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A nose for paradox
Made me read Chuang-Tsu
On a late autumn afternoon
In Washington Square—
From his butterfly dream
I too emerged with wings,
A flowing gown of red and green,
A taste for wet fingertips.
(‘Chinatown, New York’)
In this dazzling debut collection by Indian-born poet Siddhartha Bose, the cities of Kolkata, Mumbai, New York and London are transformed into sites of fractured vision.
Bose has created a volatile, dynamic poetics in which love and longing compete with the hybrid, multicultural cityscape. A five-part structure reflects this multiplicity: ‘Prolectric’ and ‘Epilepsis’ book-end sequences on childhood and initiation (‘Sunya’), love (‘Maya’) and the city (‘Nagri’). Kalagora is a Hindi neologism meaning black man / white man; this book tells his story.
Visit www.kalagora.com for Siddhartha’s latest tour dates.
“Emerging fully formed with this exquisitely crafted debut, Siddhartha Bose intrigues, surprises, shocks and seduces the reader, pushing the text to the edges of truth. This is a guttural, painfully honest text, yet at times tender and emotive, the sound of the poems creating a form of sculpture for the ear. The book spans continents and cities: Calcutta, Bombay, London, New York. A truly contemporary work which does what good poetry does best: to make the personal universal and the international local.”
“Traversing and bridging continents, juxtaposing unusual syntactical relationships, Bose in Kalagora cleverly interweaves the politics of colour — black, white, brown — where race is both a metaphor of separateness and metropolitan co-existential chic. There is multiculturalism, romanticism, orientalism; travel, rebellion, jazz; fantasy, love, sex. Kalagora is one of the most impressive debut volumes I have read in recent years.”
“Forget the usual flimflam about the ‘potential’ of the debut collection; Kalagora introduces Bose as a poet well into his stride. These emanations from the author’s token cities tentacle back to a kind of electrolife that sustains the entire collection. Here, amid filmic precision, extraordinary dare and constant ingenuity, Bose directs a vaudevillian array of seemingly apocryphal characters that come and go with metamorphic freedom. This is rampantly active and radioactive poetry; crammed with shock visions and a siege of narratives. The cumulative effect is powerful and intense; Kalagora is a vital book of poems for the 21st century.”
“One of the most exciting first collections I’ve come across in a long time … Kalagora bestrides continents and celebrates cities as engines of creativity where dogs talk in hieroglyphs and where a man can be a moth.”
Ian McMillan, The Verb on BBC Radio 3 (download Mp3)
“Kalagora is an incantatory assertion, if not of identity, then of power and confidence in moving through identities. [...] The book ranges across India, London and New York, negotiating traditional and contemporary cultures with a confidence which doesn’t feel at home anywhere, but is prepared to make claims anyway.”
Tony Williams, Magma
“Bose is … a “hybrid” poet, in the post-colonial sense of the term – his work in Kalagora aiming to merge, bridge, fuse, and intertwine (as they say), the diction, themes, and experiences, of various centres”
Todd Swift, Poetry Review
“Bose’s use of language – invented words, nouns made into verbs and other colourful concoctions – produces a writhing, seething, pulsating poetry.”
Poetry Book Society Bulletin
“Pitting the surrealist against the Romantic, Bose carves out a mongrelized but fruitful crop, proving with Kalagora that a new and vital generation of ‘diaspora’ poets is desperately needed to forge new models among the tired ways of thinking about race, distance and the ‘immigrant experience’.”
Sandeep Parmar, The Wolf
“There is a sense of an Odyssean voyage, a continuous exile, full of temptation and danger [...] This is a collection that is always dramatic, always in tune with the sensational possibilities of language [...] fusing cities together and describing a planet, and an identity, that is globally connected and globally aware”
Charles Beckett, Wasafiri
“The poems revel in the urban environment both as adventure playground and crucible of lived experience, spanning multiple cities – Bombay, Calcutta, London – and Bose’s way of running on a sentence or reconfiguring its structure is a wonderful way of giving his work an off-kilter beat that’s entirely in step with the mixed-up hurly-burly of city life”
Jon Stone, Dr Fulminare