“Under the rain, beyond the walls, / I search for the lost inhabitants of my country” writes Jayanta Mahapatra in his poem “The Quest”. EKL Review has also been in a sort of quest to find the unexpected. The unexpected is not always the new; sometimes the old, the forgotten, the lost is unexpectedly found. Jayanta Mahapatra is arguably the oldest living poet of Indian Literature in English. In our quest to find him anew we approached four poets who have been in touch with him over the years for our lead article “Tribute to Jayanta Mahapatra”.
Sanjukta Dasgupta writes about the “mellifluous, flute-like voice” of Mahapatra that enamored even the Nigerian footballer Chima Okorie; Ashwani Kumar writes about the “lyric calligraphic prose of his Dada’s letters; Durga Prasad Panda provides a critical perspective on Mahapatra’s poetry that reminds us of images from Mahapatra’s poems like “the faint starlight rolls restlessly on the mat” (“The Moon Moments”); Zinia Mitra writes about her lunch with Jayanta Mahapatra at Tinkonia Bagicha and being “touched by his geniality”.
Apart from the lead article, in prose we have an interview of Sanjeev Sethi, who has had two fantastic new releases recently – a poetry chapbook titled Bleb and a full-length book of poems, Hesitancies. There are more interviews – Srividya Sivakumar and Paresh Tiwari speak about the anthology of contemporary erotic poetry they edited titled Shape of a Poem, and Sukrita Paul Kumar, Vinita Agrawal and Bitan Chakraborty speak about the first edition of The Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English 2020-21. The interviews are curated by Jagari Mukherjee and Nikita Parik. Nikita Parik also adds short reviews of Bleb and Shape of a Poem.
The prose section also has two interesting short pieces of fiction by Michael Alipandrini and Salvatore Difalco. Ampat Koshy has contributed a review of the chapbook of poems “In the Mirror Our Graves” co-authored by Ritamvara Bhattacharya and RaSh. We round off the prose section with Eastern Muse: Poems from the East and North East India (Eds. Malsawmi Jacob and Jaydeep Sarangi) as the book in focus presented in a kitschy pastiche format.
In the poetry section this time we have twenty poets, which is quite unlike our earlier issues but the range is quite eclectic – from Nandini Dhar and Anirban Dam to Sitara Suseelan and Samiksha Tulika Ransom. In an issue with the lead article on the living legend of Indian poetry in English, we preferred to go on the opposite side of leanness. In fact the tribute to Jayanta Mahapatra also has a part where Ashwani Kumar, Sanjukta Dasgupta, Durga Prasad Panda and Zinia Mitra contribute their poems invoking the legacy of the legend. The poets in the designated poetry section give us an overview of the kind of poetry being written both in India and abroad verging on the experimental and the avant-garde.
We hope we have been able to keep to the motto of EKL Review – imagining against the grain. Thanks are due to the readers of this cycle Huzaifa Pandit, Sana Tamreen Mohammed, Somrita Urni Ganguly, Kripi Malviya, Urvashi Mukherjee and Anindita Bose. Other prospectors, Sufia Khatoon, Jagari Mukherjee, Nikita Parik, Aakriti Kuntal and Ritamvara Bhattacharya too deserve thanks for their support. And special thanks go to “Brand Happiness” for uploading and formatting the issue. Read and enjoy.
Amit Shankar Saha