Thursday, March 22, 2007

Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide

Today I finished reading Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide. It’s a gorgeous and profound book. It’s provocative as a book about human rights and postcolonialism as well as about environmentalism. I’m thinking through all of those issues for my upcoming class on the book.
More immediately to me, however, is that one of the characters in the book knows my secret. I’ve recently been working on a poem titled “Secret Messages” which is about reading poems by poets that I love and finding within them secret messages written just for me - as though these poets were speaking to me, in some instances from the grave. I had to read this poem in class as I worked on it for a class exercise and I find it so uncomfortable because it revealed this thing that I find so intimate and even embarassingly personal. Then, I turn to page 274 in Ghosh’s book and read,
Rilke himself had shown me what I could do. In one verse I had found a message written for my eyes only, filled with hidden meaning. When the time came I would receive a sign and then I would know what I had to do.
For the Poet himself had told me:
This is the time for what can be said. Here is its country. Speak and testify. . . ‘
Can you believe that? “In one verse I had found a message written for my eyes only, filled with hidden meaning.” Nirmal, the character in Ghosh’s book who writes this, knows my secret and I know his, or perhaps it is Ghosh who knows and shares this secret with me. Whatever the case, reading those lines was one of the transcendent moments of reading: when I am known and recognized in the text, when my being is laid bare and my soul knows the truth, when I am not alone in the world.

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