traces of despair.
When he left, I thought about the past;
in its storehouse, the presence of three:
columns in the end of Hindi periodicals
encouraging pen friendship, English-medium
textbooks on the desk, and six unsent
letters, hidden together in a book,
to the first English name.
Karma & WWF by Dion D’Souza
Leaning against the table
(one leg wobbly from
a WWF-inspired stunt
pulled by a burly boy upon his feeble classmate) the Marathi teacher,
very fair, very Brahmin,
said she did not believe in the afterlife:
Everything is settled in the here and now.
That still said nothing
of who is keeping score.
Who the anonymous, omnipresent referee,
who, amid much cheering and clanking,
announces the end of a round. And who
heaves up the breathless winner’s arm
upon thudding out the final count.
Or are the tussles without referee?
With us tumbling, free-falling
into the fray, into the ring,
with forces whose might we might
only reckon with, each miscalculated move
also an ingenious one, each wrong
turn also sharply correct—
with life as one long house of levelled mirrors.
The wrestler and his hapless victim each marked time:
the former, a little shaky, dreading the hour
his handiwork would be discovered,
the other, slammed down and now
choking with emotion, awaiting that
when the tables would be turned.
The teacher stood, neck bare,
arms bare, as usual, unsuspecting, yellow
sari draped over her left shoulder, pale,
somewhat frail, speaking plainly, softly.
Diced into Circle by Linda Ashok
I was barely a teen. A happy face on mother as I stood
confident in my first bra, perfect fit, floral, ready for the
swim. Probably she wanted to freeze that moment, take a
selfie and so, she and I entered a sketch box in the village fair.
Faces placed side by side, cups too… I noted hers were
celadon make, stapled with gold, and mine still aspiring for
the potter’s hands. Today, the sound of a Like wakes me up
with sugar in the eyes. I only doubt if it is father who calls
nostalgia a stupid geometry, even when he’s circled in one.
Baba Yaga by Arjun Rajendran
No one but my cousin found it funny, my story about two boys
under the banyan tree being approached by a figure in white
at an ungodly hour; the apparition, as it turned out, was
Baba Yaga, asking if they’d like curd or tamarind rice? What’s
to laugh at, those around pondered, confounded by our inside joke as
we rolled on the floor, repeating the names of those Tamil dishes—
Thayir Sadam. Puli Sadam— in a possessed tone, not caring how
silly we looked. I’d repeat the joke every summer I met him,
always creating the same effect, until a long silence-by then,
we were taller, mature. I moved to another continent
and like a returned bracelet, the witch became all mine to keep;
she’d awaken after some rum, emerge from behind
an Oak, push tiffin boxes under my nose; trembling, I’d bring
a spoonful of rice to my mouth, hear her chuckle in my boyhood voice.
Flashback Sonnet: B-Film Actress Seeks Lost Bastard Child by Ranjani Murali
You were conceived on a beach with flare lamps, fanfare,
rubber horns, bus-halt screech, the hero with a penchant for number-plate
watching, salt-rock, stiff nods from directors wiping
necks with blue-checked handkerchiefs, disco-ball shard light dancing
off haywards 5000s, sambrani plumes from nearby balconies, the clamor
of sundal boys’ cycle bells and aluminum cans,
and even a hunched man taking notes on suitable body
angles. Start roll camera was not a cue for extending bare knee, it was a precise
rupturing of polished prism by an eye of light flecked with raw silica—crystals
wrenched from sheerness, coating the love-scene with an opacity that your fetal,
forming eyes could have never known; you, a springing of cinematic effusions and silicate
songs in the rain, perhaps now bridge-layer, cement-mixer, glass carver, perhaps master
of straight edges or crenelle, or maybe just a construction worker passing by water, seeing
through sand, as my skin did that day: an observation of pure refraction, gaze in glass.
Back in the orchard by Semeen Ali
I bit into a green guava
Hard as it was
The seeds stuck between my teeth
As much as I tried to remove them
They held on
I had bitten into my first green guava
Amdud I had called it.
I had tried to climb a guava tree
In my mother’s home
The peeling trunk had been of no help
On afternoons that spoke to no one
When people pretended to fall asleep
A soft thud in the backyard
And I the self-appointed policeman
Rushing through long verandahs
To shoo away the “ nasty children”
Would pause to wake up someone
What if I was out numbered?
Evening would come softly
The last song of the koel
Sung while sitting on one of the branches
The futile attempts to climb the guava tree.
Another evening has arrived
The tree is laden with guavas
No appointed policemen required
The house is slowly emptying itself
The inhabitants disappearing
No longer does a koel sing its song here
I pluck a guava to take a bite
It does not taste the way it always did.
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