All is not dark if poetry can strengthen our resolve to override the coronavirus crisis. Sudeep Sen’s soul-searching, multi-genre book, Anthropocene: Climate Change, Contagion, Consolation, seeps gently into the crevices of our despondency and feeds vital energy into the dying cells of public conscience. An urgent plea for saving the environment, saving the fine human sentiments of empathy and care, and for acknowledging the power and magic of words—this book is one of the strongest statements made on the global pandemic. I value the discerning eye which dwells on minutiae, the brave voice that calls for Love in the Time of Corona, the touch that honours the artefacts in decay. In the theatre of sorrow there is the arc light of hope, making Sen’s poems and prose a pageant of possibility, if only we listen to the music of the universe.
“The Role of the Artist is Not to Look Away”—the Prologue opens with an Akira Kurosawa quote. “Amid all the clamour of public rhetoric and widespread distress, this book is a quiet artistic offering,” writes Sen, 23. When Boccaccio wrote Decamerone after the Black Death in Italy or Camus wrote The Plague about the cholera epidemic in Oran, French Algeria, they used storytelling as the mode, often mythologising the location so as to invoke a larger relevance. Sen has selected poetry (and micro-fiction) as the vehicle of his thoughts and used a variety of poetic forms infused with the vocabulary of science and spirituality. Such poetry is neither an escape nor an emotion recollected in tranquillity—it is the honed, chiselled outcome of dry-eyed sorrow. As Sen confides: “For me, poetry is omniscient, poetry is life, poetry in its widest sense is a way of living.”