Totem Spirit is a book of one hundred and forty-five verses, written between 1996-99. It is a palpable meditation of being plunged in the immense universe of Dharavi in the heart of Bombay. Tremulously meandering between the wanton and the profound—sensually gliding between the corporeal and the inanimate—precariously teetering between the recondite and the illusory. These phantasmagoric poems offer chimeric possibilities of the spectral, ensconced within the real. Written with a visceral candor that is seen in Ashish Avikunthak’s films, this collection provides a piercing glimpse of a mind that is yet to become a filmmaker.
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20 August 2020
Ashish Avikunthak is a filmmaker whose films have been shown worldwide in film festivals, galleries, and museums. He has a PhD for Stanford University and now teaches at the University of Rhode Island. Totem Spirit is his first book of poems, published twenty years after they were written.
Of Dharavi was borne, our viral present: the placenta that hangs from the hooks of global retail malls. Avikunthak’s Totem Spirit is the prayer to the placenta to wash our innards with its globulin.
— Kumar Shahani
The twenties can be a time for releasing all that’s raw inside, everything connected to the visceral and the carnal. These poems reflect such a moment of Avikunthak’s formative manthan.
— Ruchir Joshi