(Peepal Tree Press, ISBN 1 84523 051 5)
From beginnings secreted in the folds of her mother’s sari, transplanted to England to struggle with the rough musicality of Mancunian vowels, Raman Mundair, a Punjabi Alice, found no true reflection of herself, no wonderland, but mirrors which dissolved, shrank and obscured her size. In these poems she creates her own universe and dissects its realities in all their complex, tragic and surreal forms.
At the heart of the collection is an acute sensitivity to the body: hurt, aroused, desired, ignored. Her poems spill out from this centre: to the physical memory of domestic violence, the intense joys of intimacy and love, and the pain of their rejection, to a passionate concern with the body politic. Here, whether her focus is on the non-sense of religious exclusion, the seismic fault of partition that continues to tremor, or the racist murders of Stephen Lawrence and Ricky Reel, the approach is oblique, metaphorical, observant of the details that carry the poems beyond political statement. For Mundair, there is, too, a world beyond Britain, seen with more than just a vivid eye for the ironies and pleasures of travel.
Raman Mundair’s voice encompasses the most delicate, shimmering images and a raw, abrasive, sometimes angry energy. There is a probing intellect at work that arranges the world in new ways, and a sensuous truth to feeling that puts the reader inside the experience of the poems. Each poem has its own distinctiveness, but there is also an architecture that makes the collection a satisfying whole.
There is room, too, for a sense of the absurd and a macabre sense of humour. How would you deal with the thief of your heart?
Raman Mundair is a writer and artist whose work features social justice at the heart. She is the author of Lovers, Liars, Conjurers and Thieves, A Choreographer’s Cartography, The Algebra of Freedom and edited Incoming: Some Shetland Voices. Raman was awarded a Leverhulme Artists Residency, a Robert Louis Stevenson award and is a Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative nominee.