“My tongue speaks mango
words, yellow with ripe meanings.”
Sitting at Atta Galatta on a cool evening, this is the line from No Borders that inextricably linked summer and writing in my head. It is also the phrase Shashi Tharoor had claimed he wanted for a book title at the launch of Nine, at Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum on October 28th. The Bengaluru session for Nine, on 23rd January was a continuation of the readings that began at the launch in Mumbai on 22nd September 2015.
Reading the poems from her book, Anupama Raju recreated several moments and places for us. The reading of the marketplace poems was probably the most evocative. In Chandni Chowk, Delhi, Chalai, Trivandrum, and Mylapore, Chennai were moments of transportation to a place most of us are familiar with—the Indian market. Each poem was just a few lines. And yet each captured the places with the power of a snapshot, and they engage all of your senses, not just the visual.
Read aloud with the poet’s unique intonations and emphases, we hear the poems as she intended them. The brief context she provided for each of the poems only lent to the feeling of being immersed in familiar places, places far from where we sat.
The notion of words and writing emerges in a few of the poems from the collection, and each produces a different set of images around the act. These poems liken poetry to other aspects of life, and require close reading to unlock the depth of the ideas. Anupama Raju chose to read No Borders that evening. It reminds you of the freedom that is in writing, the fact that it is an act of crossing boundaries. Writing destroys borders, it travels with a wanderlust unmatched by anything else. This feeling is reinforced by the haunting imagery, including,
“Moss-covered words fall gently
on my neighbour’s page.
That yellow page has wings”
A favourite of many of the people present, House of Dreams is a poem that picks at ideas of family, heritage, and leaves you with a feeling of disquiet about your own family’s history. There are many such poems in Nine, they creep into your mind and resonate with the doubts and worries you carry. The words in some of these poems detach from the page and lodge themselves in vulnerable minds, especially because of the beauty of each disturbing phrase.
Anupama Raju has been published several times over the past decade, and her work can be found in The Caravan,The Hindu Literary Review, Poetry at Sangam, The HarperCollins Book Of English Poetry, The Little Magazine, and more. The Indo-French collaborative projects she worked on with photographer Pascal Bernard yielded a few of the poems in Nine. The exhibit Surfaces and Depths, an exploration of the French town La Rochelle through verse and photography had moved through the Alliance Francaise locations, including Bengaluru, in 2014-15.