‘“Every relationship is a long-distance relationship,” we read in one of Sumana Roy’s intriguing new poems. Out of Syllabus brilliantly anatomizes those relationships, viewing them from every disciplinary perspective: chemistry, physics, biology, geography, history, botany—and finally art. The result is a dazzling dissection of love, longing, and loss in all their conflicting moods and moments. Roy’s images and metaphors are as enigmatic as they are precise. However private and personal her subjects, Roy maintains an aesthetic distance, wit and verbal control that recalls Sylvia Plath—but a Plath less angry, wiser—even philosophical. This is a very special book—one that deserves a wide readership.’
—Marjorie Perloff, Emeritus Professor, Stanford University
‘Sumana Roy’s wonderful book of poems, Out of Syllabus, combines rational ordering with the “unreason” of striking figures of speech. The rational ordering lies in the naming of sections as items in a comprehensive syllabus: “History”, “Chemistry”, “Physics” and so on. The striking figures of speech are everywhere in these poems. They give “out” in the book’s title a negative as well as a positive meaning. These metaphors are often coupled to what they figure by way of a key word in Out of Syllabus: “is.” But you must read these powerful and challenging poems for yourself, dear reader, to get a feeling for what they are like and for what they mean as unique poetic experiences.’
—J. Hillis Miller, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, University of California at Irvine
‘Over the course of Keki Daruwalla’s long career, some things have stayed the same: a vertical view of history that plunges across centuries and mythologies, an epic canvas rendered in minute detail, and a narrative engine that never stops ticking. What has changed is a tonal quality. Early poems that drip with scorn segue into the lovely late lyrics, with their grudging acceptance of mortality and frailty. This is an essential collection, a summing-up, as well as a fount of instruction and pleasure.’ —Jeet Thayil
‘Daruwalla’s verbs have lost none of their feral quality. His poetic line remains, for the most part, sinewy and energetic. The capacity to combine atmospheric sweep with succinctness, and to turn out the startling turn of phrase with an almost throwaway air are unchanged. Several moments in these poems linger long after one has closed the book: the wind “whetting its razor on eroded slopes”, “leaves like old scrolls wrapped in their crackling selves”, “a firefly pulsing/low on battery”, “the full-throated tremolo [of wolves] ricocheting in the wilds”, “the tangled reed-and-sedge locks of Shiva”, and “elegy moving like a slow Wagnerian movement”, to name just a few […] Vigorous and powerful, the poems of Keki Daruwalla continue to take wing.’—Arundhathi Subramaniam
‘There is nothing to keep me here,
Only these mountains of silence
And the gentle reserve of shepherds and woodmen
Who know me as one who
Walks among trees.’
One of India’s finest and most popular writers, Ruskin Bond is loved as much for the lyricism of his verses as for his classic stories. Tender and unsparing, understated but powerful, his poems reveal a deep connection with nature and appreciation for a surprising range of human emotions. This definitive collection of his poems, written over a lifetime, brings together themes as diverse as love, nostalgia, humour, family and friends, solitude and, of course, the joys to be found in spending time with nature. A timeless classic to enjoy or share, I Was the Wind Last Night: New and Collected Poems is a treasured addition to every poetry lover’s bookshelf.
‘In these whimsical, deeply affectionate poems, New Delhi is both context and protagonist, alive in its dust, smog and everydayness, in the vibrant colour of the first lychees of the season, in the mysteries that lie between “city and sprawl”. The city finds an ardent archivist in Michael Creighton—one who stoutly keeps the faith that “warm rains” will always “come to clear the dust”. Suffused by rare tenderness, these poems return through the welter of streets and residences to an address that remains at the abiding centre of this book—the place that the poet terms “the place I imagine my heart to be”.’—Arundhathi Subramaniam
‘New Delhi Love Songs is a collection abounding with shakarkandiwalas, jasmine-sellers, FM radios and cyclists, the Ghaziabad flower market and Moolchand flyover; the Delhi all around us, the Delhi of “your flesh, your seeds, / your skin”, of “sweat and soil / mixed with clover, sun and wind”. Unusual, deeply affecting in their attentiveness to life that seldom makes headlines, these poems reinforce the skeins of humanity that sustain us. They are tender and droll—two qualities we desperately need, in the capital but also elsewhere—yet steadfast in their eschewal of easy sentimentality and facile observations. New Delhi Love Songs makes the heart ache; but also sing, from time to time, for this is where “even a dead river looks lovely”.’ —Karthika Nair
‘C.P. Surendran bears witness to…what James Agee memorably described as “the cruel radiance of what is”. Anyone who looks directly at that “cruel radiance” is very likely to be wounded; for the poet is not only a pilgrim in a dangerous landscape but also a trespasser in secluded zones, psychic, cultural or political, that would prefer to guard their mysteries. As in Greek mythology, the guardian of such a sanctuary, usually a serpent or a dragon, inflicts a wound on the trespasser who has entered and violated the temenos. It is the wound of unbearable knowledge.…It is a sacred wound, and poetry, certainly for C.P. Surendran, is an attempted suture for this sacred wound.’—Ranjit Hoskote
