Book Reviews

The Dance of the Peacock

An Anthology of English Poetry from India

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
hordes of human flesh
from faraway lands
up on the hill
the feast of eagles-

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


More by :  Rob Harle

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Views: 3375      Comments: 6

Comment Dr.Vivekananda Jha's book is an outstanding effort to cull the flowers blooming in diverse gardens for making a fabulous garland .

Dr.Ratan Bhattacharjee
15-Aug-2013 21:23 PM

Comment Dr. Vivekanand Jha deserves encomiums for studding the jewels of poems in the necklace of the anthology, 'The Dance of the Peacock'. The anthology generates interest in the minds of readers as it represents India. As a contributor and lover of poetry, I congratulate Dr. Vivekanand Jha on his success in bringing out the anthology. Rob Harle has rightly reviewed it.

Dr. Katta Rajamouly
14-Aug-2013 21:47 PM

Comment Hats off to Dr. Vivkanand Jha for bringing out such a magnificent collection, rich in quantity and quality! It is as beautiful as the peacock is! One can sense the beauty of India through these poems. Thanks to Dr. Rob Harle for the superb review!

Prof. Dr. K. V. Dominic
13-Aug-2013 01:31 AM

Comment Vivacity of imagination shoos away a doggerel.Writing a good poetry is no mean job ,and only a gift of imagination coupled with an extra-ordinary literary bent of mind could bring out an anthology of this sort.Rob Harle is simply outstanding.

Sanju Das
10-Aug-2013 14:04 PM

Comment After reading this review I am now desperate to get my hands on the anthology. I feel like a pin in the haystack but a pin imagine that I am hard to find among people of such caliber yet having a separate entity as a poet. Thanks to everybody involved in bringing out the anthology and to you Rob Harle for being so kind in your review.

Sreelatha Chakravarty
09-Aug-2013 02:12 AM

Comment Dr. Vivekanand Jha has really done wonders for us!This volume generates meaning out of dry and prosaic terrains of life’s daily acts where imagination defamiliarises a familiar subject and conjures up more mysteries.I'm glad to see my name in the anthology among the luminaries who honed my skills.Wishes,

Jaydeep Sarangi
08-Aug-2013 23:04 PM

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