Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Elephant Bathing

My review of Anand Thakore’s collection of poems ‘Elephant Bathing’ (Poetrywala, Mumbai, 2012, Pp 80, Rs 150), in Indian Literature: Sahitya Akademi’s Bi-Monthly Journal, March-April 2013

An excerpt:

Coming back to Indian poetry in English, the favourite poet of my undergraduate English teacher was Dom Moraes. It was a curious choice, as Moraes is the most "un-Indian" of all Indian English poets. Moraes' poems are poems; there's nothing inherently Indian about it, unlike other celebrated poets, say, Nissim Ezekiel, whose poetry is seeped into his real-life experiences; we cannot understand Ezekiel without an understanding of the place he belonged to, Bombay. For Moraes, however, a poem itself is a means to an end.

In this context, Thakore is perhaps a worthy descendant of Moraes' poetic vision. For Thakore too, the main concern is the poems themselves, not their meanings. Thakore is more concerned about how the poetry is achieved than what the poems convey. More than a literary tradition, perhaps this comes from his background in music, where it is the tune that's supreme, not the verse. Similarly, Thakore tries to create poems as artifacts, complete unto themselves, the metaphorical "well wrought urn" so to speak, to borrow the expression from Cleanth Brooks.

This becomes more than obvious in the third section of the collection, titled, 'Make me a Symbol if you Must', where he not only communicates with a number of objects like punching bag, dream catcher, wind chime, a fondue pot, and ostrich egg, but also finds his structure of things though the objects. He writes: "Or call me a mere object if you prefer,/ A mindless tool, the unwitting/ Instrument of a self-wrought deliverance,/ A tragic knot, a magic knot,/ A veritable miracle of a knot,/ Or the one certain, undeniable knot/That can untie the thousand you cannot see:/The great knot of memory interwoven with desire…" ('Hangman's Knot', p 60)

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