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This review is taken from PN Review 204, Volume 38 Number 4, March - April 2012.

So Many Lost Gestures arun kolatkar, Collected Poems in English, edited by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra(Bloodaxe) £12.00

In his introduction to Arun Kolatkar's Collected Poems in English Arvind Mehrotra cites the poet's appreciation of blues musicians, who 'were often untrained and improvised as they went along'; he also remembers how, the first time he heard the poet perform - at Jehangir Art Gallery in 1967 - 'Kolatkar read a poem that he seemed to have improvised on the spot. It began “My name is Arun Kolatkar” and was over in less than a minute.' Kolatkar's poetry is spontaneous - its speech-fresh, dashed-off, improvisatory texture is at one with the experience of living in a country whose traditional culture is being in different ways displaced, enhanced, or obliterated by urban development and a new technological self-consciousness. In 'The Bus', the first poem of his celebrated debut Jejuri (1976), the speaker describes what life in modern India does to one's sense of identity:

Your own divided face in a pair of glasses
on an old man's nose
is all the countryside you get to see.

You seem to move continually forward
towards a destination
just beyond the caste mark between his eyebrows.

This destination is unsure: as Kolatkar remarks in his 'Song of Rubbish', the Indian people may have their 'own tryst with destiny, and feel / the birth-pangs of a new // city', but must also 'prepare for a long period of exile / in the wilderness of a landfill // site'. As the religious ...


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