Editors: Kiriti Sengupta & William S Peters
Inner Child Press (USA) & Shambhabi. 2014
ISBN 13: 978-0692285459
ISBN 10: 0692285458
Pages 78 | Rs 240
Verses from Necropolis
Here is a collection of verses apparently not 'writ in water,' for the authors are presumably not under any threat from imminent death (God forbid!) or near death experience (six epitaphs indeed speak of tragedy and personal loss) and could indulge in a self-conscious carnival of the fear and the pathos that usually come along with other feelings aroused by death and which "such innumerable vibrations, otherwise referred to as life" can hardly respond (vibrate?) to emotionally without trembling and tears. However, these solemnly carnivalesque cultural slabs protruding from the pages and purportedly allowing us "a direct access to the psyche of the poets" and resulting in a "better understanding of the inner world of the poet concerned," dispel the forbidding atmosphere of the necropolis so that we are able to enjoy the little digs that life can make at its own enduring mystery (or mysterious Other!) called death. These eloquently measured verses defy the stony silence of the dead land and fill us with enlivening voices as we oracularly pass from 'such vibrations' to a final apocalyptic (orgasmic?) vibration in spite of the editors' claim that poetry "essentially hosts silence that thrives on the unspoken/unwritten words by the poets. An epitaph is a definite way of celebrating this silence."
What is counted in the process(ion) are the gestures we make. These verses are noble gestures praising the nobility of life and the nobility of the hallowed death. A preacherly tone is unmistakable in most of the epitaphs accompanied by a befitting Victorian-style expression and temperament. As expected, the international contributions are more formal and conventional as they follow the actual material conditions of writing epitaphs. What is truly remarkable here is the contribution made by the Indian poets who do not share this material culture of burial and therefore are more liberal and less formal and sometimes so fondly, often bookishly and grossly sentimental that may even put the dead to blush. My favourite epitaphs from the anthology are those written by Aftab Yusuf Shaikh, Ananya Chatterjee, Aparna Ganguly, Brian D'Arcy, Debasis Laha, Kiriti Sengupta and Stephen L Wilson.
When everything is said and buried, one must admit that writing epitaph is a difficult proposition, because if is not well-tuned or well-written, the soul may not rest in peace but may go on turning in eternal unrest in mortification of the final act of perfidy.
One word more. Epitaphs is not a forbidden ground. Our beloved editor Kiriti Sengupta has invited all of us to trespass by declaring "trespassers won't be prosecuted" provided "we agree to bear the buried writes…" Amen!
Issue 58 (Nov-Dec 2014)