ANMLY #28 :: South Asian Subcontinent


part one of two

In a poem, the maestro of Urdu poetry, Mirza Ghalib proclaims—“Saharas are buried in the dust of my commotion.” This dissonant yet abiding haecceity is perhaps the best introduction to the tesserae of South Asian Subcontinent’s literature. The umbrella term for this geopolitical expanse in itself is issue for debate and doesn’t adhere to set boundaries. It instead spills out in a flux of shadowlands, and so does the emergent writing and art from those who trace their footprints back to these parts. From Bhakti and Sufi poetry to Afghan landays, the flourish of spoken word at mushairas as well as contemporary ecopoetics, we have witnessed the curious, definition-defiant and somewhat nomadic pathways of the creative oeuvre. However, whenever we see listicles about contemporary poets and poetry—particularly Anglophone—our names are either entirely missing or we are tokenized. This folio aims to move beyond inclusion, and instead chooses to celebrate and scintillate writing from the South Asian Subcontinent in its entirety.

South Asia rises in a clutch of contradictions—mutinies, power shifts, revolutions, abject poverty co-existing with smoldering excesses. This is not new. We have long held traditions of poetry as means for community healing and for fighting the powers that be. Poets are imprisoned and still risk arrest. There is fearlessness to how we authenticate our lives through our words. We want to be seen and heard for all that we are, not merely the convenient and hackneyed binaries of sweatshops and spirituality. 

This folio coalesces work that refuses to center tragedy as a door into our plural worlds. We court the explicit, the sublime, as well as the unashamed. We are unapologetic as we take space and move beyond merely occupying shadowed corners in populist discourse. Writers who trace origin stories, lineages and roots to India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have come together in this collage. 

We’ve split this folio into two parts in order to accommodate original as well as translated works. Part I presents original writing from diaspora and homelands. My hope for this folio is the same as that of a rain-auguring breeze shaking the mimosa trees in my grandmother’s home—an obvious notice in the change of season. I hope this encourages more South Asian poets, writers, and artists to find inspiration for their own flourish and for publishing spaces to pay better mind when they speak about poetry as some kind of an insulated monolith.

Scherezade Siobhan
July 2019