A collection written under the lockdown to inspire, and to encourage optimism and empathy
New Delhi, July 2020: With the world facing strange and unprecedented times, here is a book of poetry on the challenges we have been facing in the throes of the pandemic. Titled Singing in the Dark, it will be published by Penguin Random House India (PRHI) under the Vintage imprint later this year.
Edited by K. Satchidanandan and Nishi Chawla, Singing in the Dark will reflect the mood of these times, when the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered our lives. The collection will include works by over a hundred poets from across six continents writing in twenty languages. The poems capture the anxiety and agitation of isolation, the unparalleled joys of witnessing the revival of nature, the cruel realities of an inequitable world, besides reflecting on the impermanence of life. With contributions by Vijay Seshadri, Grace Cavalieri, Arundhati Subramaniam, George Szirtes, Chandrakant Patil, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Anamika, Francis Combes, Rafael Soler, Jerry Pinto, Jotamario Arbeláez, Sankara Pillai, Asmaa Azaizeh, Manohar Shetty, Keki Daruwalla, Amanda Bell, Ashok Vajpayee, and many more, Singing in the Dark will offer an invaluable poetic record of these strange times.
K. Satchidanandan says about the book, ‘This anthology had a humble beginning with a few poets from the US and India but gradually evolved into an intercontinental collection of poetic responses to the diverse aspects of the pandemic—from the trauma of solitude to the unexpected transformation in the expression of human relationships and the new visibility of the class divide to the marvellous revival of nature with the return of birds and butterflies filling up the arid cityscapes with colours and songs, and the ultimate realization of the transience of human existence. The moods vary from quiet contemplation and choking anguish to suppressed rage and careful celebration. Consisting of poems of recall, experience and dream, this book has evolved into a virtual aesthetic archive of these strange times for generations to come.’
Commenting on the acquisition of this unique collection, Milee Ashwarya, publisher, Ebury Publishing & Vintage Publishing (PRHI), says, ‘Singing in the Dark, edited by K. Satchidanandan and Nishi Chawla, is a collection of poems from across the globe addressing the challenges faced by mankind in the wake of the pandemic. The timely offering captures the myriad voices and reflects upon the new normal. I am delighted and proud at the acquisition and looking forward to publishing it.
Elizabeth Kuruvilla, executive editor, Ebury Publishing & Vintage Publishing (PRHI), who commissioned the book, sheds more light on what the readers should expect. ‘For those of us bearing witness to these unprecedented times, the world has never been stranger. No country, be it big or small, has been spared the fear of the annihilation of a vast number of its population by a strangely beautiful-looking virus. If there is a sense of the world facing a common enemy together for the first time, never before has the window pane that separates the haves from the have-nots been more visible, or the individual bubbles we’ve built around ourselves felt more confining. As we cling to life and try to recreate a sense of normality, we swing between moments of anxiety, creativity, loneliness and warm fellowship. It is only poetry that we can turn to in order to excavate the profound imprint that this new world will leave on our minds. Singing in the Dark is a powerful poetic testimony to this moment and will be read by generations to come.’
About the Editors
Nishi Chawla is an academician and writer. She has six collections of poetry, nine plays, two screenplays and two novels to her credit. She holds a PhD in English from the George Washington University, Washington DC, US. After teaching for nearly twenty years as a tenured professor of English at the Delhi University, India, she migrated with her family to a suburb of Washington DC. She taught at the University of Maryland from 1999 until 2014 and is now a faculty member at the Thomas Edison State University, New Jersey, US. Nishi Chawla’s plays are staged both in the US and in India. K. Satchidanandan is a leading Indian poet. Among contemporary Indian poets, his works are perhaps the most translated (this includes thirty-two collections of translations in nineteen languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, English, Irish, French, German and Italian, besides all the major Indian languages). He has to his credit twenty-four collections of poetry, four books of travel, a full-length play and a collection of one-act plays, two books for children and several collections of critical essays, including five books in English on Indian literature, besides several collections of world poetry in translation. He has been a professor of English, the chief executive of the Sahitya Akademi, the director of the School of Translation Studies, Indira Gandhi National Open University, and national fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. He is a fellow of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi and has won fifty-two literary awards from different states and countries, including the Sahitya Akademi award, India-Poland Friendship Medal from the government of Poland, knighthood from the government of Italy and the World Prize for Poetry for Peace from the government of the UAE. He has also participated in book fairs and literary/poetry festivals in Struga, Vilenica, Montreal, Perth, Aberystwyth, Medellin, Caracas, Lima, Havana, New York, Washington, Moscow, St Petersburg, Hong Kong, Damascus and Aleppo, besides all the countries in the Persian Gulf and all the major cities in the UK, France, Germany, China and India. His recent collections in English include While I Write (HarperCollins India), Misplaced Objects and Other Poems (Sahitya Akademi, Delhi), The Missing Rib: Collected Poems, Not Only the Oceans (Poetrywala, Bombay), Questions from the Dead (Copper Coin, Delhi) and The Whispering Tree: Poems of Love and Longing (Hawakal, Kolkata).