Rupa Rs 995 pp 103
There's a poet lurking inside every copy writer. The ends may differ — to move the reader to a certain mental state in poetry and to move him enough to procure or recognise a product in advertising — but the means of using words to 'startle' the reader from a humdrum condition to a more engaging one is the same.
So it comes as no surprise that one of the best advertising men that India never had, Pritish Nandy, has returned to poetry, his first love, after wading through the swishy waters of journalism, politics and film production. Unsurprisingly, Again is a collection of poems that has the smell and the spring of topshop billboard slogans. The cascading typography that comes with the words has a glossy ad's signature on them. The rather ironic lines, "My friends are famous. My enemies too./The women I have loved (or escaped from) are now more famous than me./And that's how I would like it to be./I raise a toast/to my anonymity," remind me of the good old liner notes on an LP.
Clichés ("Why am I always on the edge?/Why am I always looking down/and wondering whether if I can fly?"), maudlin bits ("I am humbled by my own fears/for they open up/so many new and torrid landscapes/of dreams,/of possibilities.") and plain bad lines ("Today, as wicked satyrs run across the palimpsest of time") do make appearances like gremlins. But there is a certain boyish appeal to the enthusiasm in the whole enterprise, a certain poetic use of an ophthalmologist's chart that makes Again endearing. Though I did mistake Shashi Tharoor's introductory lines presented in the same cascading typefaced style — "These poems are as sparkling,/idiosyncratic and/adventurous/as the poet himself." — as a poem.
Does the coffee-bookness of this slim but expensive volume take away from the coffee-houseness of lines like "Nice is where I belong in summer/The martini's dry/the guitarist strums in the street corner./The food's awful/and there's nowhere to get lost./This must be paradise."? Perhaps. But in these masturbatory times, when most poetry is poems written a la other (dead and famous) poets' poetry, it's rather nice to read/see a voice that even in its 'return' sounds original.
Collected Poems 1957-1987: One of India's finest poets, the late Dom Moraes at the height of his powers, his poems collected in this special edition.