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The Poet As The Catcher In The Rye


Manik Sharma

THE RIGHT KIND OF DOG
By Adil Jussawalla
Duckbill Books, Chennai, 2013, Pg 64, Rs. 108

COLLECTED POEMS
By Jeet Thayil
Aleph Book Company, New Delhi, 2015, Pg 312, Rs. 482

VOLUME XLI NUMBER 4 April 2017

We are at our best when we are young. And so the story goes downhill. From what I can remember, poetry meant something completely different to me when I was young and in school. It was that odd language, imperfectly printed, aligned and punctuated, and it stood for everything that I could not connect with. Worse still, it was unavoidable. Such is the predicament of our conversation with art at that febrile stage; it feels like a whole lot of smoke being blown in our face. Most of these conversations are taught, or ‘coached’, and it says something about the manner of doing so, that we carry it like a burden. Something  like poetry, so liberal, so vital in everything we do, and so synonymous with the burgeoning confusions and frustrations of that age, is woven into something so unapologetically pretentious, we begin to hate its form because it takes shape on its own. Compound that problem with the kind of poets and poetry chosen to regale this young mind with: Frost, Yeats, Whitman, Tagore, Das, Naidu and so on. At the risk of belabouring the formerly made point, the body of poetry dressed in its lavish vocabulary, sound and structure replaces what is, and should be so automatically inviting about it at that age—the random energy or the freedom of intellectual withdrawal. Adil Jussawalla’s The Right Kind of Dog, is in part the answer, but more crucially the question we need to ask on behalf of the young people being deprived of poetry they can connect with. I’m frightened of vomit And the things that make me vomit Stop hugging and kissing me. Why is father away?  He can’t be at a war. He always has one with you. Jussawalla is the master of layering innocence with the perversity of perspectives that may emerge from it. A perversity that is both liberating and confounding in its sense of love and fear. In the lines here, taken from the ‘Two from British India’, Jussawalla merges history as context and family as pretext. There is something chilling about the poem, yet something so innocent in its intake. I can imagine myself swinging to the latter yet informed by the former, had I read it at that age. Today, perhaps, the former absorbs everything else. And thus, the importance of poetry’s notoriety as read at that age, ...


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