by Rhiya Pau
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Pub Date 24 Nov 2022 | Archive Date 29 Nov 2022
At the core of this debut collection is a question – what is worth holding onto?
Through poetic experiments that blend the academic and the artistic, Rhiya Pau queries complex characters and tender landscapes. Routes journeys from Ba’s kitchen in Sonia Gardens to Independence hour in Delhi, across the pink shores of Nakuru, to meet a painter on Lee High Road.
Celebrating fifty years since her community arrived in the UK, Pau chronicles the migratory histories of her ancestors and simultaneously lays bare the conflicts of identity that arise from being a member of the East African-Indian diaspora. In this multilingual discourse exhibiting vast formal range, Pau wrestles with language, narrative and memory, daring to navigate their collective fallibilities to architect her own identity.
'[Routes]...holds up to the light the wisdom of the past, and asks what else is passed down along with it...a work of humane intelligence, formal experiment and linguistic verve' - Sarah Howe, Judge of Eric Gregory Awards 2022
"Routes …holds up to the light the wisdom of the past, and asks what else is passed down along with it.
This is a collection in which routes and roots tug against one another: a family is scattered in the wake of India’s Partition; its children and grandchildren make new homes for themselves within a kaleidoscope of tongues. This is a work of humane intelligence, formal experiment and linguistic verve that promises much.
Sarah Howe, Eric Gregory Awards 2022 Judge
Rhiya Pau’s collection is a feast of language and probably the first with such inventive and delightful use of Gujlish. From India’s Independence struggle to the global pandemic, Pau maps the political and emotional landscapes of her immigrant Gujarati family, bringing their many worlds to life through unforgettable sights, sounds, and sensations. With richly diverse and experimental storytelling, this collection re-imagines and re-interprets the many possibilities and meanings of identity, diaspora, belonging, and community for South Asian immigrants everywhere.
Jenny Bhatt, author, translator, and founder of Desi Books"
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 5 members
A lovely collection of poems inspired by bother inner and outer journeys. Listening to the stories of her elders, who immigrated to the UK and found ways to keep their identities while learning to fit in to their new culture, the poet was inspired to consider their lives and her own as she travels herself to find her own way of being in the cultures of her grandparents.
In the preface she states, 'Conversations with our elders suggests that they...have compartmentalized fragments of their identities in order to survive. For me, writings Routes has been a process of holding these fragments up to the light, laying them down on a page and acknowledging the overlapping narratives and the silent spacesin between.'
I like the play on words in the title--Routes (as I pronounce it) could just as easily be Roots.
These poems are very accessible and brought me along with the poet as she explored these themes of belonging, cultural unfamiliarity, and self-discovery.
This collection of poetry is different from what I am use to. This collection, in my opinion is much about family and tragedies. Its a very good book. Some ate easy to understand and some I had a hard time figuring out what was meant in the poem. This book but it was fun for me. Liked the book and everyone should read it.
I received a free copy of the book and is voluntarily writing a review
Pau’s ancestors were part of the South Asian diaspora in East Africa, and later settled in the UK. Her debut, which won one of this year’s Eric Gregory Awards (from the Society of Authors, for a collection by a British poet under the age of 30), reflects on that stew of cultures and languages. Colours and food make up the lush metaphorical palette.
"When I was small, I spoke two languages.
At school: proper English, pruned and prim,
tip of the tongue taps roof of the mouth,
delicate lips, like lace frilling rims of my white
cotton socks. At home, a heady brew:
Gujarati Hindi Swahili
swim in my mouth, tie-dye my tongue
with words like bandhani."
Alongside loads of alliteration (my most adored poetic technique)—
"My goddess is a mother in marigold garland"
—there are delightfully unexpected turns of phrase, almost synaesthetic in their blending of the senses:
"right as I worry I have forgotten the scent
of grief, I catch the first blossom of the season
and we are back circling the Spring."
"I am a chandelier of possibility."
Besides family history and Hindu theology, current events and politics are sources of inspiration. For instance, “We Gotta Talk About S/kincare” explores the ironies and nuances of attitudes towards Black and Brown public figures, e.g., lauding Barack Obama and Kamala Harris, but former UK Home Secretary Priti Patel? “our forever – guest of honour / would deport her own mother – if she could.” I also loved the playfulness with structure: “Ode to Corelle” employs a typically solemn form for a celebration of crockery, while the yoga-themed “Salutation” snakes across two pages like a curving spine. This reminded me of poetry I’ve enjoyed by other young Asian women: Romalyn Ante, Cynthia Miller, Nina Mingya Powles and Jenny Xie. A fantastic first book.
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