RAVI SHANKAR is the founding editor and Executive Director of Drunken Boat [http://www.drunkenboat.com}, one of the world's oldest electronic journals of the arts. He has published or edited seven books and chapbooks of poetry, including the 2011 National Poetry Review Prize winner, Deepening Groove. Along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he edited W.W. Norton's Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from Asia, the Middle East & Beyond, called "a beautiful achievement for world literature" by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. He has won a Pushcart Prize, been featured in The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education, appeared as a commentator on the BBC and NPR, received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and has performed his work around the world. He is currently Chairman of the Connecticut Young Writers Trust, on the faculty of the first international MFA Program at City University of Hong Kong and an Associate Professor of English at CCSU.
Most of the poems in Deepening Groove are comprised of detailed observations of nature in tercets and 4 stanzas (12 lines total), with titles like, "Buzzards," "Ants," and "Tomato." It's incredible what Shankar can pack into such tight spaces. Attention to detail, image, metaphor, music, and meter come together to widen out into reflections on humanity, the natural world, relationships, even politics. Several poems break the pattern, by being longer or in a different form, so that it never becomes monotonous. Here's one of my favorite parts, which speaks to the all-encompassing quality of Shankar's mind, the ending of "Before Monsoon":
a garland wallah doing brisk business
selling lotus flowers in an alleyway damp with fresh urine. How the city points out evidence of a seamless continuum: heavens, earth, underworld--conjoint.
Most of the book is set in New England where the poet lives. Listen to the music of the first stanza of "Willard Pond":
Across the pine-fringed pond, a loon croons once, twice, easily three times it fills the air with half-laugh, half-warning. Beautiful & alien
And this line from "Dust," a poem that moves from under the dresser to comets to this ending: "mote chanced to be born, like us."
I very much enjoyed the poems in this book and look forward to reading it again and again, and to looking at the world around me with more attention as a result. Pick up this book. You won't regret it.
Deepening Groove, by Ravi Shankar is a classic. In these days of machinary and mundane chores creeping in on us every day, talented writers are rare! Computer jobs fil up our pockets but we need more than money to fill up our intellect. The cover design is also superb. I strongly recommend this stimulating book of poems to anyone!