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Green Tinged with Grey

Amrita Mehta

Sujata Bhatt
Carcanet Press, Manchester, 2008, pp. 134, £9.95


Sujata Bhatt's meditative and reflective verse has established her among the much feted poets of promise writing in English today. Her poetry is marked by a poignant search for home, language and love. She conducts this search with deep sympathy and empathy through the use of memory and history in her work. Her poetic voice resonates ¬across continents and cultures, inter-weaves ¬and explores artistic forms and connects diverse places and time periods. She keen interest in the exploration of women's experiences and the silences surroun¬ding them. In Pure Lizards her recent volume of poetry one sees a palpable shift in her poetic concerns. She makes a significant departure from her earlier work as here she seems to be preoccupied with the theme of evil—especially its perception and representation by women. The thematic thrust becomes evident right from the very first poem of this anthology and continues through other poems with a gradual accretion of the evil-women interrelationship.   Those three monkeys:   see no evil hear no evil speak no evil- They always knew they were women- Women, not monkeys, And one day the camera revealed their souls. ('A Hidden Truth' p. 1)   If women have been globally denied the seeing, hearing, speaking and doing of evil, they have, nevertheless explored its dimen¬sions and manifestations creatively. The epigraph of this anthology, taken from Eleanor Wilner, reinforces and reorients the reader's attention to the neglect of Cassandra's legacy to women's need to share distressing visions and insights, regardless, of how they will be received.   Sujata Bhatt goes on to problematize evil in its various shades of domination, cruel neglect, disquieting realizations and its macabre fascination. Twenty two poems in this anthology are written in response to the etchings, lithographs and paintings of the Portugal-born artist Paula Rego who explores the sinister and grotesque aspects of women's experiences in the depiction of their character. ¬To a casual reader uninitiated in Rego's art or unfamiliar with the particular works in response to which the poems have been written, the entire suite of poems would seem obscure and cryptic. The poetic pleasure can only be unlocked if the reader were to simultaneously view the referred work along with its poetic response in a seamless transition from image to word and back to the image. It is precisely here that the strengths and weaknesses of Sujata Bhatt's artistic credo become evident. While on the one ...

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