Author: Vikram Seth
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Publishing Date: 20th October, 2015
Cost: Rs. 318 (Hardcover)
The first new stand-alone collection of poetry in twenty-five years from Vikram Seth, one of the country’s greatest living poets.
Summer Requiem traces the immutable shifting of the seasons, the relentless rhythms of a great world that both 'gifts and harms'. Luminous, resonant and profound, these poems trace the dying days of summer, 'the hour of rust', when memory is haunted by loss and decay. But in the silence that follows, as the soul is cast adrift, there is also reconciliation with the transience of all things; the knowledge that there is a place, 'changeable, that will not betray'.
Seth revisits his favourite terrains - San Francisco, China, Dorset, Italy, Delhi and a few more. It is a ‘reconciliation with the transience of all things; the knowledge that there is a place, changeable, that will not betray’.
Seth pays homage to his mentor poets- Wang Wei and Pushkin, part of the subject or inspiration of Three Chinese Poets and The Golden Gate. He also pays his respect to Surdas, Bach, Rembrandt and Du Fu, calling them “We are the last generations” in ‘No Further War’, which concludes with a stunning line: “Your deepening entropy with agitation”.
The author deals with the themes of politics in a round-about manner. Like in ‘The Halfway Line’, he writes: “…His claws towards the halfway line /Marked on the broken glass, and retched / out venom from an absent spine.”
Finally, Vikram Seth returns to a familiar personal theme of love gained and love lost. In the poem Caged, we see grief in a relationship that has lost its spark in spite of the fact that love is still present. He asks: “Why could this not wait till our love could die?”
The six page lead poem, ‘Summer Requiem’ after which Seth's book takes its name, had been written over 20 years ago. "That poem is the earliest poem. I tinkered with it and massaged it for many years, in a kind of trance almost because what that poem means your guess is as good as mine," said Seth.
The concluding part of ‘Summer Requiem’ contains the Minterne: Four Poems that Seth was commissioned to write and set to music as part of celebrations for the 45th anniversary of the Summer Music Society of Dorset, in England.
About the Author:
Born in 1952 in Calcutta, India, Vikram Seth was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Stanford University and Nanjing University.
He has travelled widely and lived in Britain, California, India and China. His first novel, The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse (1986), describes the experiences of a group of friends living in California. His acclaimed epic of Indian life, A Suitable Boy (1993), won the WH Smith Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book). An Equal Music (1999) is the story of a violinist haunted by the memory of a former lover. Vikram Seth is also the author of a travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983), an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal that won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and a libretto, Arion and the Dolphin: A Libretto (1994), which was performed at the English National Opera in June 1994, with music by Alec Roth. His poetry includes Mappings (1980), The Humble Administrator's Garden (1985), winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia), and All You Who Sleep Tonight: Poems (1990). His children's book, Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992), consists of ten stories about animals told in verse.
Vikram Seth's latest works include Two Lives (2005), a memoir of the marriage of his great uncle and aunt, and Summer Requiem (2015), a book of poems.