Distracted Geographies: An Archipelago of Intent by Sudeep Sen is about the politics of body and text, mask and posture, desire and distraction, disease and health -- the relationship between indoor and outdoor, island and mainland, centre and periphery -- and the texture that dictates typography and cartography.
The book contends boldly with intimate issues of love, loss, illness, passion, and sex. Even though the locale is largely set in various parts of Scotland, it could ostensibly be anywhere that is imaginatively similar. Using both a minimalist and cinematic form, the scenes shift, dissolve, inter-cut, flashback, and fast-forward to provide a narrative that is at the same time linear and oblique, classical and avant-garde.
The form and structure of the piece is inspired both by the architecture of the human body, and the shape of Pablo Neruda’s Odes that reflect the long-thin shape of Chile. Sections and sub-sections within the narrative join together like synapses between bone and bone; and the titles act as translucent markers of breath pauses, not separators.
In numerological terms the short two-line couplets echo the two-step footprints, a pathway that is mapped on an atlas. The 12 sections correspond to the 12 bones in a human ribcage, the 12 months in a year, the two 12 hour cycles in a day, and so on. There are 26 bones in the human vertebrae, and the 26 parts in the piece slowly assemble themselves to form a montage of tenuously strung lyrics. And finally, the 206-page long work in this book match exactly the same number of bones in the human body.
Distracted Geographies: An Archipelago of Intent is a groundbreaking piece of work -- a tour de force -- a much-awaited book after the highly acclaimed Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (Harpercollins) -- poems from which won him the Hawthornden Fellowship in the UK and a nomination for a Pushcart Prize in the USA.
-- Sen’s writing here is crisp and tightly wrought, the pacing swift and cadenced, and the mood desirous. This new book challenges the essential act of myth making and the tradition of ‘genre’ in literature -- this being at the same time a poem, a novella, or even a minimalist novel-in-verse at its sparest best.
Read a poem from this collection
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Sudeep Sen lives and works in New Delhi & London. He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS.