20 September, 2020

Human Comedy Through A Keyhole

Abjuring solemn observation, Arundhathi Subramaniam’s new poems are lightly laden with life’s epiphanies and shot through with humour and self-mockery

Photograph by Amit Haralkar
Human Comedy Through A Keyhole

The previous collection of Arundhathi Subramaniam, award-winning author of 11 books of poetry and prose, tit­led When God is a Traveller, was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. The dry words of Eunice de Souza, who was her teacher, serve to set the tone for these new poems. “Best to meet in poems,” says Eunice, wryly. This note of some sharpness, bluntness, irony and elusiveness sets the tone for Arundhathi’s poems.

Some poets use language to reveal. Others use language to conceal. Arun­dhathi seems to do more of the latter. In a poem I enjoyed, she seems to speak of a childhood memory of a sister’s homecoming, and she is composing a poem to greet her sister on her arrival: “It was a rainy day in Bombay, so easy/ to splice into the cypress groves/ and briny Aegean breezes/ of a classical spring/ alive with lutesong/ and given a chance today, I’d be ready/ to hijack a school bus/ and set full steam ahead/ to Mystras or to Crete/ and once there, to waft/ back again on foaming lute waves/ into a sleepy Bombay apartment/...



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