Avinab Datta-Areng’s debut Annus Horribilis marks the arrival of an idiosyncratic voice in Indian-English poetry

At first, there is one thing to clear: Avenab Data Arrangement Hair Set, Annus Horribilis, is not about the epidemic, despite the title he might refer to as a possibility. Nor is it a group all about happy endings or happy families. Rather, it is about the illusion of measuring impermanent moments, dodging places and people that feel at home, sometimes not, and throwing away silverfish-like memories.

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Indeed, the dream-like, unstructured quality of the narration is reminiscent of one of the lines of Möbius in mathematics, in which one forms a surface by connecting the ends of a strip of paper with a winding in the middle. Consider the second poem from the collection, In Defense of Contradiction: On the Language They Bless/ the voice that he has/ She finally entered herself, / lucky and found / by voice searching / for herself. You get hurt… / You are defenseless unconscious. You write / to them: love / in your words, though / not absent, changed; / love in you/ unknown, unchanged.

What is remarkable about the poems is the alternation of words and images and the transformation of the ordinary into extraordinary descriptions. This is especially true in Datta-Areng’s poems about places. For example, the poem describes The Drunk at the Hagia Sophia a church-Turned into a museum into a mosque and a sightseeing tourist event in a fusion of personal and world history and losses: the seraphim reject you: hear / Little nerve chokes / On a cork of blood. / A runaway fossil, drenched / Swipe in someone’s portrait frame, / Crawl into the shady filigree / Retreat outside the Sultan’s library. / You are history, my friend, but you are not alone … / It burns you, to see / That we are all the same after all, suspended first / Interreligious and now / The remnants of a brilliant death.

new book The horrific approached
By Avinab Data Aring
Penguin Random House India
88 pages 250 rupees

In the astonishing, and sometimes disturbing images of poems, one is reminded of the writing of the late. Vijay Nambisan. Consider the lines of Data Areng in the poem, spider: at the intersection – to the man / his cheap remedies screamed / down from the road / and a child calmed down – / where was the illusion that he / I was persecuted / found his floor … / It had to happen, / We had to get hurt for the search to continue without understanding , / To be ready to hear: / What makes me safe / Doesn’t necessarily save me.

However, the poems also have a sense of hope. In writing the poem, he notes: Left alone with reason and morning, / A few sparrows in the guava tree are full / of what seems impossible, / Yet possible far away, quickly / Opening and closing their little beaks, / In this flash it seems possible to know Someone, and/or to have pure companionship. In this hope also one is reminded of the Nambisan poem, by chance with the title of the spider: “There is a cure, as there is one cure / for all diseases except those that multiply in the heart…”

Perhaps the most exciting poems are those of families, evoking loss, death, and tenderness, like fever, mother: enter the unrecorded pulse of the past, into the air in the tangled lane, waiting … as soon as I saw how grave the grass seemed against her face. Once I searched the library in the clouds and almost returned the book, the text was corrected. Likewise, your father’s shirt has a strong subtle current of fault lines in the relations, Especially with our parents: …I failed to see your longing for your father/as a footnote to me. How can any love / stemming from the same source / as your love for him, and his devotion, be untrue? / I have been deceived by my parents. / In the revolts of fathers in my life, my answer has been, / Also, disguised as a father, but mind / Wobble toward what he sees first. / First father, then fear, then stumble.

In his depiction of loss, love, longing and estrangement, as well as the often bleak and unpleasant but at the same time hopeful parts of our lives, The horrific approached It is a book that keeps pace with the times and heralds the future.

Junaki Rai is a poet, writer and editor based in New Delhi. Her poetry collection, Firefly Memories, will soon be issued in copper coins

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