Two recent things are at the back of my mind as I write this Editorial. The first is the sad demise of Shri Shankha Ghosh, the noted Bengali poet who was the stalwart of his generation and a beacon for future generations. He was the President of the Advisory Board of Intercultural Poetry and Performance Library, where I am the Assistant Secretary (EC). His passing away has left a sort of vacancy in many spheres that is difficult to define.
The second is the just-concluded festival of poetry, Anantha, organized by Samyukta Poetry, helmed by Sonia J. Nair, whose work we published in the last issue. The seven-day long online event was rich in the truest sense of that word. It was not just because I was a part of it, but because it was a celebration with a lot of meaning to it, which made the whole experience an aesthetic one. It was between this euphoria of Anantha and the melancholy of the end of an era that much life was lived, and in this lived time, much of EKL Review’s third issue was prepared.
The reviews from the Readers had already arrived, and the statistics showed that approximately sixty percent of the submitters would make it to the issue. As the EIC, I even liked some of the submissions that did not make it. Thanks are due to all the Readers who participated in this cycle of review. I especially thank the Managing Editor, Ms. Jagari Mukherjee, for her dedicated efforts in managing various things in bringing this issue into fruition.
The third issue of the EKL Review is the first issue that was open for general submissions. There were approximately forty percent submissions from outside India. Ultimately, fifteen pieces in poetry and ten in prose constitute Issue 3. As we have set the norm with our previous two issues, we prefer to be lean, and that too on the side of avant-gardism. Most of the pieces you will read have something in them that can be imagined against the grain. Sometimes it may not be apparent and remains hidden in the content to be explored by the reader. Sometimes it is overwhelming and apparent in the form itself. No doubt to constantly keep up and maintain this avant-garde nature is taxing, but that is precisely what we have ventured into and intend to keep it like this.
At this point, most editorials will try to highlight the contributions of the issue. But instead of forewarding the pieces, let me cite an anecdote. There is a group on Facebook called Indian Poetry where there often recurs a debate about the usage of “broken English” or “Indian English.” Once or twice I had emphatically sealed the conversation with the comment that the existence of broken English can be justified only if there is a reason for its existence, that is, it should enhance the substance of the poem, add something to the meaning of it and even to its aesthetics.
Recently, a post was made in that group of Nissim Ezekiel’s famous poem “Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T.S.” Philip Nikolayev had liked the poem because of its satiric quality, and Medha Singh had not liked it because she found the character of the speaker shallow. Both Philip and Medha are my good friends and have published me. My intervention was that critics don’t read the poem beyond the point of its language and fail to analyze the speaker’s character as in a dramatic monologue. This obsession with the surface, a postmodernist phenomenon to obfuscate the non-Western art form as if it is not an object of depth, lies behind the opacity encountered when we get a surface meaning in a non-Western text.
But it is not just the East-West divide, but more about dominance and patriarchy and what we are used to. When Amanda Gorman at the Biden oath-taking recites in her glorious poem “man” to indicate the whole of humanity, she may as well have used “thee,” “thou,” and “thy,”; but that would have been too archaic. We don’t find “man” jarring because we are habituated to hear it, and here we have a youngster who is indoctrinated in a patriarchal language. The minders of the occasion are too opiated in the happiness of it. It is the same surface phenomenon that creates opacity, stunting the critical and the creative. When will we learn to read the classics with the historical context to know what part of it should pass ahead in time and what should remain arrested in time? This fused undecidable space of the creative and the critical determines what should persist and what should perish in time. So imagine against the grain. Leanness is all.
Amit Shankar Saha