I met Dr. Amitabh Mitra at the World Literature Festival in Oslo in September this year. He was representing South Africa and had launched his Anthology of Love Poetry to an august gathering.
Tonight: An Anthology of World Love Poetry is a fascinating kaleidoscope of poems of love created by the poets from several countries. Tonight includes poems revealing Dr. Amitabh Mitra’s determined and characteristically emotional quest for love. This Anthology is edited by Dr. Amitabh Mitra from South Africa, Victoria Valentine from United States and Glory Sasikala Franklin from India.
Dr. Mitra’s vision of an Anthology that he yearned to create since the days of the publication of Pritish Nandy’s Love Poetry Anthology ‘Strangertime’ in 1979 has finally been fulfilled.
W. H. Auden rightly felt: “Let us love each other or die.” Matthew Arnold also indicates the importance of love: “Ah, love, let us be true to one another.” There are many proverbs about the significance of love. “Love conquers all” (Virgil). “All you need is love” (The Beatles). Walter Pater remarks that the great Pre-Raphaelite poet D. G. Rossetti (1828-1882) was ever a lover, servant and singer, faithful as Dante, of Beatrice (Pater:216). We are moved and stimulated by wonderful images in Amitabh’s “Gwalior” where we find the lyrical intensity at its best:
Where have you gone
Where have I gone
Only a breath stood
Your smile unleashed a sea
In the ravines
Palaces were swept off
To a distant sky (108)
The lyrical gift of Amitabh is undeniable.
Adam Donaldson Powell’s “Je m’accuse” emphasizes that “the rhythms of our hearts” leave us “dizzy and child-like”, and transcend “the rotation of the earth”. The most significant thing about Powell as a poet is his energy, passion and power of vivid description:
Then-captured by your stellar eyes
And crescent smile,
I arrested the first word in mid-breath ( 53)
“The course of true love never runs smooth”, so Powell seizes “the first word in mid-breath”, and the miracle happens. “During isolated moments of intense experience, when the miracle happens, life takes on the intensity of art” (Virginia Woolf).
Victoria Valentine’s two poems “John” and “Caves” are remarkable for the purely visual quality of images like ‘ashes of bridges burned’, ‘exploring the caves’, ‘heaving mattress’.
Glory Sasikala Franklin’s “Let me in” generates the desired, essential atmosphere of yearning and longing:
Let me into the coolness of your touch
A thousand births and ten thousand deaths
Being baptized again and again
Till my name is lost in yours. (83)
Geoff Jackson’s “When was Then” and “Fallen for You” will surely appeal to what lies deepest in us-passion and its intercommunication. Jackson has the power to reveal the most delicate outward manifestations of the emotion of love:
Skidding on wings of white
You flew me
And the following from “Fallen for You”:
Hot like a sun storm
And yet I bathe in your eyes benign
Sink underwater to greeny depths (14)
Bhuwan Thapaliya’s “Arise, O love of my love, resolve to make love” reveals that the code of love is ‘the haven of our trust’. Roger Humes’ “All Poets live in Exile” is remarkable for sweet and generous sympathies touching the human heart in love:
Only by giving away all
May the memory of your heart
Burn with the eternal gift of mine (77)
Brett Beiles’ “mixed messages” spontaneity of feeling in the following lines places the poet on a par with the best in literature:
Whenever I’m in the corridor
There he is
Jeanpaul Ferro’s “Restoration” rich with overtones of feeling is profoundly romantic:
This most beautiful, beautiful oneness,
Stepping stone to God
Cross over to creation, paradise (16)
Tonight has captured its rightful place in Contemporary World Love Poetry Literature. Its success is due to the efforts of its editors in choosing the best poets from around the world. Tonight indicates that the included poets are quite sensitive to the varied aspects of love, to its sensuous glory and ecstasies. Nearly all poems in Tonight throw a glistening image of love before the reader’s eye.
Mitra, Amitabh Ed. Tonight: An Anthology of World Love Poetry The Poets Printery, East London, South Africa, 2008, pp. 118, Paperback, ISBN o-620-41372-7
Pater, Walter. “Dante Gabriel Rossetti”. Appreciations. Edinburgh: R & R Clark, 1931
-Santosh Kumar (b. 1946) is a poet, short-story writer and an editor from UP India; DPhil in English; Editor of Taj Mahal Review and Harvests of New Millennium Journals.