This anthology is a wonderful smorgasbord for poetry lovers. Delicious morsels tempt the reader on every page. Regardless of personal taste you’ll find plenty to satisfy your appetite. One hundred and fifty poets are represented in this extensive anthology which weighs in at well over five hundred pages. Dance of The Peacock does not claim to be a comprehensive collection, “rather it is a genuine and rewarding sampler for the reader who would like an introduction to its riches.” (p. xv) I do not envy Vivekanand Jha’s Herculean task as editor of this important addition to the literature of Indian, and in turn, global literature. As Dr. Chatterjee notes in the Foreword, “This anthology is a brave attempt to capture something of the Indian English global poetry scene…” (p. xv)
Much to his credit he has included well known established poets alongside little known or neglected ones to create a book that is to my mind truly representative of Indian English poetry both in style and subject matter. Poets selected come from all corners of the Indian diaspora, many now living in the UK, Canada and the USA. The evocative title was chosen because of the deep significance and connection of the peacock with Indian culture, and of course the peacock is the national bird of India. The spectacular display of the peacock is also a subtle metaphor referring to the dazzling variety and ‘display’ of poetry under the delightful cover.
The book has a Foreword, Introduction, List of Authors followed by the poems themselves, these are then followed by Acknowledgements, Editor’s Bio. and Author Bios. This is a brief general review of the publication, not a critical literary review of the poems per se. The latter would be nigh impossible given the hundreds of different poems presented. However, having said that, the literary quality of the poetry is generally excellent. I find a somewhat gentle and soft tone pervades much Indian poetry even when the subject matter involved is quite brutal. Shaikh’s poem – Kamathipura (p. 7) chilled me to the bone on both first and subsequent readings. It deals with the subjugation of women, accidental incest and the seedy side of life – a few lines: Fair girl! He orders, a fair girl he will have, Stumbles into the room, three by four, The paint wearing down the walls, And one side of the ply-board, he hears Thumps from the bitter side, The room smells of stale perfume, Of sperm, of sweat of healthy thighs. Clearly in a volume of such numbers I can only give a few examples to ‘tempt’ the prospective reader. Sharma’s poem – A Beach Dawn (pp. 437) also includes a young maiden but in very different circumstances, she experiences the dawn breaking on the beach: From the nearby fisherman’s village, A flower garland in her black hair Kohl-lined eyes darting here-n-there, Like a frightened rabbit crossing a road, The dawn breaks light and crimson, Over the silent seascape.
The wonderful imagery and subtle use of metaphor is evident in Abhay K’s poem – Delhi, here’s the entire poem: My smell my nakedness entices hordes of human flesh from faraway lands traders, emperors, marauders. I pose nude up on the hill below the feast of eagles- possessed, intoxicated. Wonderful lines such as in Sarangi’s poem – My Dream express an almost bitter-sweet desire to recognize young and marginalized individuals, again a few lines: I can arrange the dreams Of Indian youth In indigenous ink, A narrative that lay bare to readers. I don’t know what you feel And what makes you weep. I only reconstruct your stories And flimsy history. The Dance of the Peacock will not only give hours of reading pleasure but also serve as an important reference work for contemporary Indian English poetry. The “indigenous ink” of this volume will stay with you for a long time to come. Highly recommended!
The Dance of the Peacock: An Anthology of English Poetry from India Edited by Dr. Vivekanand Jha, 2013. Hidden Brook Press.pp. 519 pbk. RRP $21 USD ISBN: 978-1-927725-00-9 8-Aug-2013
Rob Harle is an artist and writer, especially concerned with the nature of consciousness and high-body technologies. His current work explores the nature of the transition from human to posthuman, a phenomenon he calls the technoMetamorphosis of humanity. He has academic training in philosophy of mind, comparative religious studies, art and psychotherapy. Rob is an active member of the Leonardo Review Panel. For full biography and examples of art and writing work please visit his web site: http://www.robharle.com