Here is the third entry in my occasional series on poems about food and drink. In introducing the series—two weeks before I actually got around to posting the first entry—I noted that these poems “may centrally be about food, drink or hunger/starvation; they may make passing reference to food/drink; they may employ food/drink/eating/drinking//hunger/starvation etc. entirely as metaphors.” The first two poems I wrote briefly about in the series—Imtiaz Dharker’s “At the Lahore Karhai” and Arun Kolatkar’s “Irani Restaurant Bombay” were indeed centrally about restaurants as particular kinds of spaces; spaces that in the one case allow for a provisional declaration of community and in the other are the stage for a kind of public solitude. The poem I have for you today, Eunice De Souza’s “It’s Time to Find a Place” only glancingly mentions restaurants, as one in a list of spaces where endless prattling happens. Still fits the theme of the series though and is also roundly a poem I like a lot. Continue reading
Here is the second entry in my occasional series on poems that deal passingly or centrally with themes, locations and/or images of food/eating/hunger etc. (See here for the first entry, on Imtiaz Dharker’s, “At the Lahore Karhai.) This week’s poem takes on a very different geography than Dharker’s poem (Bombay rather than London) and is formally more…well, formal and forbidding: in place of free verse, a set rhyme scheme—though not meter—and in place of declaration, elliptical, almost opaque observation.
But I’ve started in on the poem itself without telling you anything about the poet. Arun Kolatkar (1932-2004) was and is by any measure one of the most significant writers of the 20th century and a giant particularly in the world of Indian poetry, specifically Indian poetry in English. He was one of the central figures in the modernist flowering in the little magazines published in Bombay in the 1960s and 1970s and influential despite the fact that very few collections of his poetry were published when he was most active as a poet. His first English collection, Jejuri, only came out in 1975 (when it won the Commonwealth Prize for poetry) and two others only emerged in 2004 after his cancer diagnosis. Continue reading
It’s been two weeks since I said I’d soon be inaugurating a new occasional series of posts on the blog on poems about food and drink and so I guess I’d better get on with it. As I said in that first post, these will be poems either directly about food, drink, eating, drinking, hunger, thirst etc. or poems that use related metaphors to talk about other things or poems that mention food or drink just in passing. To begin the series I have a poem I have posted on social media a number of times over the years: Imtiaz Dharker’s “At the Lahore Karhai”. Dharker is a poet with a background/biography that drives a certain kind of South Asian nativist insane with rage: she was born in Pakistan, raised in the UK and now spends her time between the UK and India (as far as I know). She was a candidate for the poet laureateship of the UK in 2019 before withdrawing her name from consideration.
This poem is from one of her earlier collections, I Speak for the Devil published by Bloodaxe in the UK in 2001 and Penguin India in 2003. The poem itself is from 1999. I decided to begin this series with it not only because I do like it so much but also because its setting is a restaurant and an experience of conviviality that we are currently denied by the pandemic. I have no restaurant review for you but here is a restaurant poem.