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There is that moment
when the young human child
at the young monkey child
who stares back-
In Sujata Bhatt's poem `Understanding the Ramayana', a troupe of costumed monkeys enters the garden of her childhood. As they mime the royal figures of India's epic, the children glimpse beneath the elaborate robes their looped up tails.
We felt relieved to know
the narrator hadn't chopped off
or even shortened
the glorious question marks
curling behind their backs.
Monkey Shadows exposes those glorious question marks of our animal nature. Human violence and love are aspects of the oldest riddle, answered here with original force. Bhatt's experience is wide; all of it is relevant to her reading of the world: western science, Indian culture, American education, European marriage, and being female bring clarity and urgency to her vision of the late 20th century.
Her poetry, with sensuousness and instinctive sophistication, confronts the contradictions in a world of scientific laboratories and mythic landscapes. She finds contradictions in her own past and present: her grandfather imprisoned for helping Gandhi reads Tennyson in his cell; a young Indian woman in Germany reflects on the gold Hindu swastika her grandmother gave her as a blessing.
Sujata Bhatt is the first female voice in a long line of writers. Her stance is questioning, wry and wise. Monkey Shadows is her second collection of poems. The first was her award-winning Brunizem.
Awards won by Sujata Bhatt Winner, 2000 Italian Tratti Poetry Prize Winner, 1991 Cholmondeley Award Winner, 1988 Alice Hunt Bartlett Award (Brunizem) Winner, 1991 Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia)
Short-listed, 1995 Forward Poetry Prize
Praise for Sujata Bhatt 'a substantial collection of poems, one that allows us to travel, dream and learn, but one that ultimately moves us by the quietude of its stance and its impeccable articulation.'
Times Literary Supplement
Bhatt's style is refreshingly plain and direct, depending for its lyricism on moments of gentle repitition.
Alan Marshall, The Daily Telegraph. 'An exciting first collection, moving and invigorating.'
Poetry Review 'Sujata Bhatt leads the reader through the bright, familiar world and on into the dark until her words pierce that darkness, offering a light that will challenge and reward. Here are poems that move confidently through that dangerous border-world between the real and the surreal, illuminating both. This book is a treasure-house of modern, magical poems.'
John F. Deane 'Here is a chance to see Sujata Bhatt's favourite themes strengthened by re-gathering. A common theme is language, the very stuff of poetry, given special insight by her travels and her multilingual experience. In India, she says, it is 'a sin to be rude to a book'; 'The Stare' considers two babies, human and monkey, gazing at each other curiously, one with language, the other with' who knows? Elsewhere she considers the loss of her mother tongue, 'dead' in her mouth but returning to her in dreams. A broad-minded, humane, imaginative book.'
Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales
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