‘C.P. Surendran’s Available Light omnibus portrays the gritty Indian urbanscape with raw and urgent felicity. His poems are intelligent, lean, spare, muscular and tightly wrought. Aspects of daily journalism and news editing, film and play of light, popular culture and philosophical questions about life and living inform his sharp-edged poetry. No soppy sentimentality, just studied restraint that is balanced delicately with deft linguistic control. This is an important volume by one of India’s finest contemporary poets.’—Sudeep Sen
‘Here is a book worth celebrating: Manohar Shetty’s Full Disclosure: New and Collected Poems (1981–2017), which gathers more than thirty years of work from a major voice in world Anglophone poetry. More accurately, this book presents a range of voices—in some of the multi-sectioned poems, a choir—as Shetty writes through a variety of personae and perspectives, delivering emotionally resonant deep imagery and intellectual precision, profound compassion and ironic wit, in equal parts. In Shetty’s work the natural world impinges on domestic life at every turn, creating an environment transformed through contact as well as the poet’s observation: a spider becomes “a yoyo,/A jiggling asterisk: a footnote:” and even on the bookshelves silverfish “burrow in flaking tomes.” A meditation on “the sick warmth of self-induced pain” finds its antiphone elsewhere in the “strange gawky cackle” of a peacock, “in its beak a fullgrown/Krait, slick hexagonal scales/Panicky and porous.” And running throughout the course of this brilliant career is a weighted humour, whether Shetty is recounting the secrets to a happy life offered by various characters (“external is eternal,” one handsome man concludes, while another urges simply, “Drink. Siesta.”) or mourning the changes at home, where, “with the children gone…MySpace and Facebook/do not twitter/all day long.” This collection provides us with a broad survey of a celebrated poet’s past and present while offering an enticement for his—and our—future.’—John Hennessy, poetry editor of The Common
‘These are delicate, sensual poems of inwardness and solitude but also of place and people. There are startlingly tender accounts of love and grief and a brooding lyricism brought to the description of towns and Himalayan history. A wonderful first collection.’
‘Monk on a Hill comes at you like a ship on the horizon with pennants flying in the wind. These poems bear the insignia of diverse kingdoms, continents and journeys unfurling in unexpected ways the truth about time, memory; of fathers and sons, of mothers and heirlooms, what a maze of life the years have been.
There is music here, a dozen songs in 12 bar blues and devotion, I who have grown like a rock here/ witnessed every grass and cloud that passed, where images combine with text to give meaning to the vision of the poet that is, in short, “very cool” and, at the same time, thought-provoking, with an essence of spirituality. These are words from the heart. Beautiful. Evocative.’
‘People, places, postscript name the three sections into which Guru T. Ladakhi’s poems in Monk on a Hill are emotively divided into. As a visual imagist, Ladakhi is adept at evoking scenes and feelings with short, descriptive lines and sensual similes; at times such compressed beauty suggests transience and decay—men and women, too, fade away and die.
In these poems one senses that the poet’s blood is sum and substance with nature’s flow; nature remains always as a subtle mirror. This small volume of poems contains a world of confidences that have been beautifully articulated in a fine poetic sequence.’
‘Guru Ladakhi is a visionary who has a world to reveal to us. In an age fragmented between the abstract universalism of the computer screen and the parochial, Ladakhi is a fortunate traveller, equally at home in the Musee d’Orsay and in the Buddha’s birthplace. Ladakhi is a master of hard-earned lyricism, “spitting out the residue of lilies”, always alert to contradiction, “to the reality check/of the refugee camp”. His collection is put together musically: motifs recur, modulate, deepen. Ladakhi plays for high stakes: this is poetry that aims to recover a human reality even as globalization erases our landmarks, even if “we live fugitive lives forever”.’
A debut collection of poems by a compelling young voice.
‘Rohinton Daruwala’s poems unfold like a baramasa, an almanac of seasons and sensations, exquisite torments and explosions of delight. He essays a sensuous portraiture of place, invoking torrential monsoons, arid summers, railway bridges at night, libraries in deserts. [He] spells out a frank eroticism in the textures and flavours of fruit…at the same time, [he] is entangled in the hypermodern present. He gathers traces of the loved one from residues both material and digital… [He] maps the city, not only through the portraiture of human protagonists, but also through the micro-ecologies inhabited by butterflies and sparrows… In Daruwala’s handling, the poem can be an oblique parable, a brief lamp of wisdom in the wind of distraction: light as breath, yet as essential.’—Ranjit Hoskote
A debut collection of poems by an acclaimed young poet— Anupama Raju.
‘Anupama Raju has mastered the right simile, the apt image, the terse line. Love, poetry, journeys, places, moods, relations: her poetry is inclusive and intimate; her verbal iconography, rich with resonances. She can be passionate without being sentimental, ironic without being cynical and economic without being soulless and dry.’ — K.Satchidanandan
‘Urgent and passionate, these poems circle age-old preoccupations of love and longing. This is perilous terrain where the danger of cliché lurks at every turn. However, without resorting to the easy distancing strategies of irony, the poet plunges into psychologically fraught zones of “poetry, perfidy and Pandora”, ready to give voice to the vulnerability and confusion attendant on such an exploration. A quiet blend of authenticity and artistry sees her through, transforming familiar tropes of blood and longing, pain and death, into the “burnt letters” of warm, pulsating verse. Anupama Raju cuts close to the bone in this debut collection of poems.’ — Arundhathi Subramaniam