Prac Crit is back after a hiatus, and with a new type of feature: The Wayside Inn, named for the meeting-spot in Bombay frequented by Arun Kolatkar and other Indian poets. It’s akin to one of our Deep Notes, but with a poet discussing the work of another from the past, not a thing of their own: in this issue, Arvind Mehrotra examines one of Kolatkar’s poems, and, through it, a vanished moment in Indian literary history.
My conversation with Tara Bergin found its way towards the tiniest details of verse-structure – punctuation, verb tenses, line-endings – and the ways in which these details, tinkered with, can generate subtle and haunting verse, which dares the reader to ask ‘What’s that all about, then?’ while also leaving them assured that something of significance is definitely going on. Analysing Bergin’s ‘Composition for the Left Hand’, and its themes of the hunter, and the hunted, Josefin Holmström connects it with the Gawain-poet, and Keats: refusing to pluck out the heart of the poem’s mystery, she our readers a handle on it nonetheless.
Sarah Howe takes a similar approach to Caleb Klaces’s ‘A nothing to do with God’: a poem which, in her phrase, captures the ‘human desire to draw meaning out of noise’, combining mimesis of rapid-fire thought with levels of historical awareness; Klaces and JT Welsch talk hearteningly about child-reading, and its challenges to our prevailing model of what it means to be a man: ‘We’re made to think of phatic language or small talk as a kind of female preserve, but then you take your child to a baby group and you’re completely at sea.’
Finally, Holly Corfield Carr discusses with Rachael Boast the poet’s place – scarefully assembled, attuned, not to be taken for granted – in nature, and also the use of repetition in her poems; in her essay on ‘Sunday’, Lucy Mercer considers the work Boast is doing alongside, as well as outwith, Rimbaud (the verse and the persona both), paying heed to her fine-grained language.