Bengal to set ablaze another literary uprising ?

  • Saket Suman

    June 11, 2015 | 08:24 AM

Bengal is the epicentre of the IndianEnglish poetry earthquake in India. Poets from Bengal, like Derozio, Toru Dutt and Michael Madhusudan Dutt, were responsible for beginning what later developed into an Anglo-Indian poetic form. Starting from Tagore, The Hungryalists and Little magazines to the Kolkata book fair, Bengal has showed the path of anti-establishment theories and liberalisation of literature to the other parts of the country," says Sonnet Mondal, author of eight books of poetry, one of the featured writers at International Writing Programme at The University of IOWA - Silk Routes Project, funded by the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the US Department of State, and more importantly the founder and current editor-in-chief of The Enchanting Verses Literary Review.

Started in March 2008 under the name of The Enchanting Verses International, the journal has emerged as one of the most acclaimed literary magazines in the world and is the only reputed magazine from India that bases itself completely upon poetry and publishes without any support from any countrywide organisation, advertisements or government funding. But Mondal laments the fast changing scenario in Bengal.

"Very sadly, we do not have enough literary gathering as before and as compared to current scenario in southern and northern India, but I feel, we have enough base fire to set ablaze another literary uprising whenever required." In fact, The Enchanting Verses Literary Review receives considerable views from Bengal and is persistently trying to offer a space for Indian poets. Indian-English poetry, Mondal felt, was losing ground in proving itself in the international arena because India wasn't at par with the world as far as digitalisation of literary magazines was concerned. Most literary magazines and journals were available only in print versions with small circulations, thus the response to Indian-English poetry was fast fading, he noted. "This was the main idea behind The Enchanting Verses Literary ReviewRs to create a digitised legroom just for English poetry in the country at a time when, the existence of e-literary magazines in India was meager.

The outreach was made international so that Indian poetry lovers and foreign poets get to know each other through a common space and in turn the ongoing picture of English poetry in India comes in the limelight of the prevalent international dialogue." The journal was created at a time,which can be considered as the medieval age of e-literary magazines in India, and till date what separates it from other literary magazines is the fact that it is the only international literary magazine in India that bases itself completely upon poetry and poetic works.

"This has created many challenges in front of us in terms of readership in comparison to other magazines but we have the resolve to exist just for poetry," echoed Mondal. The genesis So how did it all begin? How did a small idea from Bengal occupy an international space? Mondal recalled, "It was 21 March,2008,when a group of two old teachers Dr Ramesh Chandra Mukhopadhyaya and Dinabandhu Nayak sat with me discussing ways to frame a poetry issue of a newly-made journal named The Enchanting Verses Literary Review.

The issue was made of invited submissions that had almost no happening names in the realm of Indian or international poetry. This was how the first issue was framed. The conceptualisation of the journal has been through changing concepts with an aim to keep up with the hottest poetic scenario.

The initial editors weren't with me anymore after the first issue and the editors kept changing. In fact, I edited the magazine single handedly during 2009-10. At present we have an editorial staff and separate guest editors for each issue with an objective to provide our readers with varying literary taste." The journal gained popularity in the international arena after its collaboration with The Stremez, Macedonia (Oldest surviving print magazine of Macedonia supported by their Ministry of Culture). "Streme is one of the longest living printed literary magazines in the Republic of Macedonia (first issue was published in 1954).It has names such as Pablo Neruda, Andrey Voznesensky and Eugenio Montale among others as its contributors.

The Enchanting Verses Literary Review collaborated with Streme, with effect from March 2011. In each of our issues, contributions from one poet published inThe Enchanting Verses are sent to the editorial board of Streme for translation into Macedonian and subsequent feature in the yearly pages of Streme. In exchange we publish one Macedonian poet per issue of The Enchanting Verses as nominated by the editorial board of Streme.

We currently have Jovica Tasevski Eternijan from Macedonia as our consulting editor in this regard. This endeavour has received two special mentions in the bulletin of foreign affairs,Macedonia and considerable media attention from the Balkan media," informed the proud founder of The Enchanting Verses.

The journal has never been consistent with print editions because of the very fact that it was "never aimed to be in print for each of its issues". But from 2016, The Enchanting Verses will be published in print as a poetry-annual, taking the best from its online issues for the year concerned. "Our expected press partner in this regard will be the Asheville- based MadHat press," Mondal added."The upcoming issue will be an India special issue, edited by Abhay K along with our present staff.

We are still in the process of short listing poets and contents for the issue." The Enchanting Verses, said its editorin-chief, has often presented young voices in Indian-English poetry together with established names. “Coming to another aspect, we haven't yet conducted any poetry reading or workshop, where we can provide some really inspirational place for the youth. But, we have plans to organise 'The Enchanting Verses Poetry Nights' soon in different cities of India to commemorate each of its issues. Here we also plan to focus on young Indian-English poetry of India. Apart from this we are starting online poetry workshops towards the second half of this year to be conducted by experts in 'poetry as a subject of learning' through their articles and exercises. For each year we would assign different poets and professors of poetry for this purpose."

'Very sadly, we do not have enough literary gathering as before and as compared to current scenario in southern and northern India.'