Ever since the publication of his first book more than three decades ago, the animal kingdom has been intrinsic to the poetry of Manohar Shetty. Creatures great and small have long inhabited his poems—from the ‘yoyo’ and ‘jiggling asterisk’ of a spider to the ‘bowtie’ of a ‘gowned’ bat; from the ‘emerald embers’ of fireflies trapped in glass jars to ants with their ‘bodies like puffed rice’ and the statues of elephants ‘inlaid with their own ivory’. From ‘domestic creatures’ such as the cockroach to holy ‘visitants’ in the form of a cobra, this collection puts together Shetty’s menagerie culled from his five volumes of poetry with the bonus of a clutch of new, unpublished poems.
The birds and beasts peopling these pages are extended metaphors reflecting not only our own fraught, parallel lives, but about a natural world that needs to be preserved and treasured for its own sake. As Shetty puts it so memorably in the poem ‘Cheetah and Snow Leopard’, ‘it took an age for you / To shed your fur / And stand on two legs / But just a day or two / To ambush forever / The streaking arc / In the blurred forest’.
‘Manohar Shetty reads pretty much like a time machine that knows how to use its own mind better than just for imagining the past. What kind of a present does he dwell in, one might ask. Ironically, exactly the kind that bemoans the loss of the pastoral and the decimation of the animal world around us. Shetty uses his poetry as a searchlight along the nooks, or a scientist’s magnifying glass to spot some movement in the grass, or even a Nabokov following a butterfly, stealth-footed. Finders are keepers here.’—Nabina Das, Scroll.in