February 23, 2020
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Pleated Poesy

Even at her cutest, Bhatt is never silly.

Pleated Poesy
My Mother's Way of Wearing a Sari
By Sujata Bhatt
Penguin India Rs 150, Pages 108
MANY of Sujata Bhatt's poems are longer than this review. Winding and sinuous, they snake their way across a page, much like the garment in the title-poem. It is this graceful yet conversational style evident since her first, striking volume Brunizem that distinguishes her poetry. Observe the sari—yards of cloth pleated with expertise till it fits the human form with matter-of-fact perfection. It is an exact metaphor for her poetic method. "In the darkness she finds her sari...her right hand is firm/and fast...like a fish/fanning in and out of the waves..."

Bhatt's own hand is equally gifted. It moves through the tossing seas of language with the energy of an eel. Although a graduate of the writer's workshop in Iowa, few concessions are made to poetic technique. Sometimes, therefore, the lines appear flaccid, or nestle too closely within the coral-reefs of expatriate exotica. But even at her cutest, Bhatt is never silly.

"I shall be among the English poets after my death," wrote John Keats at 23. Bhatt's poetry displays a similar assurance—an unquestionable faith in, and mastery over her "mother's way of wearing a sari".

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