Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anton Krueger Reviews Glumlazi

Not so Glum Lazi
by Anton Krueger

It was a real treat to crack open Pravasan Pillay’s collection Glumlazi this morning.

Instead of trying to muse philosophical about the impact of his poems on my mind, it might be more appropriate to document the effect they had on my face. Here were some of the expressions I went through while reading through this sardonic little compilation over my coffee: laughter, wincing, more laughter, puzzlement, laughter, surprise,brooding head nodding, enjoyment, smiling…

Each of the tight little poems in here packs a punch. I was reminded of Piet Hein’s Grooks from the 70’s with their pithy comments on states of affairs. The influence of Wopko Jensma is also acknowledged and is occasionally evident, but most of all Pillay has created an idiosyncratic style all his own. Many of the poems seem to emerge out of his rueful murmurings on failed relationships, and yet even at his most bitter there is an ironic self-deprecating humour.

i’m not the best of the
insecure poets

And throughout the book there is an appeal to take things easier, to relax from the strain of taking ourselves too seriously.

letter to upstarts
my ideal job would be
to unsharpen your

There are also political overtones and an awareness of larger structures, and yet, politics is always entwined with the personal:

nats vs. gnat
she accepts the penance
of the nats but not mine

And then there is the more sultry side of his cynicism. If some of the contents had been toned down for a more commercial consumption, this booklet might have been a bestseller, but Pillay doesn’t compromise, and some of the humour is biting.

swamp blues
her swamp need a


her vibrator’s got a
better car than me


got her beeswax
on my mind

By the end of this all too brief foray into Pillay’s personal perspective, there is an acknowledgement of the limitations of what desire, love and politics can do. Even the capacity of what poetry itself can achieve is quietly derided.

three pin plugs, two pin sockets
this so-called extra sense of
will not bring them power

The one thing that remains when all of these have fallen away, is the humour. We can often do without the philosophy, without politics, even, perhaps, without love, but it is hard to get by without laughter.

This review first appeared here