“Reetika Vazirani…uses the elements of her experience—which happens to be an Indian upbringing and immigration to the United State as a child—as a springboard to leap into the language of the poem and believe in its power to carry her to interesting places in both word and self. For example, in the sonnet sequence, “Ras Mohum,” in White Elephants, she uses the biographical material, imagined or real, to leap into the here and now—the immigrant building a house hires local American contractors. Words like “Sheetrock,” “hammering,” “new room,” “boulevards,” and “drilled” describe the house and carry the emotion of any immigrant setting out roots: “home is anyplace; first hang your hat” (which recalls a Caribbean poet’s line, “home is any place you hang your underwear”). Furthermore, the grounding of the sonnet allows the poet to allow language, and therefore imagination, a chance to play without getting bogged down in sociological detail. While the grandfather’s life is full of history, the grandfather’s house that the speaker inherits is hammered into something new, as if the workers “discovered no fresco from Pompeii / or Mohenjo-Daro”: “The men too care not to smudge the panes,” because “for them maybe history’s a ruin.” Much of White Elephants is amusing, startling in its juxtaposition of languages and place names, historic and personal stories. The immigrant story is a facade around which Vazirani builds, inventing newer stories, imagining her family’s history, and reinventing received stories.
English is truly a global language in her poems—the accents, the syntactical variations, the idioms, a difficult thing to master if you are monolingual, come through with ease in the stories she tells.
No comments yet.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.