alogue torture with testimony, tenderness against banality and to interrogate ‘terror’ with rage. These poems were not written quickly: they are fruit of time, anguish, anger and love. They quote stories, interrogations, videos, renderings, operations, victims. Standard procedures of public banalities are countered – undermined – by tender collagings of uprooted language.
Good indication of the book’s achievement comes from the poet’s direct concerns for and with his daughters. In the central section of the book – titled ‘hung lyres’ and with no text blocked out – the poet weaves the nautilus of the ear to the arias of the air in a series of eight poems all simply headed ‘@’ (sand can never be excluded from this book), thereby giving the dignity of music to the delicate science of life in the breath of our young:
“this is the air we script to lips / air we usher in lungs / that ushers us in / this is the air / there is no other …” And as through the next poems the poet-father advises “dear child, your cartilage is not hard” so it is the child “baptised into this unhappiness” of war and invasion – mark, this is not just politics, but language also – who “corrects the voices” and in a superb sleight of hearing – “it’s “ear-rock” not “eye-rack”” – calmly subverts dumb imperial power.
The poet’s endnotes quoted above are succinct description of the origins and ambition of the collection. For the quality of the poetry, we read and listen, meditate and think: in doing this we’re hard put not to feel that the book in hand is transformative, harsh, exact, superbly lyric and devastating of lies. It makes us reflect on what it means to be human and it does so with densely meshed lyric power, power not in the sense of imposing systems of belief on others, but through the sense of fining and honing empathised experience from without. One of the strongest sensations to take from these poems
196 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015