Magazine article World Literature Today

Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine

Magazine article World Literature Today

Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine

Article excerpt

Daljit Nagra. Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy- Machine. London. Faber & Faber. 2011. isbn 9780571264902

Daljit Nagra's Look We Have Coming to Dover! (2007) was a deserving winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection-a stunning verbal assault on British late colonial ill-manners and moral bankruptcy, as provocative as it was formally ambitious. Nagra's language was powerful and strange, offbeat with its peppering of hybrid Punjabi. It offered, as Boyd Tonkin rightly observed, vigorous "snapshots of the British Asian story."

His second collection had a lot to live up to. Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine displays many of the polymath poetics, the verbal gymnastics, but without the finely crafted subtlety of his debut. This is what Nagra himself labels "my roaring verse," and at times his roar is a rant is a rave is a venting yell. In "A Black History of the English Speaking Peoples," he writes: "Am I a noble scruffwho hopes a proud / academy might canonize / his poems for their faith in canonical allusions? / Is my voice phoney over these halfheard beats? / Well if my voice feels vexatious, what can I but pray / that it reign Bolshie / through puppetry and hypocrisy full of gung-ho fury!"

Fury there is, in plenty, and not a little puppetry. Nagra speaks through a multiplicity of voices. And hypocrisy? Well, if there were such a thing as a British literary establishment, Nagra's chosen house, Faber & Faber, would be at its center. …

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