Poets approach the reading of their own work in two characteristic ways. There are some who read their poems in
amanner so aloof they could just as well be reading the work of another poet.
And then there are those who read their poetry in a manner occasionally idiosyncratic but always full of flair.
Dilip Chitre belongs to the latter category. He always has.
First things first
It was at the poetry circle Loquations — now defunct — that I first heard the particular manner in which Chitre curated his readings.
From the time I first encountered it in 2000 to earlier this month when I was present for the launch of Chitre’s As Is, Where Is: Selected English Poems (1964 – 2007), not much has changed.
If the tricorn hat and the black cape were integral to American poet Marianne Moore’s persona, then Chitre’s famed beret is indispensable to his.
At the book release, his beret in place, thePune-based bilingual poet went about the business of reading by jabbing the air and swirling imaginary cauldrons. The 69-year-old Chitre works across disciplines — he is also writer, translator, painter and filmmaker.
The new volume makes it apparent that Chitre's verse is never stilted. On the contrary, he accommodates the colloquial and occasionally the humorous.
Take the title As Is, Where Is (Poetrywala, 2007). In banking jargon when an individual or institution goes bankrupt, the bank put his assets up for auction on an as is/where is basis.
Nicely cynical, I say to which the poet responds, “It’s a joke, a black joke.”
He adds, “For the longest time I have neglected publishing my own poems in English. The Marathi books on the other hand have come out regularly.
“These English poems are autobiographical, I wanted a big canvas for them. I waited for this 346-page book to happen because I wanted the reader to witness all the transitions. This book is the definitive Dilip Chitre.”
Although the earliest poems in As Is, Where Is date back to 1964 Chitre says, “There were poems I had written before 1964 but they are now lost. I have led a very peripatetic life. I’ve lived in four continents. No matter which country I am living in I have always felt like its citizen.”
Then how would he explain the undercurrent of wistfulness found in poems such as 'Monologue in America'? He responds, “I find it equally difficult to live at home and away. The people I interact with make or break it for me.”
Always with it
Blogging is also a part of Chitre’s repertoire. Doesn’t this eat into his time?
“When I have the time, I blog my short reflections. I never blog a dead horse though,” he laughs.
Chitre will not be caught twiddling his thumbs. When he is not juggling many things with agility, he is chipping away at a novel, which has been a work-in-progress for approximately 40 years.
“It is tantalisingly titled Make Love Like a Hindu. It is a picaresque novel that also spoofs confessional literature,”he smiles.
For the next couple of months, Chitre plans to step back from the written word and paint.