Left to right: Book - A Memory Book of Poetry of Diaspora in Silicon Valley; Poet - Jyoti Bachani

Poetry As Sanctuary – A monthly column where poets from the Poetry of Diaspora of Silicon Valley pen their South Asian experiences.

An anthology of poetry is not merely a collection of poems, but a peek into the delightful diversity that exists in humanity. As an expression of thoughts in verse forms, poems offer an entryway into the inner life of individuals. A Memory Book of Poetry of Diaspora in Silicon Valley compiled by Dr. Jyoti Bachani does just that.

One of the first collections of poetry, it is a celebration of a year-long coming together of poets from different backgrounds and countries week after week during the pandemic. It is interesting to see the poetry group also by the same name that was started by Dr. Jyoti Bachani, crystallized into this sustained coming together of poets in virtual space through zoom. The result is this gift of eclectic poetry that never fails to appeal no matter in what mood we pick it up. The poems range from the sublime spiritual of Jyoti’s renderings in the Pregnant Pause to the brave renderings of Sujata Tiberwala in Break up with God.

Twenty poets express themselves in varied languages and styles, bringing a beautiful tapestry of poems in different hues to thrill the heart and mind. The book celebrates the very diversity of its poets who write in English, Hindi, Bengali script, and more! The comfortable camaraderie that exists in the group that welcomes all emotions, expressions, and even pregnant silence can be seen clearly in the very manner in which the book has been presented — that there was no compulsion to render the book into a uniform font or style, reflects the courage to express without fear. This is the hallmark of any group that comes together to comfort, nurture, and grow. 

Women of this group write on topics personal to them. Saswati Das’ poem Insaniyat Ke Ansu (tears of humanity) carries the courage of social messages, while Pragalbha Doshi reflects on the struggles of being human in her poem Suffering. Science and the things of ordinary life find delightful expressions in Kamala Tyagarajan’s short poems.

Languages find their places with the poets of this book. Navneet Galagalli comes from a rich tradition of Sanskrit litterateurs and brings his much loved oral renditions of Sanskrit verses to this book with beautiful translations of classical verses. Asif Hussain Shahid, a walking encyclopedia of Urdu poetry, has preferred to share the beautiful verses of poet Fana Nizami KanpuriSundeep Kohli shows equal ease in English and Hindi, where he renders into English the verses he has composed in Hindi, and without intending to, showing the readers the mastery he holds on both languages. Joe Pollepali, the vibrant poet who like Sundeep is equally at ease in Hindi and English, continues to thrill with his poems like Transformations. His rich baritone and enchanting renderings of poems in the poetry circle find equal expression in the written words. 

Speaking to the encouragement that exists in the group for those that are just venturing into the realm of the verse is the poem Tribe by Laxmi Rao that celebrates the very poetry circle that nurtured her enough to express herself in poetry as well. A classical Hindustani singer, Laxmi is much sought after in the group for her singing.

Gentle Vidur Sahdev’s poems are as soothing as the gentle rain, as he reflects on Memories and other poems that invariably bring out how in tune he is with nature. Vishal Vatnani’s poem The Bridge is in the genre of odes, bringing to mind classical poems of the likes like William Wordsworth. And of course! Contributions of poems like Books and Nature by 11-year-old Onamika Dey provide a space for the new generation of poets.  

This book is not only for lovers of poetry but a great resource for those that would like to peruse it and decide for themselves if they want to be part of this diaspora of poets in the Silicon Valley.

Anuradha Gajaraj-Lopez lives in Clovis, California. She holds a postgraduate degree in journalism and mass communication. She was a reporter with The Times of India and held the post of Special Correspondent with The Asian Age national newspaper in India. Her book ‘Agastya: History, Legend and Reality’ has found international readership in Italy, Germany, UK, India, US, and Brazil.