Jerry Pinto (born 1966) is a writer of poetry, prose and children’s fiction in English. He is currently at work on various projects, including short fiction and a novel. His collection of poems, Asylum and Other Poems appeared in 2003. He has also co-edited Confronting Love (2005), a book of contemporary Indian love poetry in English. His poems have appeared in journals and anthologies, including Reasons for Belonging: Fourteen Contemporary Indian Poets and Fulcrum: An Annual of Poetry and Aesthetics. He lives in Mumbai.
To those accustomed to Pinto’s wisecracking humour as a journalist, his poems might come as something of a surprise. The poems in Asylum grapple with a welter of contradictory emotions. The result (to quote from my review, Kavya Bharati, 2004) is “poetry that allows itself awkward angles, edges, jagged pauses, hoarse moments, uneasy alliances between imagistic spareness and excess. There is a capacity for vulnerability, for self-implication, an acknowledgement of a soiled self that finds it difficult to forgive itself.”
The five poems chosen for this edition confront themes of word and language in interesting ways. There is a poem that offers a comic-apocalyptic vision of the revolt of paper. The result is a dystopia where poetry is “replaced by Reader’s Digest mailers” and where illuminated manuscripts commit hara-kiri “in kamikaze squads”. There is ‘Alphabet Soup’, a quirky conceit poem on the letters of the English alphabet. There is the poem about clearing one’s desk of an entire freight of words – burying an entire cargo of ambition and memory that can induce embarrassment, recoil, contempt, loathing. Only after that act of furious rejection can one await the Dickinsonian “formal feeling”. There is ‘Prayer’, a formal entreaty to be freed from the tendency to ‘boom too much’ and whisper too shrilly. And finally, there is ‘Our Trade’ (a previously unpublished poem), an energetic rant that invokes a golden age when poets were not just “rock stars”, but objects of collective yearning and veneration (representing ‘memory’, ‘history’, ‘ritual’ and ‘community’). But the bleak reality that the poet now conjures is one where words “pour in a thick sludgy militant flood out of every profligate mouth”.
What makes Pinto’s stand unusual is that he does not set himself up as mere witness of this historic debasement of the imagination. Instead, he acknowledges that he is also culpable in perpetuating this largesse of waste. When he tells young poet aspirants to ‘RUN’, this is not the lofty advice of a sage bard and oracle, but the admission of a wry, weathered word-merchant, aware that his hands are as soiled as the next person’s.
Asylum and Other Poems, Allied Publishers, 2003 ISBN: 81-7764-527-7
Confronting Love, (edited with Arundhathi Subramaniam) Penguin India, 2005 ISBN: 0-14-303264-X
A Bear for Felicia, Puffin India, 2008 ISBN: 978-0-14-333065-3
Bollywood Posters, IBH/Thames & Hudson, 2008 ISBN: 81-7508-513-4
Talk of the Town, (edited with Rahul Srivastava) Puffin India, 2008 ISBN: 01-4333-013-6
Reflected in Water: Writings on Goa, (editor) Penguin India, 2006 ISBN: 978-0-14-310081-2
Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb, Penguin India, 2006 ISBN: 0-14-303124-4
Bombay Meri Jaan: Writings on Mumbai, (edited with Naresh Fernandes) Penguin India, 2003 ISBN: 0-14-302966-5
Surviving Women, Penguin India, 2000 ISBN: 0140287159
jerrypinto.com: Jerry Pinto's website.
The Little Magazine: ‘Bedside’, a poem by Jerry Pinto
The Hindu: Jerry Pinto's book of poems, Asylum, reviewed by Ranjit Hoskote
Hindustan Times and Live Mint: columns by Jerry Pinto.