Sitting down with The Significant Anthology is like being invited to sit in some great meeting place around a glowing campfire. You don’t want to get up, close your eyes, or miss a single moment.
By Michele Baron
Co-editor, author, musician, social innovator and artist, not to mention Fulbright scholar
Since civilization dawned and people found uses for the light of day, and reasons to escape the darkness of night; they have tried to share their experiences of the world, to comfort themselves, to share with each other, to memorialize for posterity. Hopes, fears, betrayal, great pain and great joy weave their way through the cultures of the world, recorded and repeated through song, stories, poems and vivid speeches. Sharing humor, fear, the profound and the profane in stories is a rich tradition stretching throughout human history to pre-literate society, where spoken words and illustrations, perhaps even ancient pictures drawn in charcoal on the walls of caves, allowed humankind to release tension, review events, receive understanding, realize solutions, become united in resolve, unified in memory.
Sitting down with The Significant Anthology is like being invited to sit in some great meeting place around a glowing campfire. You don’t want to get up, close your eyes, or miss a single moment, because you know, between the dancing lights and the wonderful story spinners, that this is a unique gathering, with many talented authors sharing their poems, prose, and drama.
From the “classic color” of blushing self-doubt in Aatish Shayer’s verses in ‘An Upset Rose’ to Ampat Koshy’s sonnet bespeaking poignantly the artist staring at the possibility of irreplaceable loss when the “crimson joy” might be in reach, in ‘After Milton: On My Illness’ the poets explore the dizzying depths and heights of emotion. Voices of hope, and despair, such as in Ananya Chatterjee’s ‘Confessions of a Tree’ contribute to cadences which make the reader grateful that the fire burns brightly enough to turn yet another page, and read on.
Arghya Dey reaches for meaning beyond the virtual in ‘I Feel Tired’, while, next to speak before the fire, Ayush Singhania implores the companion of his dreams to ‘Trust Me’ (though you will have to read for yourselves the beauty of his imploration, and the outcome), and, stirring up embers before the fire might fade, Binod Bastola Joshi questions the speed of passage ‘At the End’.
When Bishwabikash Das steps to the blaze to question faith, and the false welcome of exploitation in ‘The Sex Worker’, Cleber Pacheco counters with the unconditional welcome of a host with nothing to offer but good will and a surprising twist at the end. In ‘Ghosts of Existence’ Daniela Voicu speaks of the remembrance of happiness, as David Thane Cornell throws down an eight-liner about a master weaver and his carpet. Debashish Mishra writes of ‘An Encounter with Beauty’ stored in “a place where nothing dies” and Donall Dempsey adds some thoughtful notes in ‘Adagio’. Elizabeth Marino measures the memories of life in ‘My Mother Loved Spanish Rice’, and Faraz Jamil Kakar offers his translation of Bari Jahanis’ Pashtun poem ‘Pharoah and Haman’, where respect and gifts did not suffice, and a man wished to be God.
Iulia Gherghei breaks the ice with ‘A Winter Story’, Janne De Rijck offers her amazement at ‘Saints and Hookers’, and the young poet Joanna S Koshy tells what happened when ‘A Boy and a Girl Sat By a River’, and John M. Olsen sums everything up in a couplet with ‘You See My Shadow…’.
In ‘Love and Compassion’ Kapardeli Edtichia sculpts a vision of a heart pure, Kasozi Andrew tells of an unquenchable spirit in ‘I Will Still Write’, and Khushi Gupta laments ‘The Voice of Pain’, but yields the floor to other poetic musings, including the flying seeds of dreams in Lagna Pany’s ‘Dandelions of Love’.
Lopamudra Banerjee takes the stage with ‘A Woman I Am’, bowing welcome to ‘Sparrow’s Song’ by Louis Kasatkin, as Lucette Bailliet prepares to welcome an August super moon to the fireside in ‘The Night Tonight’. Several enjoyable poems later, Michael Dickel presents his pensive ‘Dead Letter’, of soldiers and safety, coffins and children’s songs. ‘Fumes from the Forests’ floods the senses in Nandini Garg’s vision, and Neetu Wali explains “…a life as pure as a plain paper” in the poem ‘Autism’.
