Sanskarnama: Poetry for Our Time

Nabina Das

Published 2018
First published iwriteimprint 2017
ISBN 978-81-936130-3-0
Paperback
Pages 74
INR 300 | USD 9.99
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4.0 Sanskarnama
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NABINA DAS has two poetry collections — Blue Vessel and Into the Migrant City. She has authored a novel — Footprints in the Bajra — and a short fiction collection titled The House of Twining Roses: Stories of the Mapped and the Unmapped. Winner of 2012 Charles Wallace Fellowship for Creative Writing, 2012 Sangam House fiction fellowship, and 2007 Wesleyan Writers Conference fellowship among several others, and a 2016 Commonwealth Writers feature correspondent, she is co-editor of 40 under 40: an anthology of post-globalisation poetry.

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In these poems, the versatile Nabina Das sings into the dark times. She scoffs, satirises, ridicules, insults, curses and reproaches those responsible for this darkness. Probably for the first time, poetry in Indian English speaks here in a direct political voice with immediacy. Nabina records the cruel, absurd and macabre drama that is being played out by the ruling communal forces in India and creates another Toba Tek Singh to express a poet’s anguish over events like the lynching of innocent Muslims, the slaughter of children by depriving them of oxygen in a Gorakhpur hospital, and people being branded ‘anti-national’. Her pen has a ‘rebel ink trail’ that writes ‘elegies in anger’. This collection establishes her as a serious political poet of our times.
Mangalesh Dabral, poet

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Reading these poems is akin to sitting at a banquet table. There is an extraordinary, barely contained passion to be found in them, startling and resonant images of both the personal and broadly political, and an inexhaustible, energetic engagement with the turmoil that is life.
Mona Zote, poet

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Nabina Das’ third poetry collection and fifth book is unapologetic in its fiercely lyrical tone. In “Sanskarnama, (i write imprint, Delhi)”, as the name suggests, is a direct look at all that is imposed on individual freedoms these days. Whether it is lynching in the name of cow protection, choice of food and attire, issues in gender and caste, mis-governance and malpractices, or even just the right to live and love, a plethora of problems have been noted in the civil society in these times. Das takes hold of her topics smoothly and executes them with a tongue-in-cheek expertise. Political rants become elegies in her work, and rebellion and resistance flourish like morning flowers.

Read the full story, ‘Anger becomes a song in each poem in ‘Sanskarnama’ by Nabina Das at The Thumb Print.

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Namrata Pathak in Kitaab
“In Das’s libraries, gunpowder is stacked, and it is more than enough to create that flicker of revolution, in words, in actions. This fire feeds on the poet; the flames of rebellion consume her. Unequivocally, Das also thinks of tanks as sabzi mandi with cucumbers, melons, spinach, and sugarcane in an array. Not to mention the baby cradle that the tanks can also become, hence ‘softly rocking on to move all anguish away’ (“Thinking Tank”). This urge to mutate is at the heart of Sanskarnama.”

Read the complete review at Kitaab.

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Jhilmil Breckenridge in The Wire
“Women are celebrated and revered through this book. Violence against them is discussed in stark imagery but perhaps Das thinks that women hold the key, or perhaps she is inspiring women to rise. Furthermore, her women feel the alchemy of flesh and desire and life itself. In her title poem, ‘Sanskarnama’, “A woman’s body is not a scripture… No sidelining the defining rekha that poor boy Lakshman drew… Women being women for they don’t have to be rule-bred, nothing sacred, no ties at all.””

Read the complete review at The Wire.

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Amit Shankar Saha in The Reviews India
“I tell you how literature is often a politically symbolic act and poetry of protest is actually poetry as protest. I give you the book and say, “See the poem ‘namami,’ which states how the taxpayers’ money was spent to appease the river Brahmaputra and prevent it from going into spate and ironically how the floods came…” You interrupt me and read out a very poignant line from “river-sorrow” –

the fish doesn’t toe-bite us anymore

I smile and our eyes meet in silence. You break it with the words “if you take away the right to say fuck” and show me the poem. I go through it quietly until I reach the line:

a right so pure and light that one must have…

Read the complete Review, Reading Between the Lines: A Review of Nabina Das’s “Sanskarnama” at The Reviews India.

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Saima Afreen in The New India Express:
“Her poetry isn’t just the conduit for lament, the poems gush forward as angry lava — ready to burn, sweep, clean the space till the roots take to regeneration. The words demand to be read, used to clear the poisoned air around more so when minds turn benumbed, soporific. The lines attempt to act as wires of change layered upon one another, travelling through the psyche of the readers delivering the message as quickly and fiercely as possible. This sets the trail of rebellion both for the poet and the reader.”

Read the full review, Poems from a Rebel’s Pen at The New Indian Express Website

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Ravi Shankar N reviews in World Literature Today:
“While Das’s poems remain intensely and directly political, there is another strain in her that cannot be put down. For, her battles are not merely for political change but also for love.”

Read the complete review in World Literature Today

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Lora Tomas about ‘Sanskarnama’, in a long, detailed on Nabina Das the author, and the book, in Himal Southasian

Blending text with background illustration and opting for a stylised font in the poem titles, the book itself is a piece of art. It is divided into five untitled parts, which are separated by illustrations executed by Das, and made up of free and rhymed verse compositions of varied length and arrangement. In some poems, the sense of playful yet controlled cadence is intensified by the poet’s use of words and phrases from other Indian languages besides English. Her verses are perfect for reading out loud.

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Read the complete feature in Himal Southasian.

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Nasim Basiri in Atunis Poetry:

The poet believes “language is a site of civilizational shifts”, Mixing language becomes a necessary act of protest and resistance through persona in a time when language is knowingly, often destructively, misused and retouched to render service to those in power. Nabina Das’s poetry offers insights into how multilingual resources such as language mixing in poetry can be used to address power relations. Through a mixed language in poetry, as a woman who encounters hindrances, fences and borders, history becomes a exigency and urgency for Nabina, so she can shape it, rethink it, re-tell it and stop it from annihilating or at least suspend it.

Read the complete review at Atunis Poetry.

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Huzaifa Pandit in Indian Literature, September-October 2018:

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