CP Surendran is a poet and novelist. He has written four volumes of poetry: Gemini II, Posthumous Poems, Canaries on the Moon and Portraits of the Space We Occupy. He is also the author of a novel, An Iron Harvest. A journalist and columnist, he is currently based in Pune. He writes in English.
Surendran’s style combines gravelly understatement with flashes of lyricism, laconic brevity with sudden imagistic luminosity. The poems in this edition cover a gamut of moods and tones, from casual violence to quiet yearning, from elegy to savage irony.
There is gratitude for the transcendent shock of sudden contact: “the way we twine our hands/ Under the wooded night air” or the fact that “He no longer thinks about her,/ Or him. Just them./ And the postures they struck/ Just before the milkman came.” But there is also the brutal dance of seduction in which the frontiers between paramour and adversary blur indefinably: “She said hearts were what made her go/ Finally, I dug up the old, dark thing./ And she said, oh, but this is a grenade./ I told you, I said, and bit the pin.”
What makes these love poems distinctive is their ability to evoke, with a veteran’s air of familiarity, the many ambivalences of human intimacy: “She lights a cigarette/ With a match that might set/ The house on fire . . ./ The room turns into a museum of moods.” ‘The Family Court’, one of my personal favourites, conveys far more through its fine and astringent sense of incongruity than any overtly poignant verse would.
A CP Surendran poem is a sly and mercurial animal. Its curt impassivity (which one could initially interpret as a ‘tough guy’ stance) promises to lead the reader in a certain direction, but one invariably ends up at an unexpected destination. Beneath the crisp, understated, ruthlessly minimalist surface run jagged undercurrents of toxicity, tenderness, and almost always – and discernibly – pain.
Portraits of the Space We Occupy, Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2007
Canaries on the Moon,Yeti, Kozhikode, 2002
Posthumous Poems, Penguin (Viking), New Delhi,1999
Gemini II, Penguin (Viking), New Delhi,1994
Iron Harvest, Roli Books, New Delhi, 2006
RAHA : Interview with C. P. Surendran
Varnmala : The Colour of the Season’s Best Dream, Conformist, two poems by C. P. Surendran
Kavitayan : Renunciation, Prospect, two poems by C. P. Surendran