Review by Theresa Wolfwood
The poems in this book are powerful messages about the cruelty and violence, often hidden and denied, in families, communities and countries. Although Grover is rooted in his own Indian culture there is a painful universality about the revelations in his poems. He travels from the intimacy of the bedroom to the assumption of male superiority in community to the cry for justice globally. Where there is violence and oppression there is always resistance and it is the power of that resistance that brings hope and redemption to perpetrators and victims alike.
In For the Maid Next Morning, we observe the woman of the house faking meals consumed so the maid, who has her own resistance to oppression she is the neighbourhood gossip, will talk about a happy family… she will go to other homes/ to clean, where they will chitchat/ in envy about/ Mrs. Marwah’s food-loving family… All traces of… black hair on floor/ pulled from her skull the night before… will have been removed.
In Stitching Hope Nafisa confined to perpetual housework, stitches her resistance into flowers which she embroiders on household linen so thickly that… or every time she eats/ from her plate on/ that table cloth,/ she would find hope stitched./
Grover has the capacity to vividly describe a moment in history when everything can change for the person in the poem. He can choose a word that cuts to the heart of the reader. In ‘Jubilant’ the title itself describes the feeling of rapists; even more damning is the announcement of a male politician that ‘boys will be boys’ while a raped girl …showered herself in kerosene slapped/ a few match sticks on the stone….
In Building Bridges, a title that can mean many things, even to create social change, Grover uses it literally to express the universality of the power of the wealthy to destroy the lives of the poor is captured in a few vivid lines. A slum is razed for the speed and convenience of the wealthy to build a new bridge. “…There is a new/ flyover in my town:/ now we can drive/ even faster to school.”
Grover celebrates the human spirit in Wrist Bands for a youth worker in Ireland who saves many young people from despair with his loving counsel and they thank him when… they have chosen to return/ from bridges and cliffs/ each time/ gifting Ivan a wrist band…
In every poem Grover writes he is holding up a mirror and asking us, the readers and his community, to dig inside our souls. That is the true role of poetry; Grover’s poems are true to the art.