Sudeep Sen is the author of more than fifteen books and chapbooks of poetry. He studied literature in New Delhi and the USA, and later completed an MS as an Inlaks scholar from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia. Since his first major book The Lunar Visitations in 1990 (after a quiet debut in 1983), Sen has established himself as a dynamic presence on the literary scene, working in multiple avatars as poet, translator, editor and reviewer. He currently lives and works in New Delhi.
Sen’s poetry has received a fair measure of international attention. “Sen is an ambitious poet who doesn’t fight shy of large themes . . .,” says poet and critic Adil Jussawalla, while the late Indian poet Nissim Ezekiel commended his work for being “rich and complex without being obscure”. Gregor Robertson describes his as “a distinct voice: carefully modulated and skilled, well measured and crafted”.
Sen’s preoccupations with craft have been in evidence since his early work. His poetry has journeyed over the years between metrical verse and freer forms, between sonnets and ghazals, reaching for the cadences of the Sanskrit shloka and the Italian ottava rima. Thematically, the preoccupations have ranged from archetypal concerns of love and death to art and politics, from myth and history to what poet Kwame Dawes terms a “constant uneasiness with the legacy of art”.
The poems in this selection offer an interesting glimpse of Sen’s poetry over the years. There is a glimpse of biting understatement and formal economy in ‘Independent Homeland’ and ‘Glued’. There is the thick lyric yearning of his poem, ‘Offering’, where perspiration, passion and poetry – ‘stickiness’, ‘juice’ and ‘memory’ – fuse into a melodic mix.
My personal favourites, however, are the lesser known dramatic monologues from the chapbook, Bodytext. As it maps the flawed and miraculous geography of the human body – its dead bones and its wish-bones, its heat and its water, its brittle dreams and its unrelenting pain, its arthritis and its arias – the text lurches between the long sentence and abruptly fractured phrase, between measured reflection and jagged song. The tangibility of death – evoked in images of mineral and water, electricity and music – turns ‘Heavy Water’ and the other poems from this chapbook into a brooding essay on the body’s finiteness, a memorable prosody of pain.
Blue Nude: New Selected Poems 1980–2010, forthcoming
Blue Nude: New Poems & Translations 1998–2008, forthcoming
Rain, Grantha, Gallerie & Mapin India / USA, ISBN 1-890206-88-1, 81-901999-0-0 (Gallerie) / 81-88204-60-9 2005
Distracted Geography: An Archipelago of Intent, Wings Press, 2003, ISBN 0-930-324-95-1; Peepal Tree, Leeds; Indialog, New Delhi, 2004, ISBN 1-900715-34-1 / 81-8791-67-9
Prayer Flag [CD / poetry & photography], Wings Press, New York, 2003, ISBN 0-930324-97-8; Peepal Tree, Leeds, ISBN 1-900715-12-0
Monsoon [re-issued in 2005 as Rain], Aark Arts, London, 2002, ISBN 1-899179-10-0
Perpetual Diary, Aark Arts, London, 2001
Almanac, University of South Carolina, Columbia, 2000
Lines of Desire, University of South Carolina, Columbia, 2000
A Blank Letter, The High Commission of India, Dhaka, 2000
Bodytext: Dramatic Monologues in Motion, Harrow Arts and Leisure Service, London Borough of Harrow, 1999
Retracing American Contours, University of South Carolina , Columbia, 1999
Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems, HarperCollins, New Delhi, 1997, ISBN 81-7223-269-1
Dali’s Twisted Hands, White Swan Books, New York, Peepal Tree, Leeds, 1995, ISBN 0 948833 84 X
Mount Vesuvius in Eight Frames, White Swan Books, New York, Peepal Tree, Leeds, 1994, ISBN 0 948833 9 12
South African Woodcut, White Swan Books, New York, Peepal Tree Books, 1994, ISBN 0-948833-90-4
Parallel [Compact Disc/Audio Cassette], The Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, 1993
New York Times, The Many Press, London, 1993, ISBN 0-907326-25-0; Rupa, New Delhi, 1991, ISBN 81 7167 235 3
Kali in Ottava Rima, Paramount, London, 1992; Rupa, New Delhi, 1991, ISBN 81-7167-235-3
The Lunar Visitations, White Swan Books, New York, 1990; ISBN 1-87812-200-2, Rupa, New Delhi, 1991
Leaning Against the Lamp-Post, University of South Carolina; Triad, Columbia, 1983/1996
Postcards from Bangladesh, with Tanvir Fattah and Kelley Lynch), University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2002
English Poetry from India [forthcoming]
(Ed.) Atlas 03/02/01: New Writing, Art & Image, Aark Arts, London/New York/New Delhi, 2008/9 , 2007, 2006, ISBN 1-889179-83-6, ISBN 1-889179-79-8, ISBN 1-889179-78-X
(Ed.) Midnight’s Grandchildren: Post-Independence English Poetry from India, Struga Poetry Evenings, Macedonia [in Macedonian translation], 2004
(Ed.) The British Council Book of Emerging English Poets from Bangladesh, Dhaka, 2001
(translated) Spellbound & Other Poems – Fazal Shahabuddin, Aark Arts, London, 2003
(translated) Love & Other Poems by Aminur Rahman, Aark Arts, London, 2001
In Another Tongue [Translations], University of South Carolina, Columbia, 2000