Simple and stirring: Review of ‘Landfall’ by Keki N. Daruwalla

Keki N. Daruwalla’s recent volume of poetry shows that he continues to be as brilliant as ever.

Published : Apr 20, 2023 11:00 IST - 2 MINS READ

“A pond flowers white with herons”

“A pond flowers white with herons” | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock

Keki N. Daruwalla is the most prolific and among the most proficient poets writing in India today. In terms of sheer quantity, he is next only to Jayanta Mahapatra, but Mahapatra is a bilingual poet writing in both English and Odia. Also, he is also almost 10 years older than Daruwalla.

Landfall: Poems
By Keki N. Daruwalla
Speaking Tiger
Pages: 128
Price: Rs.499

This is Daruwalla’s 11th volume of verse. Ever since he published Under Orion back in 1970, Daruwalla’s poetry has grown in diverse directions. Under Orion contained some scorching satirical verse on the Indian political and social scenario. This brand of poetry—if it can be called a brand—has recurred from time to time in his books. Given to occasional overwriting, Daruwalla is a formalist at heart, with much of his poetry’s power emerging from this discipline. He uses internal rhythms expertly, and his language can be tender, as in these lines from “There Are Wars”:

And I have lived with love.

And also with the green of grass, and birdcalls,

lived with poetry and light that rusts at dusk

and is alive at dawn,

and lived with my masks and those of others—

Have lived with love and friends.

Lived with death and grieving.

What else is there to life?

Cover of Landfall

Cover of Landfall | Photo Credit: By special arrangement

Daruwalla’s usual voice is more caustic, with shades of black humour. He is also among the few Indian poets who has written about foreign nations—or at least has poems set abroad, including Alaska. And mythology, both Indian and Western, he draws upon heavily. Unless you are familiar with them, the poems can be difficult to follow.

My favourite lines come at the end of the first poem in this collection, called “Night Train”:

Through the frost-white window

trees black-lit;

seeding of colour starts:

light bickers with mustard flower

over a tone of yellow,

a banyan philosophizes

over its hedge of prop roots

burrowing into the grass,

a gout-afflicted scarecrow

stretches its arms sideways,

a pond flowers white with herons.

The last line is striking. Simple yet stirring.

“Daruwalla is also among the few Indian poets who has written about foreign nations—or at least has poems set abroad, including Alaska.”

Now in his mid-80s, Daruwalla has a voice that is still young and vibrant, making use of mythology to analyse contemporary times, and celebrating the power of nature, animals, and the relevance of history.

Manohar Shetty has recently edited The Greatest Goan Stories Ever Told, published by Aleph.

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