Nitoo Das

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Nitoo Das, a poet from Assam, first came to Delhi to study English Literature in Jawaharlal Nehru University. She decided to stay on in this city and now teaches English in Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. Her doctoral thesis is a study of ‘British Representation of Colonial Assam’, which she followed up with a project on ‘Poetry as Hypertext: A Study of MSN Communities’. Boki, her first collection of poetry, was published in 2008 by Virtual Artists Collective. Her poetry is featured in various other places such as Poetry International Web, Pratilipi, Muse India, Eclectica, The Four Quarters Magazine, The Seven Sisters Post. She has been to Sangam House, at Nrityagram near Bangalore, for a writing residency, in early 2012. Her other interests include fractals, caricatures, comic books, horror films, studies of online communities, bird watching, and photography. Much of her poetry is clever word play, haunted by a sense of lyricism and musicality.

Having been born and brought up in Guwahati, a city situated on the banks of the Brahmaputra (Assamese: Luit), the river runs like a thread through her life, as well as her poetry. Although she breaks away from the traditional themes and modes that poetry from the North-East has concerned itself with till now, many of her poems that deal with flowers, birds, the Bordoisila winds, or the river show a love for nature. She simultaneously situates herself in tradition, and detaches herself from it. Some of her poetry may be appropriately termed as the poetry of everyday life, as she looks at ordinary objects such as safety pins, godrej cupboards, origami, silverfish or a picnic with an unusual, and perhaps eccentric eye.

She proudly wears the feminist tag, in her life as well as in her poetry. Many of her poems are written in the form of dramatic monologues, where the speaker is usually a marginalized woman from a lower class or caste. The speaker is also often a historical or mythical character, as Nitoo Das subverts canonical myths, and offers us alternative versions of history. Thus, it is often said that she uses ventriloquism in her poetry. Debunking the idea of a stable identity, she shows the self as a fluid and changing entity, role playing, donning a series of persona. Similarly, in her love poems, there is an erotic tension as two people unfold layer after layer to discover one another. The other person is always elusive and unknowable. Here again, she shows us identities that are in the process of becoming. The two lovers stand on an equal plane, and the balance of power shifts continuously between them.

Her poetry, in many ways, seems to be a fresh, distinctive voice in Indian Poetry in English. She is also interested in the relationship between poetry and the internet: how the internet changes the way poetry is produced, circulated, and received, and how it facilitates in linking poetry with audio-visual dimensions of art.

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