This collection of 40 poems by Anita Nair begins with verse that is imbued with Indian-ness and has a timeless feel, and progresses into more modern and – at times — erotic territory. For those unfamiliar with Indian geography, the Malabar Coast is the southwest coast of India. It stretches from Goa down through Kerala, and as far as the southern tip of India. The author’s last name, Nair, is one used by members of a caste from the state of Kerala. The Malabar Coast is known for spice, tea, and coffee plantations inland, and coastal ports that carry those commodities to buyers around the world that date back long before the British colonized India. Because of the long history of the spice trade, this area has its own unique feel. That should give the reader some sense of the cultural elements suffused into this work.
The poems are generally free verse (though there’s a prose poem and perhaps some other forms,) and are mostly in the range of a couple of stanzas to about three pages, though the final poem, “The Cosmopolitan Crow” is a long form poem. The entire collection weighs in at around 100 pages. The author frequently uses a sparse form that presents lines of one to three words, but that isn’t the case for all the poems.
While there’s eroticism in parts, it’s relatively subtle and shouldn’t be an impediment to any but the primmest of readers. (Though I’ve been known to miscalculate the degree to which some folks get uptight about sexual and somatic content.)
I enjoyed this collection. I was sensual, evocative, and captured the feel of Kerala nicely.