These Were My Homes: Collected Poems
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‘Soaked in the Bible, in Sanskrit, in mid twentieth-century English poetry and his own lifelong reading habits, Vijay Nambisan was a great Indian poet who never received his due. His magisterial later poems are of a piece with the earliest, which is rare. It is infuriating that he is unknown to most Indians. This book is a treasure and a cathedral.’—JEET THAYIL
‘In Vijay’s intelligent, self-aware meditations on mortality and human folly in this final and complete volume of his poems, readers will come to as close an apprehension of the nature of epiphany as is possible—to those sudden illuminations of the spirit that can, without warning, light up flares in our dull, corporeal bodies. [The] 111 poems in this slender volume written over his brief lifetime…display…a keen understanding of science and its uncompromising rationality (“radium decays a little bit at a time”), of the temporary bonds of love and desire, of waddling ducks and arching cats, of the particular genealogies of speech that Vijay came to inherit through his father, his grandparents, his mother and aunts, and of the questing history of our bipedal species… In the title poem of this volume, “These Were My Homes”, Vijay tracks a path from the safe womb to the single “bed in which to breathe my last of air”. I can think of few poets who have better traversed that eternal arc.’ —From the Introduction by Rukmini Bhaya Nair
Vijay Nambisan (1963–2017) was a poet, writer of non-fiction, critic, journalist and translator. He won the first All India Poetry Competition (organized by the Poetry Society of India and the British Council) in 1990 with his poem ‘Madras Central’, and his debut collection, Gemini—a shared edition with Jeet Thayil, and introduced by Dom Moraes—was published two years later. His second collection, First Infinities, appeared in 2015. In between, he published two acclaimed non-fiction books, Bihar Is in the Eye of the Beholder (2000) and Language as an Ethic (2003), as well as Two Measures of Bhakti (2009), comprising translations of the devotional poetry of Poonthanam and Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri.Vijay Nambisan was married to the novelist and surgeon Kavery Nambisan, with whom he spent several years in rural and small-town Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra and Karnataka.