Thursday, Aug 11, 2022
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Strange Dawns

The sublime and the mundane

AS if Imtiaz Dharker and Meena Alexander were not enough, we now have Ranjit Hoskote, Vijay Nambisan and Jeet Thayil to give the older poets an inferiority complex. Jeet Thayil's Apocalypso has been published by Mark Arts London. Here is weighty and daring poetry. The first section, The Leper King Speaks of Love starts with an epigraph from Job—"I have said to corruption, Thou art my father" and takes a walk up the "skin-flint street" where "the red lamp burns". But it is not brutal encounters that you get, for Thayil is not out to shock. Each poem is handled delicately, like expensive crystal being held up to the light. His talent lies in working the gold out of the mundane and the workaday. He wrings out poetry and "legitimate sorrows" from "prize pettinesses" which the soul is heir to, finds "the sublime and the vacant" "both ridiculous at one go." Only the whore's "sadness tells the truth".

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