The Poetry and the literary establishment in the UK remain in denial of British Indian poets. Anyone can look at poetry magazines and also take in the audience at poetry events to distil the fact that these important contributors to English literature are utterly ignored. With this in mind, 4th October, 2017 was an important date when with the help of the British Council and the Poetry Library, Yogesh Patel, the director-poet of Word Masala Foundation and Skylark Publications, took the diaspora poets to the hub of the poetry scene in the UK. He hosted a rare outing of British-Indian poetry to celebrate the four fresh collections of poems published this year though ignored by the mainstream in the U.K. It was yet a full house. The great mixed non-literati poetry-loving audience found out that diversity was interesting and important and had much to offer. Yogesh Patel introduced each poet with his critical analysis of their works and the specially written poems on them. Mona Dash read from her collection, A Certain Way, published by Skylark in March. Rishi Dastidar and Dr Bashabi Fraser received Word Masala Award presented by Chris McCabe, the librarian, and Dr Vijay Anand, the editor of Confluence. Their books, Ticker-tape, published by Nine Arches Press, and The Homing Bird, published by Indigo Dreams came out in June.
The highlight of the event was that Yogesh Patel launched his own long awaited and critically acclaimed collection, Swimming with Whales, immediately available internationally from all bookshops and web portals. After reading from her own work, poet Dr Debjani Chatterjee introduced Yogesh Patel as “This is a man who not only writes his own poetry but has made it his mission to promote diaspora poets”. Yogesh Patel humbly read a couple of his poems from this new collection with haunting whale music and sounds playing in the background.
This is what the well-known poet Prof. Meena Alexander has to say about Yogesh’s collection: ‘With marvelous twists and turns of language and breath, Yogesh Patel’s book length meditation draws us into the life and death of the young whale lost in the Thames river, a poignant icon for the migrant self. The voice moves through wit and sparks of joy, through bitterness and loss, rising into a fine balance — the metamorphic life of the speaker pitched to the rhythmic harmonies of poetic language .’Come swim with me/ swim the lithe language ‘ the poet tells us and we follow him across the dark yet clarified borders of the past, through the difficult present, into the fluid zone of the imagination. Swimming with the Whales is relevant to our lives in a world of nationalisms gone awry, where our common humanity is so often ignored.’
One of the greatest critics of modern English poetry, Michael Schmidt, OBE FRSL, General Editor, PN Review and the Managing and Editorial Director, Carcanet Press Limited also observes: ‘Yogesh Patel is Jonah, Ishmael, Queequeg and Moby Dick himself. His whales are enormous symbols swimming all the seas of the world and defining us as they go.’ One of the most iconic poets of the Indian diaspora abroad, acclaimed poet Daljit Nagra notes: ‘Our endangered world is celebrated by Patel in poems that hop, skip and transform the mundane into a magical adventure. No subject is too distant for Patel’s keen eye and leviathan powers.’
For the audience, the evening was even more fun because of the raffle organised by Skylark. ‘PN Review is an extraordinary poetry journal no poetry lover should be without,’ Yogesh Patel said passionately as a subscriber. ‘So, I feel lucky that Michael Schmidt, its editor, agreed to donate a one-year subscription to the winner of this raffle.’ He is also inclined to publish the new genre of the review of poetry collections in a poem, Yogesh has introduced at this event.
Daisy Leitch of the British Council Literature Department summed up the event, which was also a part of India-UK year of Culture 2017, neatly. “Congratulations on the wonderful event and launch of your new collection. We were very pleased to be associated with such an interesting and successful evening.”
The library has recorded the full event for its archive and one can hear it free at https://soundcloud.com/the-poetry-library/this-glorious-noise
Contact Yogesh Patel at www.skylarkpublications.co.uk to organise the reading.