Valerie Morton is the new Featured Writer with her stunning new book Mango Tree, published by Indigo Dreams. I devoured this book in one sitting, unable to put it down, immersing myself in the experience of the girl who can’t bring herself to talk to her mother on her last night before leaving for India,
‘Her open door tempts me
To spill my fears on her bed.
But if I do I may never leave,
never travel to that uncharted world of you…’
and soon after I was also feeling dazzled by the colours of saris, by spices ‘stinging my eyes’ while cows are chewing on garbage/ as if the middle of the road was a lush meadow’ or ‘rain streams like tears/ down the man’s weather-wrack’d face.’ The book is shot through with beauty and terror in poetry that is precise and surprising, every line taut and crackling with tension and surprise. It is somehow both sumptuous and understated so that we never quite grasp the underlying narrative but experience (all too briefly) the energy transfusion this journey to India gave to an impressionable young poet.
Valerie herself wrote ‘It is impossible to capture the whole of this sub-continent in one book, however enormous that book may be. This is India before mass tourism, before mobile phones and when an elderly man with a shawl and a stick was the only security needed at night; before Bollywood and technology; before the country exploded into one of the world’s leading economies and before traffic pollution began to turn such treasures as the Taj Mahal yellow – an India where bullocks, cows and tongas took precedence over the motor car.’
It’s a delightful small book with a seductive cover, designed by Karen Dennison and Ronnie Goodyer (of IDP).