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A groovy kind of love
Love Is An Empty Barstool
By Pooja Nansi
Math Paper Press
46 pages, S$16 in major bookstores
PUBLISHED in 2013, Pooja Nansi's intense collection of love poems has slowly become something of a must-read among hyper-literate young people across the island. Love Is An Empty Barstool is being shared and recommended among the smart, hip pack just a little less frequently than Sufjan Stevens' new album.
Of course, you don't have to be young to appreciate Nansi's fiery, confessional poems. Just about anyone who's been in the throes of passion and heartbreak may find her writing appealing.
Many of these poems feel as if they were written during love's heady rush when the writer was alive to every ache, craving and sensation. No urge is second-guessed or censored. No imagery feels hollow or overwrought.
Indeed, her words sometimes feel hell-bent on creating their own mythology. In Since You Scoff When I Said You Are The Best Kisser I've Ever Met, for instance, she writes:
"... Kissing you made me feel like I was a planet
orbiting around your anabolic warmth.
No string of gravity to hold me down
but falling always, towards the dark
of your opium tongue."
There's a sharp and combative intelligence that springs out from behind her various personae, whether she's pining for love or pushing it away.
In The Moment I Knew You Were Not The One, she decides she might leave a man simply because he holds back from kissing her in a library.
In Dear Men I've Never Met, her coquettish guise is both inviting and suspicious:
" ... What are the chances that as I load the groceries into my car, those of you walking by might be looking at the nape of my neck half covered with the defiant curls of my hair and think I was someone who you could tame ... "
It shouldn't surprise anyone that Nansi, 33, often performs her poems to music, or that she mentions Tori Amos, Robert Palmer and Guns N' Roses in them. She is one half of the spoken word-and-music duo known as the Mango Dollies, the other being her best friend Anjana Srinivasan. Some of her poems have the rugged flavour of rock and roll, as in the titular Love Is An Empty Barstool, where she writes:
" ... We all want
the promise of adventure
but some nights you end up
with splendid dreams
other nights, the dream says
"I gotta go to the bathroom"
and it never comes back.
Still you sit at the counter
and take the gamble
What makes Nansi stand out is her lack of ambivalence or opacity. There's no rose-tinted nostalgia or wishful thinking on the subject of love - just raw aches and roiling emotions. These poems are a call to risk all for the ardour and anguish of love.