Poetry at Sangam



September 2017

Months of inclement weather, storms of all kinds all over the world. The climatic tipping of a fouled earth, turmoil of war, turbulence in our inner geographies… Borders crossed to no purpose. I was brooding; seeping out darkness like I manufactured squid ink by the gallon. That’s when poet and editor of The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, Sonnet Mondal mailed to propose he guest edit an issue. ‘I have recently been in Istanbul during the twin blasts and visited few … places near Syria, during the Aleppo bombings. During my stay… I came across poets, soldiers by profession and few others who have grown amidst border conflicts. These poets have used love and dissent as a medium to calm their inner conflicts during tough times.’ This suggested a stance different to earlier ‘war poets’ like Owen and Poigayaar, one profoundly anti-war, the other valorising battles’ bloody maws. Yes, I mail Sonnet, yes, let’s have these poems of protest, poems of tenderness too. A gloaming would do in these dark times. In his mail Sonnet also wrote,‘Since the inception of mankind, not a single generation has passed without witnessing a war. Still, we have been born out of love, and love alone has enabled us to survive for thousands of years …’ It’s a moving thought, even an enchanting one, optimistic as dew’s certain dawn appearance, and probably as ephemeral if one isn’t a mystic. I’m in agreement with the first statement; not the second. How can we forget the women raped, the child-brides of war, the handmaidens of slavery etc. Yet his view was like pond clearing when blown on, a heartfelt reflection of love’s potential and a counterweight to my gloominess. (Though I believe in the mysterious savage beauty of life. Even stones can rise skyward. Think volcano.) Yes, I mailed, do guest edit our September issue. Read Sonnet’s poetry here. Often in his poetry declamations of protest clamour across the page: …a hunger to attain/evolves without bargains// bliss in loneliness/ gets confused/ with fleeting pleasure. I wonder if this doesn’t reflect the poet’s bewilderment at the sad state of life. At other times his voice ranges from the quirky to the contradictory to the startling as in this on the trickled porosity of tears …Tears are digging deep inside// a canyon of remembrances/ is getting drilled … Here‘s an excerpt, where again the poet laments against loss, from Nobody Speaks of You Syria : …The bullets you have consumed/ have rusted inside your womb/ and stained the colour of your blood.// Civilization looks as blank as/ a dry river/ that doesn’t thirst for rains.
I end with a quote from the Rg Veda: May there be peace on all that moves and all that does not. Peace.

— Priya Sarukkai Chabria


Curatorial Note

Sonnet Mondal

From the time of the Kurukshetra war to present-day chemical attacks in Syria, the world has been in conflict: conflicts to assert superiority over lands and seas, wear the badge of gallantry, while forging hatred in the name of faith and religion. Since the inception of mankind, not a single generation has passed without witnessing a war. Still, we have been born out of love, and love alone has enabled us to survive for thousands of years — silently disapproving the vainness of propaganda, embracing dissent through its warmth. The little love — that the whisper of leaves, brooding of boulevards and cries of foxes lend — lingers like a floating light from a lighthouse, fighting the darkness around. Over years, poets and writers have used the element of love to dissent, whether by chronicling the fate of wars or by using powerful metaphors to create much needed pain in the hearts of readers. The concept of war in this edition, is not limited to military operations or terrorism but inner conflicts and dilemmas as well, which sometimes perturb us and give us sleepless nights. Conflicts can be — with someone else or with one’s own self. Either way elements of tenderness — like love, memories and nostalgia can install hope in us, and encourage a life full of vitality and happiness.

The poets in this issue — Brian Turner, Les Wicks, Ladan Osman, José Luís Peixoto, Erik Lindner, Stephen Collis, and Aurélia Lassaque delicately respond to various inner conflicts and reflect over possible ways of taming them. When it comes to war poets, my greatest influence has been Wilfred Owen who meditated upon futility of war in his poem Strange Meeting. Brian Turner subtly invokes the same message — especially through The Al-A’imma Bridge and Call It Leaves and Rain. His poems highlight a poet’s turmoil — hovering between love and loss. The terrain of his poems comprises of his memories and reflections while he was a part of the Iraq war. His work shows — how he has always been a poet — sitting and swaying in the swing of remembrances, even while serving as a Sergeant in the US army. Coming to Les Wicks: in an increasingly university focused poetry world, he is an odd one out who teaches, edits & writes away from poetics & theory toward a more elemental starting point from which he teases out messages, words & images to a (hopefully) nuanced, enriching experience for the reader. While Ladan Osman is an interrogating observer, José Luís Peixoto’s poems are short monologues, rich in sensitivity — starting with the obvious and going beyond the expected. Erik Lindner, a quintessential wordsmith, chisels out daily observations into his poems. He dives deep into the pool of our belief, without creating ripples. Stephen Collis is experimental in tone and seems to address a series of societal and semantic concerns put forward by his inner voice. His creative architecture comes equipped with words — placed like bricks — cemented by fresh turns of phrase. Aurélia Lassaque has more to tell than show. In this collection, she revisits the myth of the Odyssey, giving voice to Ulysses and an unnamed woman called « She ». In the form of a dialogue in eight cantos, the poet evokes the ancient Greek theatrical form to explore the frontiers between theatre and poetry.

The nucleus of this edition banks on the abundance of tenderness and conflict in our lives from little household episodes, and inner dilemmas to war in foreign lands. My heartfelt thanks to Priya Sarukkai Chabria for welcoming me into the family of Poetry at Sangam, and to the contributors for being the pillars of this collection.

Brian Turner

Les Wicks

Ladan Osman

José Luís Peixoto

Erik Lindner

Stephen Collis

Aurélia Lassaque