At his best [Thayil’s work] is splendidly structured, both skilful and forceful…’ —Dom Moraes
From his debut with Gemini in 1992 to his last volume These Errors Are Correct in 2008, Jeet Thayil has been a provocative and indelible presence in Indian poetry. Collected Poems represents more than three decades of work, starting with poems written in the early 1980s. It includes, for the first time, privately circulated, uncollected poems.
This collected work is just that, a collected book of Jeet Tayil’s poetry from his very first published work to his last. Starting with new and unpublished which is an absolute pleasure to read and them jumping betwen his different collection, the way his poetry changes, the ebbs and flows of his words with each section.
In the very beginning, Tayil says, “These errors are correct (2008), written in dedication to my wife, who dies, is the last full-length collection of poems I intend to publish. For various reasons, I am unable to equal the poems in that book….”
His love for his wife can be felt through a lot of these, particularly because maybe I was looking for it? Or maybe I’m imagining it, but I don think he has combined a few rather interesting choices in each division and it makes you wonder just what he feels when he isn’t writing about what he is feeling.
He revisits his youth and his addictions as a young man, these poems are honestly beyond me (having never known drug addicts or drugs) but I can see the beauty in them. He seems to be exposing some sort of secret that really isn’t one, to be sharing his experiences not dark but not light, not really regrets but not cherished memories. Not cherished for the right reasons anyway.
These poems have a haunting quality to them, each poem to each person who has different lives and experiences. For me it was Suicide’s Sonnet. There, I’m sharing more than I should. Moving on.
As someone who’d come back to reading poetry after a while and who’s only read the more traditional styles of poetry, Sonnets by Shakespeare, Yeats, Poe and other classics, this was very different for me. I found myself shocked and stunned in places and smiling with pleasure in others. The reason I’m not reviewing this in the traditional sense, “Hey this is good” or “hey this could be better” is because I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough to do so. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the ones I did enough to make others read them. The sections Shapeshifter(1), Chocolate Saints and Apocalypso were particularly riveting.
I’m not saying this collection is for everyone, rather it is for the more discerning reader, one who is more experienced in poetry than the average reader. I suppose I could say that he has dipped his feet in many rivers, trying out different styles, definitely conforming and non conforming. Ghazals and Sonnets and prose poetry. There’s something in here for everyone but if you still aren’t sure here are five of his poems, for you to read and enjoy before you buy this book, which you probably will cherish for life.
Also, may i just take a moment to talk about the quality of the actual book. A beautiful hardbound with a very modern and colourful dust jacket with cutouts in it. God, gorgeous.
You can buy Collected Poems on Amazon.
Hopefully I’ll be reading Summer Requiem by Vikram Seth next.
*I was provided a copy by the publisher. Opinions are my own.