By Nishi Pulugurtha
Home is a place of belonging, of comfort and warmth. However, not all homes have this connotation. There are homes that are not safe zones. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought this out even more clearly. While there is a sense of location and space associated with the idea of home, it could also be one in the mind. An ideal place that one hopes to be in and that could be a possibility but is not always so. It also brings with it the idea of homelessness, of the loss of home (both willingly and unwillingly), of being in and not being in, of being rooted, of the earth and so much more.
Home is the theme for Brown Critique’s first anthology, Home Anthology, the volume under review. The volume has poems of fifty poets from India and abroad and this variety is seen in the way the poets address the theme thereby bringing out a wide variety of ways of looking at the subject. In the preface, the three editors – Gayatri Majumdar, Sekhar Banerjee and Gopal Lahiri, all of them poets – note that the anthology is marked by a “plurality of approach” and it is this plurality that strikes one as one reads the poems in it.
The very first poem in the anthology speaks of a poem as a home, of the idea that material structures are not important. “When My Breath Becomes Air” by Abhay K. seems to be an apt beginning for a volume where poets mediate on the nuances of home:
read my poems
I live in them
they’re my home
Pramila Venkateshwaran’s “Poetry, My Home” also brings together the idea of poetry as home with words plucked from the bushes in the garden, of images that run about in the yard, of metaphors fished out from the pond:
Rationality bites my skin where the repellants have not
Reached. I itch constantly, but I learn to douse
Dullness with invective, conquer staleness with odes.
Ayaz Rasool Nazki’s “In Search” voices an emotion that many of us have in mind whenever the word home is thought of. Of the home in memories, of the home that one has heard stories of:
I am in search
Of my home
In the rubble
Among the debris
“Where The Heart Is, Is Not Always Home” by Candice Louisa Daquin speaks of home as a “wasteland of unsaid things.” There is a sense of urgency in the poem, a sense of lingering sadness with dim, faint glimmers:
I want to pick up the aching hearts of all who stare out the window
seeing the world turn white and lost in blizzard, locked in, locked out
and race with all our rejection, torment and pain, …
Sonya Nair’s “When Home is a Mirage On a Flowing Road” brings back the memories of people losing home and work, of the lockdown during the pandemic, of trudging long distances back home, of losing all, of pestilence and death, of terrible times that remain etched in public memory.
Meanwhile, snaking lines of people
started their weary trudge back to
places that they
had once left behind, their
only hope –
Nair’s use of italicised lines in the poem highlights the times and are a commentary on the way things panned out, of the way we stood witness to so much of homelessness while most of us remained stuck at home, safe from the raging pestilence.
“Home is perhaps an elusive possession, but the desire for it is constant and always particular,” the editors note in the Preface and many of the poems in the anthology address this idea. Neera Kashyap’s short poem “Submergence” speaks of homes and lands lost as dams got built. Using images from nature to recreate the loss, the poem notes in a straightforward way, “The dam is now a tourist’s lake” to end with lines that speak of a search for the home that has been lost: “My boatman’s oars keep searching/ In its depths.” Robin Ngangom’s “My Invented Land”, a poem in six stanzas, speaks of homeland, of belonging and dreams. With beautiful images that linger on, the poem speaks of loss and belonging, of the desire to hold on and of things slipping away.
My native place has not been christened yet
my homeland, a travelogue without end,
a plate that will always be greedy
(but got rice mixed with stones)
There are poems in the anthology that use words from other languages, like Hindi in the poems, to create the sense of home and of homes lost, of the “wadi,” of “saawan & bhaado.” Some poems use them in an italicised form, while others do not use italics. Both forms work wonderfully as the emotions they express, the feelings that emanate, flow with a spontaneity. The varied voices that range across geography bring young voices along with established poets such as Nikita Parik, Basudhara Roy, Sanjeev Sethi, K. Srilata, Fiona Bolger, Tuhin Bhowal, among several others.
The poems are not arranged according to mood or subject and that creates a great reading experience as one moves from one poem to another as there is no way one knows till one reads the poems. While each poet writes in a different form, it is the lyric form that predominates in the volume with several poets using small letters to begin lines, deploying enjambments, free verse, varying stanzas and using lines at times to create a visual structure that goes hand in hand with the mood expressed. Some poems are short, just a few lines that reveal a perfect blend of words and emotion and there are many that are long, that express the feelings of the poet in myriad ways. It is the diversity that defines the poems in the anthology that is woven around one theme. Ably edited by poet editors, who have two poems each too, Home Anthology is one volume that one will keep coming back to.
Dr. Nishi Pulugurtha is Associate Professor in the department of English, Brahmananda Keshab Chandra College and has taught postgraduate courses at West Bengal State University and Rabindra Bharati University. She is a creative writer and writes on travel, Alzheimer’s Disease, film, short stories and poetry. Her work has been published in The Statesman, Kolkata, in the anthology Tranquil Muse and online – Café Dissensus, Coldnoon, Queen Mob’s Tea House and Setu. She has a monograph on Derozio (2010) and a collection of essays on travel, Out in the Open (2019).
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