Wednesday, July 29, 2009

THE UNFOLD PINNACLE by Basanta Kumar Kar – A review by Nabina Das

The Turbulent Top: Marginalized Women’s Voices from India

THE UNFOLD PINNACLE by Basanta Kumar Kar
– A review by Nabina Das

Basanta Kumar Kar’s involvement in the Indian nonprofit sector for years has afforded him a close-up of tribal societies, backward classes and marginalized sections of India's developing and diverse society. He writes with flourish in first-person voices of personas as varied as an under-aged girl with a history of abuse to a Gond or Maria tribal woman struggling against the onslaught of modern civilization to a mother-cum-sex worker reflecting on her fate in the ruthless city. As a professional in his poetic role, Kar brings alive the disillusionment and haplessness of India’s marginalized women, especially those from Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). While involving himself in his subject’s plight he remains a keen observer. Kar shares the wealth of his experiences with his readers in the rather long unpublished 73-page collection.

Wikipedia defines the SC/ST as ‘Indian population groupings that are explicitly recognized by the Constitution of India, previously called the "depressed classes" by the British, and otherwise known as untouchables. SCs/STs together comprise over 24% of India's population, with SC at over 16% and ST over 8% as per the 2001 census… Some Scheduled Castes in India are also known as Dalits. Some Scheduled Tribe people are also referred to as Adivasis. Commenting on the crisis of faith people from these underprivileged communities experience, in the aptly titled “Faith First”,
Kar writes:

Smoke and cloud work in tandem
swings of snow peep
hills draw lines, mesmerize
they butcher;

The actions embodied by the elements smoke, cloud, snow, hills etc. are swift and brutal, akin to the experience of his subject. Nature provides no succor. It is a constant reminder of bad fortune. In “…mesmerize/they butcher” this is particularly amplified. The short staccato sentences metaphorically and literally “work in tandem”. The cosmogony of the women Kar writes about, socially denied and deprived, and often under a double yoke of social stigma within their own communities, is comprised of humanistic elements that surprise us with their animateness, the only source of comfort for the subjugated lot:

I understand my neighbours
tamarind tree, dates and nuts
pigs and chicken, ghosts and spirits
traditional healers.

The weltanschauung of the women is stark yet conveys the environment they thrive in:

We are together
no one more equal than others.

Kar’s writing style is abrupt and rhetorical for the most part, characteristic of his subject’s emotional graph:

The flower fades
the bird escapes the cage
I ponder over the lineage
but to yet another cruel destiny.

“Border I” – where Kar’s palette proffers a touch of hope for the voice of an ‘other backward caste’ widow from the state of Chhattisgarh in eastern India – is a delightful study in astuteness. The lilting tones of “The fading barks almost ochre” escalates the almost ochre-ness of the still life reflected in the river as if a frame of decay and degeneration. Kar repeats the water/river motif to encompass the broad expanse of the subject’s silence and depth of agony in “The silent river Tel”. For the widow, “festive is the air for all else” in her village bordering the eastern state of Orissa. And Kar’s prophetic yet passive observation that “the scheme unfolds at pinnacle” tells of a subtext of events and actions that this particular festive moment encapsulates. Rather than celebration, all that the subject takes recourse to is complete surrender to her destiny. In the festive scenario, the only activity she is entitled to is “to bring smoke before the sunset”.

Kar’s poetry is often marked by chopped rhymes and a frequent absence of article usage. In effect this highlights the speech pattern of his poetic subjects, most of whom we realize to be without any worldly pedigree. Although it may surprise and annoy a stickler for English grammar -- Kar follows the British spelling system followed in India – the parole brings alive the shared linguistic ethnography of the Chhattisgarh-Orissa-Andhra Pradesh state cluster, the rawness of forest and village life, and the customs of the people ensconced there. Kar’s style at times, however, becomes overbearing in his earnestness to communicate his subjects’ travails. Many expressions become repetitive. The elements of his environment, the ecology and ethnography of it, is often enmeshed in commonplace poetic metaphors. Also, trying to highlight only the pain and subjugation of single mothers, the abused, the widowed, and the institutionally sidelined among the backward caste and Adivasi women in this passionate collection Kar calls ‘verse for a cause’, his poetry rarely offers any tonal variation.

The world of “The Unfold Pinnacle” also has moments away from the oppressing villages and the tribal regions. Life has not heralded better times for a twenty-two year old Bedia girl even in the urban setting of the city of Mumbai in Maharashtra state. A bar girl now, a shade different from her ancestral profession, her plaintive tone in “Bosom” (Alluring Bombay bar seduces/in a panoramic green room/from a late night to dawn) unfolds the pinnacle where misfortune spews.

