Years ago when Terry Eagleton wrote “Against the Grain” and established the phrase “reading against the grain” in the domain of criticism, he could not have imagined that that very phrase will be doped with the word “imagining” in place of “reading” and transferred into the domain of creative writing by a group of Kolkakowskians in the virtual world years later.
A few years ago Sunetra Gupta in her lecture on “Deprofessionalisation” at Presidency University, Calcutta, spoke of Poetry as the happy space of failure and posited the fundamental question: “Do we write poetry because we love doing it or because we are good at it?” Perhaps, I should extend that “space of failure” into the curation of poetry too. It is so because to have a representative and inclusive section of Indian poets writing in English one has to grapple with diverse categorization in terms of generations, regions, gender, caste, religions, diasporas, styles, privileges, marketability, as well as favouritism. No doubt one will end up failing negotiating the dynamics of senior/ junior, center/ margin, male/ female, local/ global and so on, as someone or the other will be left out especially since the list is confined to a limited number of entries. It does not even help when the EIC is at your back and some poets don’t respond on time. So here Yours Truly and Sufia Khatoon, in an unenviable effort, bring to you an eclectic assortment of poetic narratives in the Poetry section.
The selection from contemporary Indian English poets has a range of themes and styles. Keki Daruwalla composes a scathing satire on Indian politics reminiscent of the Augustan Age poetry of Dryden. Bibhu Padhi’s “Stranger In The House” is colored in the sepia tones of tender nostalgia, while K. Satchidanandan in his “A House Called Sorrow” creates an allegory through the lens of surrealism. Sujatha Mathai, in the tradition of Christina Rossetti, writes a beautiful elegy for Self. Manohar Mouli Biswas, the eminent Bangla Dalit poet, expresses grief over the death of secularism employing the tenor of the Best Bakery blast, while Hoshang Merchant subverts custom to reveal a present-day Krishna yearning for Radha. Mamang Dai searches for solace in an exquisite piece about remaining rooted to one’s land/culture. Kushal Poddar’s “Ice-holes” bears with it the scent of precious moments in an imagist snapshot. In “Dowry”, Ashwini Bhasi jolts the reader awake, sinister elements lurking under her irony. Ranjani Murali, in an almost dream-like sequence entitled “A Day Without Us Immigrants” traces an unchartered, impossible route out of America, which is nothing short of erasing history. Anindita Sengupta’s “Ritual” encapsulates entrancing imagery as if in a sculpture, and Sonnet Mondal in four vignettes encapsulates both the philosophy and the art of knowing oneself, with embedded videos by Anindita Bose for an enhanced experience.
Taking from the domain of the critical Terry Eagleton’s phrase “against the grain” and appropriating it as “imagining against the grain” into the domain of the creative was born EKL Review. And yet it is the ambiguation of the two domains that has been the purpose of EKL Review and in that respect, without having it bespoke, Sumana Roy produces a perfect manifesto (“Creative-Critical Inc.”) for EKL Review bringing about a disambiguation of purpose.
In this fused space comes an excerpt of Saikat Majumdar’s novel The Scent of God, which did not have the privilege of being included in the final published version. Also included in the issue is an excerpt set in Hainan, China, of Indian-American polyglot author and traveler KiranBhat’s unpublished novel Girarwhich spans across a wide expanse of space and time. In keeping with the idea of movement K. V. K. Murthy writes “In Transit” and Aakriti Kuntal travels into the labyrinth of time in her article. Sonya J. Nair produces a fantastic narrative in her piece “Kutti Chaathan” and Kripi Malviya explores the poetics of therapeutic relationship.
If these are not avant-garde enough then Sana Mohammed produces a bio text which touches on the biographies of the immigrants or refugees through the metaphor of nature and imagism on diet. Hannes Schumacher, on the other hand, writes a text in an imaginary language for the readers to experience. Evgenia Giannopoulou reproduces the manifesto of Chaosmos and adds a futuristic script to it. Sunil Bhandari speaks about his poetry podcast “Uncut Poetry” and Jhilam Chattaraj produces a video as text challenging the readers as viewers to imagine the words. It is this redefinition of text that texts are not just words and certainly not the order of words we are attuned to imagine that the prose section of the second issue of EKL Review tries to establish justifying the tag “imagining against the grain” and negating the division between the critical and the creative.
Ms. Jagari Mukherjee