BOOK REVIEW: Malabar Mind by Anita Nair

Malabar Mind PoemsMalabar Mind Poems by Anita Nair
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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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.

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BOOK REVIEW: Love Alone by Paul Monette

Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for RogLove Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog by Paul Monette
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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This is a collection of modern verse offering the poet’s experience of the death of his partner and the years leading up to it. Said partner, Roger Horwitz, succumbed to AIDS during the late 80’s. It’s a tale of scouring and worrying—scouring because any infection could be fatal and worrying for the same reason. It tells of melancholy holidays, exhausting doctor’s office visits, and then the mourning. If I make it sound like Monette just jotted off about the mundane aspects of life, it’s this approach that captures the grind of the disease. This approach both creates a narrative and shows how life looks in the shadow of a terminal disease.

As the subtitle suggests, there are 18 poems in this collection. They are divided into three parts, though most are in the first part.

I found the collection to be evocative and the language to be clever.

This is a brief review because it’s a brief work—as one might expect of a poetry collection. It’s less than 70 pages inclusive of front matter and a biography of the author.

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