We think of contemporary Indian writing as sharing the same teeming quality as the country itself. But the simplicity and clarity of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s poems point to another Indian literary tradition, one based on understatement and resonance, enhanced in Mehrotra’s case by the influence of the surrealists and William Carlos Williams, and the Beats, the first sharpening his focus on the image, the second giving a colloquial ease to the language of his poetry. In this respect he is closely related to the generation of Australian poets who developed their craft in the 1970s and 1980s. His poetry discovers dignity and continuity in ordinary detail, while raising it to a magical or dream-like intensity. At the same time it offers glimpses into his own life and history, fixing and extending the moment in modest yet compelling ways. This collection brings together Mehrotra’s poems written over more than four decades, and includes many new poems, as well as his celebrated translations of the fifteenth-century Bhakti poet Kabir, and those of more recent poets working in traditions similar to his own.
Mehrotra’s great achievement is to let us in, as few other modern writers have, to the speaker’s experience of accident and wonder.
– Amit Chaudhuri