Anand Thakore is the author of three books of verse: Mughal Sequence, Elephant Bathing and Waking in December. For more information about these titles, reviews and responses, or to order copies online, please click on the images below:
Publication Year 2001
Publication Year 2012
Publication Year 2012
Anand Thakore reads 'Chandri Villa', '1942'
( Kitabkhana, mumbai 2012)
Anand Thakore reads 'The Kohinoor'
( Kitabkhana, Mumbai 2012)
Review by Bruce King, World Literature Today, Summer- Autumn 2001
With most Indian commercial publishers currently avoiding poetry, the English-language poets have turned to a formula of a group of writers circulating for criticism and eventually publishing each other’s work. Anand Thakore’s Waking in December is the first publication of Harbour Line. As Indian poetry in English has become accepted and standards applied, the general level has risen and the established poets are no longer oases in the desert.
Thakore is an interesting new poet, a rather different one from what might be expected. The first poem here, ‘ Harbour Crossing’, has many of the characteristics of the volume, including control of form and use of rhyme. The verbal texture is rich: ‘The island is a Cyclops about to sleep: behind, / The hunched mainland shrinks into a dwarf’. This Shakespearian sonnet with its basic pentameter is varied by longer lines with stronger cadences: ‘ Till slowly over the docks the moon returns to grey/ salvages from time a minute, then anchors us to Bombay’. It is a lovely poem, although in places slightly old-fashioned in idiom.. It introduces a major concern of the volume, a contrast between the poet’s Bombay and an imagined voyage to Greece: ‘Ithaca, dream-home of the idle, dark hope of the damned, goodbye…../ I will live here alone by this muddy brown sea/ Till I outlive the lure of your unseen shores’.
That Thakore is a Hindustani classical singer shows in his imagery and complex patterns of sound, and in the texture of his verse. There is a song-like quality about his verse and I am reminded at times of Caroline songs and German Lieder: ‘ Love set you leaping like a hunted stag-/ and the dead gathered quietly to watch your flight…Till you who had sung too long alone, were at last a part of their crackling choir-// And I was a witness to that fire.
Thakore records moments of feeling that are contrasted with a world of flux: ‘ You, turning your face away from me, longing to hide,/ Till between two strokes your eyes meet mine - friend -/ They say - neither love nor music will ever end,/ So long as time is busy, changing things outside.’
‘ Waking in December’, the concluding poem, consists of a dozen pentameter stanzas, rhymed a b a b b c b c. The c-rhyme words are always ‘me’ and the last line of each stanza is always some variation of ‘ I am not one who walked here before me’ or ‘ I am at war with the caul that bore me,’ such as ‘ I am not one who sang here before me’ or ‘ For I bore at heart the caul that bore me’. The meaning seems to be: ‘Yet heaven is wherever I am, perhaps; an emptiness/ wider than the gap between earth and sky -/ May the mind, believing this, be content with less/ The singer cured of his longing to fly?’
In general, the sound and form predominate over narrative or argument and the meaning only emerges obliquely. Many of the poems are about love but the situation is vague whereas the language is rich.: ‘ Grey the sea at noon, and older than desire/Yet drawn by that amoral drone of surf/ Sinner and saint seemed alike deceived.’ I cannot imagine such delicate and musical poems now being written in London or New York. They seem a bit old-fashioned, but perhaps that is our loss.