Books of 2016: The Fact of a Doorframe

Book two: The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001 by Adrienne Rich

Someone swiped this book from me, like many have swiped many others. It doesn’t bother me too much because I live in hope that they took the book or didn’t return it because they’ve fallen in love with it. Or perhaps they abandoned it and it’s been filched by someone else. Whatever the means, I hope the book is with someone who enjoys leafing through its pages and I know that the book and I will find ourselves a second time. Like how The Fact of a DoorframeDiving into the Wreck and other poems by Rich have returned to my bookshelf now.

This ‘new’ edition has a little forward by Rich, written in 2002. In it, she writes,

“To work in a medium which can be, has been, used as an instrument of trivialization and deceit, not to mention colonization and humiliation, is somewhat different from working in a medium like stone, clay, paint, charcoal, even iron or steel. A poet cannot refuse language, choose another medium. But the poet can re-fuse the language given to him or her, bend and torque it into an instrument for connection instead of dominance and apartheid… .”

It’s just two pages, but it leaves me thinking about language, about English, our attempts to ‘claim’ it — as though we still need to establish grounds to make the language our own — and how that process seems to have achieved the opposite of “the poetics of relation”. There’s ‘good’ English and ‘bad’ English, there’s ‘Hinglish’ and almost all billboards in Mumbai use the Roman script to write Hindi taglines, simultaneously blurring some boundaries and establishing other distances.

“Last night you wrote on the wall: Revolution is poetry.
Today you needn’t write; the wall has tumbled down.”

(From Ghazals: Homage to Ghalib, by Adrienne Rich)


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