Friend and former colleague Medha Dutta asked me about poetry for a long piece published in The New Indian Express on 7 October 2018.
Here's what I apparently said.
"Poet and publisher, Red River, Dibyajyoti Sarma was invited to this year’s Bengaluru Poetry Festival both as a poet and a publisher. This year, he says, there were more than 50 poets who had been invited—both well-known and emerging—writing not just in English but in all Indian languages. Everyone was given the opportunity to share their works in a hall full of eager listeners. “Usually, poetry readings are fringe events. Bengaluru Poetry Festival has managed to take it to the mainstream,” he adds. According to Dibyajyoti, poetry was always popular, but its readership was always limited. But with Facebook and other social media, Indian poets, especially younger ones, have managed to find a community to share their work, or be a part of it. This visibility has also been helped by experiments like ‘Insta poetry’ or ‘spoken word poetry’, he adds. He published his first book with Writers Workshop, Kolkata, in 2004. “It was a buy-back arrangement. I could recover at least some portion of the investment,” Dibyajyoti explains.
"According to him, poetry has a limited market and for a commercial publisher, it’s a risk. This becomes a roadblock for new poets who are keen to be published by a mainstream publisher. But the landscape is slowly changing. About a decade ago, Poetrywala was established as a dedicated poetry press. Today, there are several such initiatives, such as Hawakal (Kolkata), Copper Coin (Delhi) and Red River (Delhi), among others. Besides, initiatives such as The (Great) India Poetry Collective, and RL Poetry Awards run by Linda Ashok, are a major encouragement."
Read the complete story, InstaRhyme Time by Medha Dutta in The New Indian Express.
Sunday, October 07, 2018
Sunday, September 23, 2018
We can debate whether writings by women writers are by default feminist, but we can agree that women’s writings, by osmosis, concern themselves with the idea of ‘selfhood’. But you would rarely find a writer who makes this selfhood the centre of her narrative, in story after story, with an acute awareness of her intentions, as Sucharita Dutta-Asane does in the 16 stories collected in Cast Out, her first collection. As you read, you can imagine the author furiously making her choices, choosing that perfect word, that perfect sentence.
There’s an element of artifice in Dutta-Asane’s construction of a story, and I think she knows it. She is a gifted storyteller. She knows how to evoke an atmosphere, often dark and foreboding, and she know how to end a story. But, her goal is not to just tell a story; she has hidden agendas behind her narrative choices.
In this collection, Dutta-Asane takes you along into a journey and introduces you to her characters. She wants you to get involved but she refuses to be your guide. She will show you the way; how you reach the destination, it’s up to you.
It all comes together in the title story ‘Cast Out’. On the face of it, it tackles a pertinent issue, the taboo of menstruation. It’s a powerful tale and any lesser author would have taken the easy way out, telling the story in a linear fashion until it finds its explosive end. But, Dutta-Asane uses different narratives devises, from third person omniscient to first person, revealing to us not just the resilience of her heroine, Tara, but also the other characters, her husband, the village head, and the Signalman who blames her for his wife giving birth to a baby girl. And by the time, the story ends, with Tara’s taboo-breaking act of defiance, we are so entranced in the action that we are ready to pick up a fight on her behalf. This is the artifice of her narrative strategy and she succeeds with aplomb.
The story also highlights the major theme of this collection — change. Not sudden, dramatic change, as we often see in fiction, but a slow, sly change in attitude and faith that catches you unawares. So much so that you are forced to relook at Dutta-Asane narratives all over again, like in ‘A Train Story’, where a train journey between a pair of lovers, filled with random storytelling, sudden takes a u-turn into something else altogether. Or, ‘Half a Story’, where a social worker confronts her own hypocrisy, as the truth of the world she is trying to heal hits home.
This relentless pursuit to find the centre of these sly changes invariably takes Dutta-Asane to the territories of horror and macabre, as in ‘Eyes,’ ‘Fireflies,’ ‘Fire’ and ‘Dhaara’. Yet again, this sense of foreboding is an artifice to reveal something more sinister, something more tangible.
Cast Out heralds the arrival of a brave new voice in Indian English Fiction.
[The review was first published in Sakal Times, Pune.]