NABINA DAS is a poet and fiction writer dividing her existence between the US and India. She has been widely published in North America and India and freelances and blogs at

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Contests and Submissions

Poets, fiction and creative nonfiction writers interested in submitting their work for publication or in entering their work in contests will be interested in the free information available at the Yahoo! group created and maintained by Allison Joseph, author of Imitation of Life (pictured, right). The group, created in 2005, is at

By joining the group - there is no cost to you - you can have the updates sent directly to your e-mail inbox. The list is updated frequently throughout each week.

How to join the group?


Ms. Joseph explains:
Send a blank e-mail message to

You will receive a sign-up message in return.

If you don't get the sign-up invitation, check the junk mail folder of your e-mail for it.

Or visit

and click on "Join This Group."

Follow on-screen instructions to complete sign-up.


The updates from this list are much closer to real-time announcements than what's available, for instance, in the annual Poet's Market or in Poets & Writers magazine which comes out six times a year. I found Allison's "Creative Writers Opportunities List" a huge help when I was sending poems out for publication.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A Bear of a Project

At Facebook, poet J.P. Dancing Bear has well over 1000 friends - closer to 2000. Recently he spoke with novelist Leslie Pietrzyk (who is among Bear's Facebook friends) about the poems he's been writing. She blogged about what he told her at her Work-in-Progress blog. Here are a few excerpts from her post:

[Pietrzyk] I had noticed that J.P. Dancing Bear wrote and posted “birthday poems” every week or so, along with artwork. Yes, click-click, I “liked” his work--very much. And then it was my birthday…and there was a lovely birthday poem for ME! I had assumed the poems he wrote were for people he knew beyond the Facebook sense, but no…so I invited him to tell me more about these beautiful birthday poems of his...

[Bear] I’d been a member on Facebook for roughly six months and had tried to send a birthday greeting to all the people who had befriended me leading up to that point. But sometimes I missed some, or they missed it. So originally, my plan was to use other people’s applications to send them a birthday poem. I had some 1000+ friends on Facebook and I wanted to give something I’d created in their honor to them. This is something I’ve done all my life, either a painting or a drawing and/or a poem.

[Bear] At times I was writing anywhere between 1 to 9 poems a day, with the average around 3 a day.

[Bear] So I try to spend no more than twenty minutes on each. After everything is written, I spend a few minutes reading everything aloud, just to make sure it sounds right—so a very cursory editing process. And as I pick these up and submit them to magazines, I will do another reread/rewrite/editing at that point. The other thing I try to do is make references to other arts like film, music, novels... and/or science (biology, chemistry, physics, etc. etc) and/or sometimes (philosophy/theology/mythology).

[Bear] So far, I’ve written about 850 poems, which is far more than I had imagined when I started the project (because not everyone likes to publish their birthdays). I still have about 5 months left and the average has risen to about 4 or 5 poems a day.

[Bear] Last year, I wrote possibly twenty poems for the whole year. I was making excuses for why I couldn’t or wouldn’t write and I had overburdened my editing/writing process to slow down the process. So the project has been an eye-opener for me.

Read the full article here.


Poems written for particular occasions are examples of occasional poetry.

Interview: Spotlight on Poet Heller Levinson and Hinge Theory by Joy Leftow

James Heller Levinson and I met at Willy’s Bar and Grill on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to talk about hinge theory. Staff was gracious and did not mind that we had our long interview first and waited to eat. We both forwent drinks, sticking to water. We began with an application to put practice into action and to break the ice. Heller said,

“Let’s use with as the pivot.”

“Sure, with celebrity, works with that.” I said.

That led to bulbs flashing and purple irises.

We then tried another. “With arson,” Heller said. “embers,” I replied and thus we jump-started our interview.

Heller’s lust for this theory has taken on a life of its own, as has the hinge process. He’s utterly and hopelessly consumed by it or perhaps it’s the other way round, and the theory has consumed him and he’s become part of its core. I love being an observer of passion. True passion feels me. When someone has passion and conveys that passion, it’s contagious.

I’m jumping a bit here and want to explore this organically without explaining what the theory is about, would like to begin where the passion lies, and that is in the possibility of causal effects triggered by using the applications of hinge theory in our daily lives. The dream is that hinge theory and its applications will have limitless effects on world peace, and creating cogent solutions in musical arrangements with the universe. Now that I’ve got my passion under control I can move on to discuss hinge and its applications.

