Posted in Books

Book Review: Dancing Earth, poetry anthology edited by Robin Ngangom and Kynpham Nongkynrih

About the editors:
Native of Cherrapunjee in Meghalaya, Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih has published three poetry collections in Khasi and three in English besides other books in the two languages. He received the first North-East Poetry Award in 2004.

Robin Singh Ngangom, native of Singjamei in Manipur has published three collections of poetry and his works have appeared in leading journals and anthologies both in India and abroad. He received the Katha Translation Award in 1999.

Both live presently in Shillong, where they work at the North Eastern Hill University as reader in the English department and teacher of literature respectively.

My thoughts on the book:
Reading poetry is no walk in the park. What the poet conveys to the reader might be just direct to the point, or hold layers, depth that might point to a whole other concept. So we can interpret both ways at times.

What this anthology, Dancing Earth, brings to the table is unity in diversity, just like the country. These are poets from different parts of North East India, across time and across languages. Translated from regional Indian languages, like Bengali, Hindi, Assamese and Manipuri (which I’ve heard of) and some like Kokborok and Chakmae (which I hadn’t heard of till now), into English, these are poems filled with native imagery.

From this collection, few poems really touched my heart.

There is a poem, “Dot” by Nini Lungalang who is an English teacher in Nagaland. This poem is one of my favorites from the book. It’s like a story in a poem, one which many of us might be able to relate to. The poetess sees her neighbors quarreling over their ancestral land, as to who gets a particular piece, which is insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. The poetess then wonders if we look to take ownership of lands till the centre of the earth which is a dot, who owns that dot? Other than seeing this happen in my family and wondering the same, it also makes me think, if the world continues to fight over insignificant things, finally who takes the responsibility for its well being?

It was a pleasant surprise to me to see Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s haiku collection in the anthology. A haiku is three lines that are meant to show something. His did. One about a rainbow was particularly poignant. It told life as it is. Another one about city folk going to office resonated very easily with me.

Ananya Guha writes a poem about God. It’s not something everyone would agree on perhaps, but I liked the thought. To me, it had depth too. I particularly liked the play on words in the first line, “A petal trembling falls”, which to me not only showed the fall of the petal but put forth a waterfall too. The poem tells me God is there, in the hardest of times, showing us the calmness. We just have to believe in it to see it.

A couple of verses from Bevan L Swer’s poem The Bitter Sunrise also echoed. It reminded me of me at times. Alone, silent, brooding though I know there are people who are alike at heart and willing to talk to me, listen to what I want to say, relieve me of at least a little part of my sorrowful burden.

There are poems in this collection that make me return to them again, re-read them, try to understand them and search them for depth where there might just be simplicity. That to me, a poet, signifies power in poetry. There are also poems that don’t feel like poems, few that I skip over and forget. There is even a prose. But the collection doesn’t leave me disappointed. It makes me think, if the translations have got such power in them, how beautiful the original verses would have been.

A rating of 8/10
A rating of 8/10

Book details:
Title: Dancing Earth
Editors: Robin Singh Ngangom and Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih
ISBN: 9780-0-143-10220-5
Genre: Poetry Anthology
Publishers: Penguin India
Price: INR. 350


The book is a personal copy. The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.

Shared with the First Reads challenge at b00k r3vi3ws and Indian Quills at Tales Pensieve.

(April 3rd, 2013)