‐ Home of the Best in Caribbean & Black British Writing ‐

Lovers, Liars, Conjurers and Thieves

Written by Michael Mitchell, University of Warwick for World Literature Today on no date provided

Raman Mundair has made her name on international poetryreading circuits and in creative writing projects, encouraging people to express their feelings about what matters to them and what
molds their lives. Her first collection of poems reveals why she is particularly adept at this. It combines honesty -- about failed relationships, sibling jealousy, inappropriate desires, the hurt of
thoughtless prejudices -- with precisely turned and unobtrusive language whose rhythms always have a sense of rightness. 

Mundair’s themes are autobiographical, divided into sections according to the four categories of the title. An unsentimental reflection on growing up in India and being transplanted to England concentrates on patriarchal injustice and the discovery of the body. The second deals with the pain of lying to oneself in the search for love. 'Conjurers', the most interesting section, works
with the magic of transformation, whereas the final section concentrates on finding words for public and political events. 

The danger in self-expression of this kind is self-indulgence, and the poems are sometimes drawn by their own sensuality or depth of feeling in that direction. In 'Excuses for a Father', for instance, the bullying father is finally confronted by his grown son, prompting a climax the poet can only express through repetition, whereas elsewhere there are images that are too predictable or epithets that are simply misjudged (a cigarette referred to as a 'cancerstick'). 

At her best, however, Mundair conveys a vivid and memorable sense of self, and a truly poetic intimation of a dimension beyond the sharply focused moment, as in 'Tidal Moods': 'Whether the magnet / moon is in cahoots with my seratonin [sic] -- / or perhaps my seratonin seduces / the moon with the promise / of eternal, ecstatic bliss.' Consider, too, 'The Package', in which the airmail package ('I knew it was from you. / Your name, a sly yawn, / trying to escape / the page. My name / legible, formal, / abrupt') contains no secrets or tangible tokens of love but only oddments the poet has forgotten to pack, dispatched for 'tying up loose ends'. Although it has not yet reached full poetic maturity, this voice deserves to be widely heard.

This is a review of Lovers, Liars, Conjurers and Thieves

View this book
‐ Home of the Best in Caribbean & Black British Writing ‐