Hinge is not reducible to smaller denominations; it is expandable. The title of Heller’s book, Smelling Mary became clear as we spoke. Smelling is one of our six senses and is also investigative. We smell to explore and learn. Heller’s entire world is hinged on creating a new linguistic universe composed of modules (which are the pivots like with above). If we use language to cure our lives by expanding, enriching, enhancing and embellishing, our universe is a didactic dialogue. It gives us tools to use language cogently with complexity. It’s a stimulating mental exercise that is also instinctual. If we stop to analyze the experience while we are practicing we may lose the preciosity of the moment. If we follow the flow organically, for example, navigating the circulating pulmonary rotators the hinge process is an investigative expansive living entity. Heller explained how he and Michael Annis, the discoverers of hinge, experimented by translating hinge applications to Spanish using experienced translators. Then they translated back to English to see that the applications proved their theory in terms of expansiveness and practicality. Heller called the applications “a linguistic medicinal healer and mind expander.” How can anyone go wrong with an economic application used to enhance the spirituality of life?

Heller spoke about how we as artists, have power to spread spiritual awareness and to make the earth mellifluous and profitable for all species. Heller sees hinge as the antidote to the Walmart experience. He spoke passionately of Soutine and referenced him several times as being inspirational to hinge and described how Soutine personally blew him away. Excoriate Exhale: Routing Soutine, Heller’s 22 page chapbook was the finalist for the 2008 poetry competition by Refined Savage Press.

This made me research the Jewish abstract expressionist painter who died from a bleeding ulcer while trying to escape the Gestapo. This made me very sad. I always feel more Jewish knowing how much prejudice there still is in the world against Jews, even though I am not a practicing Jewess. I have experienced a great deal of anti-Semitism first hand – right here in NYC. If hinge will cure prejudices I’m all for it. Hinge revolves inside of power systems.

Our political world is set up like this, we little schmucks fight about bs while others hold the power. The hope here being that the power of hinge may unhinge us from our parallel powerful past experiences. This ultimately is in reach for higher truth and universal enlightenment radiating positive energy. I’m a sucker for this theory Buster, I’m all for bettering ourselves and the universe too. I want world peace to be affected and effected by my artistic energy too. This is contagious energy.

I ask about the title, Smelling Mary, since smelling is a sense and Mary is originally a Jewish woman’s name and she is Christ’s mother. Over years, Mary has become a Christian name, like John or James – which is Heller’s middle name. I wanted more. Heller provided it after agreeing smelling is an investigative experience and Mary is a religious figure associated with purity.

“In the beginning was word. Language found us. All species communicate through their own language. Dinosaurs ruled the earth for one hundred and fifty million years before they died out,” Heller explained. “Humanoids have only been around for thirty thousand years. The earth, life, the human species, and language; all emerged from the original gases. There is a symbiotic health between the universe, life, and language.” Hinge has unlimited possibilities in promoting world peace and solutions for global warming and world economy intrinsically built in to its usage. The spread of infinite linguistics will affect and effect social and behavioral phenomena.

“This affirms what I already know,” I say, “We are entering a new enlightened age minus Reagan and Bush is what I say.” He agrees with me that hinge has emerged organically and simultaneously with a new political view.

This brought our interview full-circle and we ended where we began, discussing pivots modules and applications of hinge using mermaids as an example. Mermaids will evolve into their own universe of applications (poems). Mermaids will become a vehicle for hinge, a module to be followed, extensionality and complementarily; infinitely incremental and complementing.

In my head I imagine a class of several six or seven year olds practicing word analogies based on mermaids. I imagine holding out linguistic delights poetically to our young ones with analytic descriptions of how limitless words can be intrinsically. I share these images.

Levinson laughed and agreed absolutely we could, that “everything in its complexity enhanced, everything specialized and distinct to a mermaid in her own existence, you know he said, “it’s all mupae.”

I think my mouth may have fallen open here but I’m not sure. Heller didn’t tell me if my mouth was agape.

“What,” I said, flabbergasted and intrigued, “what is mupae?”

“Ah glad you asked,” he said waving his arm expansively “mutational update panel animation extenders.”

Poetically leaving me at that moment, with the obvious question, “what are mutational update panel animation extenders?” Hmmm guess that will have to be part II of this interview, investigating mutational update panel animation extenders.