Leaving time to reflect once more upon the beauties of womanhood and motherhood, a log is cast upon the fire as Nonhlanhla Vezi’s ‘They Never Gave Up!’ sounds, not relaxing an instant as Paul Abuya Okello tells about ‘These Poets’ and Payal Agarwal reminds listeners that ‘Words’ shall find their way.
And as the flames moderate again towards the heart and love and faith. Dr Pendyala Pradeep praises poetry or his wife or muse or lover in ‘She’, Persian Khushi (Roshan) explains a vision of faith and wonders in ‘I Sit Here and Ponder’, Perveiz Ali raises a searching voice in ‘Oh My Beloved’ and the waiting Poulome Mitra Shaw steps into the light with ‘I Wanted to Write This Love Song’ as Pradipta Kumar Mohanty tempts us with ‘Captivation’.
Pranav Sinha brings a serious note of gender value in ‘Precious’ , Chilongozi questions the value of life in ‘Dark Muse’ and Rajbabu Gandham quests for truth in ‘Pursuit’. And onward, Ramesh Rai offers ‘A Lesson of Smile’ while Randall Stephen Hall steps in to air some ‘Stuff’. In ‘Parallel Play’ Reena Prasad explores the ageless spaces of passion, and Rekha M. then brings passion to a ‘Blaze’.
Turning flames to fuel, Richi Simon advises us to “…act like a blazing fire” in ‘Aspire for a Better Tomorrow’, and, though poems of love fan the central campfire, R Jayachandran considers the ashes in ‘When I Go, Don’t Weep For Me’ and, eventually, Rukhaya M.K considers ‘Destiny’ and Samantak Bhadra measures “…the darkness between the stars” in ‘We Are All’.
Sangeeta Suneja seeks ‘A Clear Road’ and Sarojkanta Dash describes ‘Spring in My Village’ as being “…like the youth of a poor man’s daughter.” As the central fires crackle, Saroj. K. Padhi enters to describe ‘An Autumn Afternoon’ and warmth is sought in the rainy season in Shruti Goswami’s ‘Letter’. Turning back the many seasons, Smitha Bharathan recollects joys of childhood in ‘My Father So Dear’. After some poems of reflection, Sunil Sharma snatches a moment (or three) with ‘The Amusement Park: Three Parts.’.
Poems sound, in praise of life, and fancy, and Alice in Wonderland, and Suzette Portes questions “…how unfair can this worldly life be?” in “The Victim” and poets arise to explore the future, and truth, and Tapti Pal enters to trace ‘The Journey of a Cloud’, Taslima Rahman describes a lustrous ‘Night.. After the poems turn again to love, philosophy, and politics, Vinati Bhola states ‘There is Nothing More Tragic Than Reality’.
As the flames of creativity continue to entice our attention, Wribhu Chattopadhyay scans a ‘Paradox’, Zainab Hossain bids desire ‘Adieu’, and Zeenath Ibrahim entertains with the interplay of ‘The Sun and I’ before the intermission sounds, and the campfire audience prepares itself for prose.
Animesh Ganguly opens with an adult’s heartfelt narrative of understanding a child’s recognition of loss and love in a ‘Father and Daughter’. The duo Ankita Chandgothia and Debika Chakravarty write of coming of age and betrayal in ‘Intimate’. Faheem Gundroo tells of “someone who can completely turn your world around” in the short story ‘Monsoon Union’.
Gaami leaves the realm of the human to write of a cheetah, a blackbuck, drought and choice in ‘Power’, Garima Pura looks at caste in ‘Sugarcoating The Bitter Pill’.
Leaving the form of short story for a moment, Jawaid Danish holds the firelight, decries double standards and speaks of awareness, the birthday of a three-year-old, love, and “will” in a short solo play translated from Urdu by the author and Reena Grover: ‘My Son is Autistic!’
After a pause for reflection, Joyce Yarrow takes up the candle in ‘My ‘Made It’ Moment’, and then Kaartikeya Bajpai transports us from the hard streets of New York City to a rickshaw near Bandra Station in ‘Base Camp’. Lisa D. Ellis expresses remembrance and re-ignition poolside in ‘The Firefly’ and Manipadma shares vision, faith, and a dream in ‘Ocean’.
