The Cowherd's Son: Poems
DescriptionPoetry. LGBTQIA Studies. Winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize. Rajiv Mohabir uses his queer and mixed- caste identities as grace notes to charm alienation into silence. Mohabir's inheritance of myths, folk tales, and multilingual translations make a palimpsest of histories that bleed into one another. A descendant of indentureship survivors, the poet- narrator creates an allegorical chronicle of dislocations and relocations, linking India, Guyana, Trinidad, New York, Orlando, Toronto, and Honolulu, combining the amplitude of mythology with direct witness and sensual reckoning, all the while seeking joy in testimony.
In this Kundiman Prize-winning follow-up to 2016's The Taxidermist's Cut, Mohabir continues to demonstrate an uncanny ability to compose exacting, tactile poems that musically leap off the page...Mohabir's candid work is steeped in the realities of being a mixed-caste, queer Indian- American; his speaker sings these lived experiences into verse--moving between pleasure, sensuality, hunger, alienation, and injury: 'It shocks me to dream my body/ as a cut pomegranate.' Mohabir even uses the quarter rest symbol from sheet music in the breaks between sections to make explicit the collection's musical nature and the poetic silences the work necessitates. Each of the book's seven sections approaches identity from a different angle, including that of the ancestral grief passed down through the Indian indenture system and chronicles of conquest and empire channeled through the mythical El Dorado. Mohabir offers much to appreciate, and even among the strife he records, there is a yearning for and pursuit of joy: 'In this building of shattered whispers// I say your words at night to taste you.'--Publishers Weekly starred review
Praise for Rajiv Mohabir's previous book:
In his excellent debut, Mohabir exposes desire and inner turmoil through the measured incantations of a queer, Indian- American voice that refuses the burdens of a homophobic and racist world. He eloquently describes how the brown body survives, clinging vigilantly to longing, lust, and love... Mohabir illuminates his own wounds, and as the reader watches him dresses and stitches those wounds, 'A queer flutter knocks about your ribs.'--Publishers Weekly
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About the Author
Rajiv Mohabir is the author of The Cowherd's Son (2017, winner of the 2015 Kundiman Prize) and The Taxidermist's Cut (2016, winner of the Four Way Books Intro to Poetry Prize and finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry in 2017), and translator of I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara (1916) (2019), which received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant Award. His essays can be found in places like Asian American Writers Workshop's The Margins, Bamboo Ridge Journal, Moko Magazine, Cherry Tree, Kweli, and others, and he has a "Notable Essay" in Best American Essays 2018. Currently he is an Assistant Professor of poetry in the MFA program at Emerson College and the translations editor at Waxwing Journal.