Chrys Salt is a widely published and much travelled poet and a happy performer of her work. A recipient of bursaries and awards ( various) and recently promoted MBE for services to the Arts. Her work has appeared in anthologies all over the world, been performed on BBC Radio 3 and 4, UK wide, in the USA, Canada, France, Germany and Finland. It has been translated into French and Arabic and is currently being translated into Hebrew. Her poem ‘The Burning’ from Weaver of Grass (GRASS IDP 2012) was selected as one of the 20 Best Scottish Poems 2012.
In 2014 her limited edition pamphlet Weaver of Grass (Hattericks House 2013, artwork Deirdre Carlisle) was shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award.
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: 22 SEPTEMBER 2017
The Punkawallah's Rope marks the 70th Anniversary of the Partition of India and The India-UK Year of Culture. Chrys performed at The Kolkata Book Fair in 2016 and spent a month in Kolkata and North East India.
The Punkawallah's Rope offers poems in a range of voices that reflect the colour,
sound-track and recent history of India.
How can a middle-class white woman begin to understand and engage with this most complex and challenging of continents?
'It is a brave, beautiful and deeply unsettling way of making the reader look again at long-familiar events, as though the mother of Wilfred Owen or Edward Thomas had kept a verse diary during the first world war.'
(Home Front/Front Line)
(review in the Morning Star)
'A treat for anyone who enjoys unpretentious but profound poetry.'
'Dancing on a Rock is a glittering addition to Chrys Salt’s ‘Roll of Honour’. An utterly riveting read.'
(PEN EXPRESS Newsletter)
The Punkawallah's Rope
Grand Hotel, Kolkata
Our tea is brought,
in china thin as fingernails.
with fruitcake jewelled with cherries,
cucumber sandwiches, thin-sliced,
Orbs of lamplight fruit
from ornamental poles,
illuminate the baize of courtyard lawns,
the pristine tablecloths,
glint on the silver plated cutlery,
the turquoise pool
where night time bathers bask and loll
like river fish.
And here we are sipping delicious tea,
moneyed, elegant and insular,
talking of NGOs, the rural poor,
how to cure the ills of India.
Beyond a cool and pillared entrance hall,
Sikh doormen in their skirted robes, tall
ceilings with colonial cornices,
the wheezing of a punkawallah's rope
is scarcely audible.
(an old man remembers)
'Where are we going?’
'I don't know,' papa said,
'but this is not my country now.
I want to die in India.'
Old eyes cloud
with seventy years of history
'I still have dreams
of growing up with friends,
Hindu and Muslim,
Remember their addresses,
our village fish tank
with three kinds of carp,
of playing Daria Bandha in the sun,
a football we begged money for
from door to door,
the house dad built
for his retirement, back then.
The day they said
my friends were enemies,
spoke of marauding mobs,
in nearby villages.
we packed up all that we could carry,
took a train.'
From up here, inlets glitter
bright as knives,
slice slits into the skirts of India.
Inland, a blouse of hills
glows with embroidery
of shadow, amber sun
moulding the breasts
and shoulders of this
Sand, gold and silken,
frilled with lace, edges the kirtle
of a cornflower sea.
From up here India
is courtly, innocent,
and quite 'The Lady',
not waving amputated stumps
or banging in car windows
with a borrowed baby.
Who is that woman, clothes washed for her,
clothes that were never ironed flatter,
purse tight to every needy beggar,
eyes front, keeps walking? Have I met her?
She looks like someone I knew before
I came – same height, that same demeanour,
someone who thought she had the measure
of herself, a kindlier other.
But surely that wasn't her I saw,
poking round temple, prayer and puja,
paying a pittance for a rickshaw,
bartering for discounts with the poor,
or snapping scenes of 'local colour',
kids shelling peas in roads and gutters,
a legless man dragging his kurta –
their still lifes caught behind a shutter?
Who boards that air-cooled 'plane, I wonder?
Had she been her kind familiar,
could she ever have been something more
than memsahib with her punkawallah?
Dogs, cows, palms, hills, grass,
bronzed with dust to statuary,
then splashed with yellow,
orange, purple, sapphire, green.
A brown girl dressed in coloured silk
for dancing in.
Author cartoon illustration by Alban Low