From the floundering of a soul in the ocean of life, Maaya Dev turns us to share the breath of life in ‘The Untethered Soul’. Namrata muses over Sunday coffee, sharing ‘The Keepsake’ and a tale of love. Nirmolika Sangha stokes the fires with a day that would change life forever in ‘The Ring’, and, not to be outdone, Pamposh Dhar adds warmth to the flames, ‘Remembering Papa’.
We gaze into the flames and consider Panjami Anand’s tale ‘Healing’, but are surprised by the flashing of sparks when Payal Pasha presents ‘Here Lies a Crazy Animal Lover’. After the spark-storm, embers are raked in Prodipta Bannerjee’s ‘The Desert of Love’, while Rajiv Tanwar extends reflections of a cold winter night, and beyond, in ‘Reverse Mortgage’. Ramaa Sonti stands before the flames and speaks of the coldness, capriciousness, and contracts of life in ‘Madam Ji’.
Attention cannot lag as Ruma Chakravarti opens a ‘Window to the West’, where Facebook meets fiction, and, next, Sajini Chandrasekera shares ‘Tearful Memories’. Sanjaya Mishra explores “…a reason and a means to live” in ‘Listen to the Leaves’, and Serjan Marin tells of a lighted candle, hidden gem, and broken sword, promises and prisons, life and death in ‘Three Lost Symbols’.
Shriya Pant knows of the ‘Cauldron of Dreams’ and tells of the secrets of the wispy dark woods, after which we leave them for Soumya Mukherjee’s calamity-plagued but memorable journey in ‘The Custodian’. Sreelekha Chatterjee plunges us again into winter in ‘The Serial Guilt’, and then Tribhawan Kaul sweeps in offering the expectations and observations of a child in “The Present.” Ushnav Shroff presents the world of another child in ‘The Boy Who Wished for Rain’ as the course of short stories comes to a close.
As the storm clouds clear, we prepare ourselves for the third section of The Significant Anthology by throwing yet more logs on the fire, to listen to the introduction of ‘Oh, Hark!’ and, as the fire-lit literary feast draws towards its conclusion, the long poem of Dr. Santosh Bakaya raises, phoenix-like, from the flames and memories of all which have passed before, infusing its own unique energy and life into the Anthology. The form, structure, and allusions of the poem present their own cornucopia of delights to the campfire feast, and we might linger by the fireside to read, once, twice, even thrice, the 2014 Rueul Prize Winning poem ‘Oh, Hark!’ and rest, at last, after visiting a Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Woman in White, humor, Humors, horns of dilemma and a quick pit stop to contemplate some zucchini fritters before disruptions with dancers, drummers, a rodent derby, and some doddering dames playing games. Ghosts and play-acting, bad luck and broomsticks herald the heroism of the poet, while, still, figures dance ‘round a fire of their own. Bob Marley receives a nod, and more music—Gothic, and fusion, as “A murder most foul,” they screamed, minds muddled… in stark fear the birds started flapping their wings, oh hark” … The moon watches all while the poet proceeds, and the fires are stoked, more mishaps intercede, and Death is defied with the offering of a rose. Some jaw-dropping later, Ginger Roger appears, with a person quite short, and Dickens holds forth, close to “…poor little Dorrit.” The Tower of Babel at one point falls silent, the poet still strives, tilting at the windmills of those still demanding classics in spite of all else. A duck and a robin, more kitchens and wine, and more moonlit dancing, and Bob Marley’s tune Jammin’ meets with One Heart! We are brought to our knees by the staggering conclusion, the entire affair might have been a delusion, and our poet exclaims as the last stanza she writes, of the fantastic, the vivid, the livid, and the illusion.
So, as with any campfire tale-telling, all must come to an end, but the happiness is that The Significant Anthology can be opened any time, and on any page, any reader can find a friend. Writers from the many cultures and religions of the world gather, to share their views, dreams and tales, seasoned writers among neophytes, the verbose, and the succinct, this book is a wonderful amalgamation of visions, journeys, and a testament that the pen can be mightier than the sword.
This review would not be complete without recognition of publisher George Korah of Morph Books, and chief Editors Dr. Ampat Koshy and Reena Prasad, for without the mighty efforts of Dr. Koshy and Reena Prasad, and the contributions of Santosh Bakaya, admirable and prolific authors themselves, this volume would not exist.
The Significant Anthology
Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: Primalogue Publishing Media Private Limited (July 20, 2015)
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