a scrupulous meanness

by Shyamal Bagchee

Poetry 2004


"I don't think I've ever seen such cosmopolitan poetry that wears its cosmopolitanism so lightly, its idiom moving gracefully from East to West, Old World to New, seemingly at home anywhere: Russell Square, New Delhi, Saskatoon, South America, wherever. In any setting, however, the voice and idiom remain consistent, not much agitated and also not much bored by the world. With skies and birds and even bowls of cereal rendered with such devotion, one begins to feel that the sensations are not local and individual but universal and permanent. I would call this very convincing poetry.

There is a lifelike sense of process and progress, but not much mannered ceremony in inaugural preachments and grand conclusions There is further a sense of betweenness, with an homme moyen sensuel in middle age and also in a complex situation of what might be called middle culture to boot.

I see nothing mean in these poems, in any sense of mean, but I do see much that is scrupulous in all the good senses of paying attention and taking pains. This is a very distinguished collection indeed."

William Harmon, winner of the William Carlos Williams Prize and Lamont Award

"A scrupulous meanness—indeed. Pearls cast parsimoniously. Bittersweet, but not too much (of either); nicely modulated, restrained, controlled, lots of spaces in the writing—which make the occasional piercing line or image stand out the better (like the gusty monsoon which interrupts the Alberta landscape at the end of "the sixth season"—or the sparseness of 'refugees,' with its four deracinate objects and a curry house in Toledo)."

Derek Sayer, FRSC, FRHistS


Shyamal Bagchee is a habitual procrastinator: even middle-age perceptions have arrived late for him—as has poetry. He is the author of a previous book, GABARDINE AND OTHER POEMS, and he has nearly completed the manuscript of a third collection. Clearly, he is in some rush at this late stage. His other activities include teaching literature and writing criticism. He is the immediate past president (2001-2003) of the T.S. Eliot Society of America. Shyamal Bagchee lives in St. Albert, Alberta, and is a serious but amateur photographer.