25 January, 2021

That Mouth

Here is poetry powered by restlessness ... Language prowls, circling, doubling back, tethered by "technical serenity"

That Mouth
Here is poetry powered by restlessness. Where the eye, the voice, the spirit seeks movement, the movement of water, the agitation of birds. Characters crackle through the pages—a cook named Hector, a nativist historian, Jesus, Gandhi, Gabreel in America—speaking sure sharp words, acerbic, ironic, speedy, not lingering for applause. Here is the poet as performer, mourner, sonneteer, shedding skins for "a new set of skills-/vigilance, silence, gills."

Language prowls, circling, doubling back, tethered by "technical serenity" (that perfect phrase Derek Walcott uses when writing of Lowell’s poetry).

Technique has always been Thayil’s friend. Unobtrusive, supportive, here, as in his earlier work, it is the backbone that makes his poems supple and strong. What is new is the range, the urgency. Where English embodied a cool sophistication, These Errors Are Correct is not afraid to, occasionally, raise its head and howl. And yet, it bristles also with a laconic, sometimes sardonic humour. And towards the end...



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