Interrogating the complexities of love, history and the power of naming through refreshing experimentation in language and form, Flèche—winner of 2019 Costa Book Award for Poetry—is a significant and original contribution to Hong Kong poetry as well as to the current scene of British Asian diasporic voices.
Cambodian-American poet Monica Sok recalls transgeneration trauma in her debut collection, A Nail the Evening Hangs On. Born in Pennsylvania to parents who have sought refuge in the United States, Sok retraces the contours of a difficult and important conversation on identity. She succeeds in using her Americanness to question her sense of belonging in the Cambodian narrative, while inviting the reader in two countries’ complex political history.
Adeeba Shahid Talukder, a translator of Persian and Urdu poetry into English, makes an audacious attempt to invoke the sensibility of the ghazal in her contemporary American verse. That a young, first-generation American writer can have such a feel for the ghazal is not a given, for the genre is full of traps, arising from gender, from the audience, from the poet’s voice, to the poet’s relationship to the tradition. Talukder escapes, successfully, from each of these in turn.
Witty, energetic and uncompromising, the Indian-born, Manchester-based poet Reshma Ruia’s latest collection A Dinner Party in The Home Counties challenges contemporary social, racial and cultural divides. In this collection, the poet takes the reader on a vivid, multicultural journey filled with intriguing encounters and enigmatic characters.
The Tantra is an Indian esoteric doctrine of mysticism spanning Hinduism and Buddhism. It incorporates not just the spiritual but also the sexual ways of becoming one with the divine. While the Indian poets belonging to the devotional bhakti movement have written about the possibilities of the union with God with a hint of eroticism, this extreme route of using sexual practice to know everything, including the ultimate divinity, has remained unexplored.
“But what of returning?” The answer to that question is “not yet”, probably never for the long-term, although ambivalence and nostalgia prevails. The past, the cycle of life, life’s inevitable compromises, and that haunting question is deeply examined in this poetry collection by Jennifer Wong.
Rudyard Kipling’s 1888 short story “The Man Who Would Be King” (well-known thanks to the Sean Connery film by the same name) is about two English ex-army ruffians who want to become kings; they do indeed come to rule a kingdom in Afghanistan. Eventually, the two die when their “subjects” turn against them. Rishi Dastidar uses this colonizer’s desire and ambition to be king as material for his Saffron Jack. The resulting long poem is the story of a British citizen who is told he does not belong in Great Britain, and decides to have a nation of his own to rule over.