Review of Singing in the Dark:
A Global Anthology of Poetry under Lockdown
Ed. By K Satchidanandan & Nishi Chawla
Review by Latika Padgaonkar
It was a unique book that was discussed in these difficult pandemic times at the Book Club yesterday, 2 May 2021. Singing in the Dark: A Global Anthology of Poetry Under Lockdown published last year by Penguin Random House and edited by two well-known poets, K Satchidanandan and Nishi Chawla, brings together over 300 poems by distinguished poets from around the world.
Elizabeth Kuruvilla, the Book and Arts Editor at Penguin who anchored the discussion, said that these were poetic responses to the pandemic at a time when the tragedy was still unfolding and impacting all humanity. The poems (some of which were commissioned, while others were older) express a range of emotions and experiences – death, suffering, pain, anguish, discovery, hope, transience, celebration of nature and inward journeys and reflections.
Dr Satchidanandan, a multi-award-winning, bilingual poet who writes in Malayalam and English, is also a translator, essayist and playwright. He was unable to join the meeting but did send a video clip wherein he spoke of the primacy of nature and the need to redefine our relationship with it and make it holistic. Maybe this anthology could convey a message of a mankind that will, in times to come, be more humble and humane.
Nishi Chawla, who is a poet, novelist, screenplay writer and Professor at Thomas Edison State University in the US, spoke of poetry as therapy. Poetry could open doors to a better tomorrow, she said, adding that such an anthology brings together “convergent ideas through divergent voices.” Nishi read out a few poems written by an Israeli and a Romanian poet, as well as her own and Dr Satchidanandan’s poems, and stated that an anthology of this kind is “a document to, and a testament of, our times”, and hoped that the book would be “a part of global memory”.