nether x The Alipore Post: Poetry for our Times

Updated: Jul 7

A decade ago, I discovered a poetry journal named nether on Flipkart. Founded by four postgraduate students of literature at Bombay University, the journal provided a much needed platform to highlight contemporary voices from our vibrant poetry scene, and included some immersive interviews with the poets as well. nether published six print issues and sixteen fortnights (online issues) over their lifetime, and then disappeared without a trace.


One of the best pieces of news I've read during these awful days of 'doom-scrolling' is that amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, nether is coming back! An effort spearheaded by two of the founding editors - Divya Nadkarni and Avinab Datta-Areng - the journal is back for a digital relaunch!


When Avinab wrote to me regarding a collaboration, all I could think of was exposing readers to the diversity and richness of the poems I read and experienced a decade ago. So I dug into the nether archives, and put together a special edition for you, with these gorgeous illustrations by Ishita Dasgupta.

Botany by Ranjit Hoskote (Nether, Issue 1)


Prickly garden where voices flower and run to seed:

this conversation could go up in a sheet of flame

any time, any leaf could be a bait, any tendril

a booby trap. Watch your words, and hers, theirs,

and all your stranded thoughts. Clove and mandrake

open the mouths of your mind, all dialogue here

is rolling transcript for a police state:

check the names for shadows, the verbs for stains,

turn connoisseur of signs, yogi, give nothing away

except your deep-shelved archive of silences.


nether started a podcast!

A reading from the Nether Archives by Ranjit Hoskote, followed by a conversation with the editors about a decade in writing poetry, "bearing witness" to history, literary traditions, the lyric, and more, including readings of two poems from his most recent book The Atlas of Lost Beliefs. 

Past and Future Words by J J Steinfeld (Nether, Issue 2)


First thing in the morning

even before breakfast

and the three cups of coffee

opening up the day

to misnamed visions

and mangled complaints

that will make up your day

and lead to thoughts best

not thought or recorded

you utter an improper prayer

half parody, half solemn

not very prayerful

or efficacious

but as necessary

as darkness

and melancholy.

Then the coffee

one after another

wondering if today

will be the day

when you glimpse

the unnameable

and describe the absurdity

of your nearly every task

and secret desire

with perfectly formed words

stolen from the past

and hurled to the future.

Highrises by Adil Jussawalla (Nether, Issue 3)


Birds speeding past our balconies

as though they meant to land a message

on them, but missed, always missed,

continue showing off their skills

well in view, as if to tell us

we got the metaphor wrong,

that, though flight and height is what

they taught us groundlings to envy –

whole tribes of us high on firm wings now –

such frozen bird’s-eye views,

such fear between the wing-tips

is not what they meant.

Eulogy by Sonia Sarkar (Nether, Issue 4)


Pear time lullaby

Cup stoicism in both hands lightly

Like a dandelion poised to self-destruct

Blow out the seeds, 500 candles

Illuminate a life of winged-tip regret

Brought to bear in crystallized

Relief: an infant with cheeks

Like moonbirth is now

An infant devoured by cosmos

He is quietly waiting for the saffron

Glaze of the sun to carry him

Efficient cremation of the outer bay

Burned to a crisp by memory

Undertow by Arun Sagar (Nether, Issue 5)

It tugs at you occasionally

as you put down the phone, or

step out of a dingy bookshop

into April sunlight, an undertow


of what you have just left behind

or whom you spoke to. It's like

wading to the shore, your skin

full of sand and salt, although

here it is the unfamiliar

element you clamber into, dripping.

And so you wander through the day's

crowded beach, with its umbrellas

and ice-cream stands, soon forgetting

what it was you felt, distracted

by a girl in blue, or cockleshells,

or crabs mating out of season, until night

floods in wherever you are, miles beyond

where you thought it could reach, over-

powering you, scraping your knees against

the scattered rocks, taking you deeper.

Nether is a non-profit literary collective of writers looking to spread out and build a plexus of more writers/ artists in India and across. It is a quarterly magazine focused on all the potential variations in the sphere of contemporary writings. The poems were curated by Rohini Kejriwal, founder of The Alipore Post.

 
 

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