Puncher & Wattmann
A Shrine to Lata Mangeshkar
by Kerry Leves
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Is it flowers? Women plait them into their hair; truckies flower their driving-cabins for long dusty journeys… Is it colour? Emerald green ricefields; or the sun’s gold flare on an egret’s wing as it rises? Is it the yellow of mustard flowers, or the gaudy spectrum of a street festooned with movie posters? Is it Varanasi – the country’s spiritual heart, some say – where pilgrims dunk themselves in the great Ganges River; or Tirupati, pilgrimage place of the south, a thousand steps up a mountain? Or is it Arunachala, also in the south, where the sage Ramana Maharshi taught “self inquiry”? (Ask, he said, who inquires?) If Ramana’s “self inquiry” suggests a meditator’s silence, it may also be relevant to ask, “Who sings?”, since music and song permeate India. The voice of Lata Mangeshkar, honoured and revered playback singer of over five thousand Indian films, seems to express the soul of India. These poems attempt a tribute.
The poet, short-story writer and novelist Vicki Viidikas pitchforked Kerry Leves into India. Together they travelled down, up and across the country. They didn’t do it “posh”. Out of the travelling came these poems of Kerry’s: an outsider’s inside journey.
“This poetry puts you in your senses…”
— Pam Brown
“The western traveller in Asia is a familiar theme, but it is tackled here with fresh insight and a welcome sensitivity. The spiritual awakening (probably more accurately described as expansion) of the speaker is genuine and believeable. The rich detail in these poems is surprisingly counterbalanced with their economy.” Sara Moss
Kerry Leves was a critic as well as a poet. He was writing a PhD thesis on Randolph Stow’s novels, at Sydney University, when he died in 2011, which has now been awarded posthumously.