White Elephants


Images of Reetika Vazirani's native India intertwine with memories of her American adolescence in this prize-winning collection of poems.
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Images of Reetika Vazirani's native India intertwine with memories of her American adolescence in this prize-winning collection of poems.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Here is a young writer's book about the richness and confusion, conundrums, the music, the flavors, the constant questioning of a genuinely multicultural existence. . . [White Elephants] engages and compels the reader. —Marilyn Hacker
Library Journal
"Culture shock is not your reflex leaving the dock;/ it is when you have been a law-abiding citizen/for more than ten years: when someone asks your name/ and the name of your religion and your first thought is/ I don't know." With those lines, found in the opening pages of this winner of the 1995 Barnard New Women Poets Prize, Vazirani clearly enunciates her task: to sum up the immigrant's experience in precise and evocative language. In the poems that follow, she shows how much the old world insinuates itself into the new. From Part 1, "Mrs. Biswas," where that noble matriarch "scolds a god, possibly Mahakali, the Great One, for/ tangling/ her boot-black hair in a comb" and reflects that she must buy "eighteen nylon saris/ and Walkmans for my India trip,'' through Part 2, "The Rajdhani Express," ("I have lived here before"). to Part 3 "White Elephants," a series of 42 sonnetlike pieces that opens with a new passport and closes with a son receiving his first erector set, Varizani treats the immigration as an extended voyage that is never quite over. These detailed, thoughtful poems never fall into the trap of seeming exotic. Recommended for larger poetry collections.Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807068335
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 5/28/1996
  • Series: Barnard New Women Poets Series
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.31 (d)

Table of Contents

Ras Mohun 3
Mrs. Biswas 9
Mrs. Biswas Banishes a Female Relative 12
Mrs. Biswas Gives Advice to a Granddaughter 13
Mrs. Biswas Goes through a Photo Album 15
Mrs. Biswas's Career as a Painter 17
Mrs. Biswas Remembers Mookherjee 19
Mrs. Biswas Breaks Her Connection with Another Relative 20
Mrs. Biswas of Maryland on the Phone 21
Reading the Poem about the Yew Tree 25
To Tara 27
Letter to a Husband 31
The Rajdhani Express 33
Letter to a Cousin 35
Calcutta, for Jai 37
Star-Reader, Palm-Reader 40
White Elephants 41
Glossary 65
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