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A Choreographer's Cartography

Written by Ria Denholm Dancer for The Independent on no date provided

Raman Mundair is a rare breed: a poet whose writing works on the page and the stage. Her readings reveal the secret music of the poem. The launch of her new collection, A Choreographer's Cartography (Peepal Tree Press), at the Barbican Library was no exception. 

Highlights included ""Pleasure Beach"", a take on teenage sexuality set in Blackpool, where the ""tower pulsates electric juice"" and the theme park becomes ""a mass of illuminated spaghetti... devoured by the night"". The latent eroticism of ""A Servant's Tale"", set in colonial India, slyly recreates the tensions between the memsahib and her Indian maid, who notes madam's ""face turn pale, cold to the touch/of her husband's wrinkled paw... he licks his lips,/turns and flicks his eyes on her,/betrays a cuckold's passion that cuts and marks and burns"". 

The rhythms and narratives of Mundair's imagined worlds deliver a vivid, potent lyricism that, unlike a lot of spoken word events, stays with you long after the performance. 

Mundair isn't afraid of politics and wears her heart on her sleeve. The anti-war poem ""Blood Season"" reflects on the ""steel tsunami"" of war and the 24-hour coverage that has her ""head free- falling with the rolling/news, trying to make sense"". 

This was followed by a poem dedicated to Abas Amini, an asylum seeker who sewed his eyes, ears and mouth shut to protest his right to refuge being refused: ""And with your mouth sewn shut/what a song/ you sang, what a poem/to pin back deaf ears - what a noise,/what a cacophony/ and what a silence/to greet it."" 

She also read the moving and visceral poem ""An Elegy for Two Boys"" (for Stephen Lawrence and Ricky Reel) from her first book, Lovers, Liars, Conjurers and Thieves, which never fails to stun with its bolt of raw passion. 

With ""A Choreographer's Cartography"", the title poem from her new collection, she has us all chanting with her the poetic refrain ""This earth, everyone's sanctuary"", which becomes both assertion and rallying call. 

A series of poems reflecting on Mundair's love affair with the Shetland Islands were read in Shetland dialect, English and Punjabi to create a sonic seduction in which an imagined lover's ""damp fingers reach... paint me blue/your violence leaves/the rough/smear of salt/on my lips"". 

The poet closed the evening with a plug for her latest venture, a play entitled 'The Algebra of Freedom'. It will be interesting to see how her voice translates into theatre. I can't wait - Mundair is literature at its best: thoughtful, provocative and sharp.

This is a review of A Choreographer's Cartography

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