Chronology Of The Cuntree

Uttaran Das Gupta

By Mani Rao
Paperwall Media & Publishing, 2014, Pg 119, Rs. 250


The book with the yellow cover arrived in a thick yellow envelope on a Saturday. It was mid-December, and winter in Delhi was late, though the days had started growing shorter. Over the next few days, I carried it around with me, reading it everywhere I could: in the metro, at work, in bed, and in the bathroom. There were 84 poems, almost all in unrhymed free verse in contemporary fashion; most of them quite short—some even only five or six lines—yet, they completely eluded my powers of comprehension. It was as if I had encountered a language so different from the ones I am familiar with that there was no way I could penetrate their meaning. To begin with, let me discuss the book’s greatest fault: it has no organizing principle; at least, none that I could discern. The poems follow each other in a seemingly random fashion, as if tumbling out from a tear in the bag of the writer or publisher. Individually, some are humorous; Four in the audience at Marshalltown Public Library. The librarian, the lady who laid out cookies, and a brave couple Out on their first date. I did the love poems; they bought a book.  —‘Iowa Romancing’                                                                    Some surreal: It may be early unlit but the birds have begun to boil  buds are growing wings and the trees will rise featherborne …Chirping chandeliers will swing in from the sky in time for dusk —‘So That You Know’                                 A few wry, ironic: Yes passion dies, nobody warned me The penis grows to the same length in desires of all degrees       —‘A Geological Thing To Happen’ And, at least one, that’s bathetic: She notices him He has flowers She crosses the street to meet him There is going to be a reconciliation She is run over   —‘He Looks At Her’ It is needless to say that individually, all the poems are rather startling. As Vivek Narayanan writes in the blurb, ‘Rao has been cutting her own fiercely singular path through the thickets of our language’. She has been a visiting fellow at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, and her skill, style and singular voice stamps every poem. In fact, her style is so singular that it is impossible to mistake it for someone else. Yet, such an appraisal is insufficient for a review. The question remains: What do ...

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