INDIGO DREAMS PUBLISHING LTD
GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2021
Shanta Acharya’s new poetry collection, her seventh, follows Imagine: New and Selected Poems, published by HarperCollins India in 2017.
The author of eleven books, her publications range from poetry, literary criticism and fiction to finance. An internationally published poet, her work has been widely anthologized and translated into several languages. Founder of Poetry in the House, she hosted a series of monthly poetry readings at Lauderdale House in London from 1996-2015. In addition to her philanthropic activities, Acharya served twice on the board of trustees of the Poetry Society in the UK.
Born and brought up in Cuttack, India, Acharya was the first person in Odisha to win a scholarship to Oxford, where she was among the first batch of women admitted to Worcester College in 1979. A National Scholar and a recipient of the Violet Vaughan Morgan Fellowship, she was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy for her work on Ralph Waldo Emerson. She was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of English and American Literature and Languages at Harvard University before joining Morgan Stanley in London. She worked in the asset management industry and has written extensively on the subject. www.shantaacharya.com
Author and cover photos by Dr Sanjay Acharya
138 x 216mm
£9.99 + P&P UK
What Survives Is The Singing
Shanta Acharya’s seventh poetry collection, ‘What Survives Is The Singing’, reflects a profound receptivity to the world, revealing her richly textured and subtly balanced vision. With deep roots in two cultures, her finely crafted poems are meditations on the tragedy and triumph of being human – she is good at exploring its vulnerability and frailty as much as its beauty and potential for transformation. A vivid and sensitive way of getting to know ourselves, her poems insist on finding our place in the world.
“These poems take on our strange times unflinchingly, and show that they still offer scope for creativity, craft and lyricism, qualities that are now more necessary than ever. A courageous and multifaceted collection.”
(Praise for Imagine: New and Selected Poems)
Shanta Acharya is concerned with the big, often painful subjects – death and loss, love’s shortfalls, poverty and dispossession – but there are moments of humour and satire, and a rich aesthetic delight in the variousness of the world. Acharya’s poems are full of the pleasures of the unexpected.
Rising up the arc to the zenith,
twice as fast as a tortoise sprinting,
we move in a transparent capsule,
oblivious of vertigo, surveying
the ancient city’s surprised sprawl.
The river passes by naming each building,
old and new, along the embankment.
Glass, steel and concrete façades
shape the landscape. Transcending
the real, dreams rise ghostlike
in the mist of history, announcing
the arrival of the new Londoners,
survivors and inventors, sharing
in their different languages
forgotten stories. Earth and sky
hold on to their secrets, memories
strong enough to overcome suffering,
pain flowering like this metropolis.
At the end of our journey we step out
of the goldfish bowl, get blown
away on a gust of desire,
swept up high, invisible, soaring,
looking down on centuries of struggle,
life hanging on a chance, trusting
to be taken home to that mighty heart beating.
it is so long since my heart has been with yours
~ E. E. Cummings
You walked into the walled garden of my sacred
courtyard, changing the colour and contour
of our lives, landscapes merging into each other,
making us forget where one ends, the other begins.
Love mints its image everywhere,
stamps its seal, preserves its kingdom,
commanding its citizens to obey its laws
making differences disappear magically.
After the mingling of eyes, lips, bodies,
our separate selves can no longer find their way
back to how they were individually,
like continents long frozen surprised to discover
tigers and wild animals roaming majestically
in the tropical forests of their territories.
When fate deals you a losing hand, play in silence.
Luck favours those who mend themselves in silence.
Remember precious lessons learnt in defeat –
pearls of experience purchased in silence.
A game of chance, nothing in this world is real,
our stories shadows passing in silence.
Be the flame of a candle to what blows you –
life is the greatest gift bestowed in silence.
Days are restless until your heart finds a home,
a sky where you can be yourself in silence.
Earth’s grand gardens may beckon you in your dreams,
love’s a patch of green that flowers in silence –
a shade that shelters you in times of crises,
a place you keep returning to in silence.
To hold, be held the Beloved eternal –
believe in the splendour of grace in silence.
Silence is the keeper of keys to secrets –
Shantih that passes understanding in silence.
Home is not a country or postcode,
more a state of mind, keeper of the map of my world –
offering a hint of the distance between myself
and the silence out there, the way life reaches
for light, and rays leaning like ladders against the sky
invest my journey with meaning.
The universe never seems to tire of change,
making itself new, daring me to the challenge.
Time holds my life up against the light,
a tapestry, tattered though richly embroidered –
leaving me with a fresh measure of myself.
No longer sure of anything – even the hands
of my grandfather clock run faster beneath the dust
with each passing season – my body conspires
to slow me down, show me things I’ve never seen
though they’ve always been there, camouflaged.
After all this time to be none the wiser
about one’s purpose for being here
is a paradox of many worlds –
the ability to be dead and alive until observed.
Living in doubt and darkness is human,
what redeems is the seeing and being seen.
The startling discovery always of the moment –
Keats lost himself in a sparrow,
Whitman found himself in a leaf of grass.
In time everything is transformed –
the deepest ocean floor becomes the roof of the world.
A desert dreaming of its past incarnations
recalls cradling an ancient civilization.
Nothing is, especially the illusion of permanence.
Nature is always in a state of becoming something else.
To know your true self, seekers of enlightenment
have said we must learn to step outside ourselves –
feel the grandeur of the universe,
experience the suffering of all creatures.
Adrift in my world, searching for myself,
I stepped inside myself, met my many selves –
persons I could’ve been under different circumstances,
accusing me for not creating my chances.
Yet all the time I have been true to myself,
my art a way of seeing without distorting lenses –
the startling discovery always of the moment.
Lean on truth not lies, my mother once said
when she overheard us telling tales,
each more fantastic than the other.
Think twice before you say nothing –
my father once said when words flew
out of my mouth for which I paid dearly.
Time is the best storyteller, both my parents said
when words became my metier, and I spent
my days eating, breathing, dreaming words.