The White Shirts of Summer : New and Selected Poems – Mamang Dai


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‘A major voice in Indian English literature, and literature from North East India…[Her] poems are like a race of butterflies bargaining with the night.’ —Keki Daruwalla

‘Dai’s poetic world is one of river, forest and mountain, a limpid and lyrical reflection of the terrain of her home state. Nature here is mysterious, verdant with myth, dense with sacred memory. There is magic to be found everywhere…But as you read closer, you [also] sense a more sinister undertow: this paradisiacal landscape is also one of “guns and gulls”, punctuated by “the footfall of soldiers”. You also realize that the simplicity of Dai’s verse is not without guile. It possesses a gentle persuasive riverine tug that can lead you to moments of heart-stopping surprise.

‘For all its simplicity, Dai’s poetry does not arrive at easy conclusions. There is no dishonest sense of anchor here, no blissful pastoral idyll. The poet describes her people as “foragers for a destiny” and her work is pervaded by a deep unease about erased histories and an uncertain future. And yet, implicit in her poetics is the refusal to divorce protest from love. This seems to translate into a commitment to a poetry of quiet surges and eddies rather than gritty textures and edges…[and] a tone that is hushed, wondering, thoughtful, reflective. The strength of this poetry is its unforced beauty and clarity, its ability to steer clear of easy flamboyance.’ —Arundhathi Subramaniam


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