Shanta Acharya

Shanta Acharya Featured Poet

Shanta Acharya - Photo by Dr Sanjay Acharya

In The British Museum

Meandering like a river
among the exhibits I encounter
Shiva and Parvati engrossed in each other
holding the universe between their eyes.

Startled to find an offering of flowers
nestling at their feet where
Nandi, Shiva’s bull, and Parvati’s lion
gaze bashfully at each other,

this statue from Orissa, the place of my birth
carved between AD 1100-1300
on gleaming black schist demands my attention.

I am in the presence of God
conceived as a couple, male and female,
on the point of becoming One.

Over two centuries have elapsed
since the divine pair –
dressed lavishly in decorated loin cloths
their naked bodies adorned with ornaments
earrings, necklaces, headdresses, anklets –

were taken from their home in an ornate temple,
perhaps in Bhubaneswar, the abode of gods,
where worshippers thronged for a darshan
offering gifts and prayers
holding conversations with gods that began in
the temple and were carried on every day, everywhere.

Here the gods sit silently contemplating the world
and each other, oblivious of a broken-hearted believer.
Have you forgotten your daughter, how long must I suffer
alone buffeted by life’s crosswinds before I find shelter?


Here’s your thunder stolen by others,
your losses, ships that never return.

Here’s your life passing slowly by,
your body of song promising all it can do.

Here’s your heart reaching out to others,
your thoughts fresh rays of sun.

Here’s your dream scattered across the sky,
falling stars not knowing what they can do.

Here’s hope, gold at the edge of the rainbow
casting a spell on us as we go.

Here’s your fear walking in front of you
thinking there is nothing you can do.

Here’s my hand, place yours in mine,
I’ll show you the world is yours.

Here’s your true love waiting for you,
your tree of life, radiant in bloom.

Here’s what you do, what you can do,
it’s your future, make of it what you will –

Here’s life in all its squalor and splendor,
here’s your world and all you can do.

An internationally recognized poet, Shanta has published five collections of poetry. Her poems have been widely anthologized appearing in major publications in the USA, UK and India. The most recent inclusions are: Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond, edited by Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal, and Ravi Shankar (W.W. Norton and Co, USA; 2008); The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, edited by Jeet Thayil (Bloodaxe Books, UK; 2008); Temba Tupu (Walking Naked) The Africana Woman’s Poetic Self Portrait, edited by Nagueyalti Warren (The Africa World Press/ The Red Sea Press, Trenton, NJ, USA; 2008); Unmapped: The Indian Poetry Issue, edited by Sudeep Sen (The Literary Review, USA; 2009); We Speak in Changing Languages: Indian Women Poets 1990-2007, edited by E V Ramakrishnan and Anju Makhija (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, India; 2009). She is the founder director of Poetry in the House, responsible for hosting monthly readings at Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, London N6 5HG; a role she has undertaken voluntarily since June 1996. Shanta has also served on the Development Board of the Arvon Foundation. She was among the Founder Members on the Board of Trustees of the Poetry School, and was a Member of Council of the Poetry Society. She remains a Life Member of the Poetry Society. Shanta was elected to the Board of the Poetry Society, UK, in September 2011.