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A Quartet

Vijay Tankha

By Adil Jussawalla
1976, Price Not Stated

By Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
1976, Price Not Stated

By Gieve Patel
1976, Price Not Stated

By Arun Kolatkar
1976, Price Not Stated

VOLUME II NUMBER 2 March-April 1977

In reviewing (evaluating) any book, a reviewer has at least a two-fold task, that of providing some kind of a guide to possible readers as well as offering comments (critical, helpful, hopefully) to the author. Both the author and the would-be reader are, of course, at liberty to disregard these views, and even criti­cize them. In reviewing these books I am not primarily concerned with what the poet is saying, but largely with how he says it. The appreciation of poetry is a matter of individual taste, itself deter­mined by a large number of personal attitudes and convictions or a lack of them. It is not the business of a review­er to dictate taste. I shall leave, then, the appeal of these poets as far as possi­ble to themselves. Indian poetry in English is not taken very seriously. For this both writers and critics (publishers?) are mainly to be blamed in that fairly low standards seem to prevail. Many people (writers, readers, publishers) seem to think, for instance, that poetry results from a derangement of lines. Bad prose is trans­formed into good poetry by a typogra­phical trick. In a metrical system, after the hexameter, the line cannot hold itself; free verse forms a system where these constraints are removed. This does not mean that free verse is loose, or even any easier to write. ‘No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job’ (Eliot). These four books are a very welcome contribution to Indian poetry. Like Clearing House (visions, alas, of refuse and Augean stables), Writer's Workshop was, I suppose, some kind of a landmark once. I hope that the present publica­tions will not merely lapse into a whole­sale example of Indian silk-covered bind­ings. Although in these four books there are hardly more than a few poems which I would care to read again (and even fewer the ones that I would ever reach for), some residue of genuine emo­tion and seriousness comes through and I look forward to reading more poems by these poets. The first part of Jussawalla's book, Scenes from the Life begins with an epigraph from Auden's Letter to Lord Byron. Auden goes on about himself: descrip­tion, ancestry, childhood, place and cir­cumstance, the advent of the Muse, college and after; Jussawalla's poem begins with film images that somehow comprehend ...

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