The poems in Series | India explore the rich borderlands between the familiar and the foreign, illumination and opacity, gods and charlatans, through the braided, sometimes unstable narratives of young Westerners in India. In lyrics deeply informed by Gray’s study and experience in India, and formally characterized by shifting and juxtaposed perceptions, perspectives, and voices, we encounter a young couple seeking refuge and enlightenment in a place where the lines between the divine, the human, the gorgeous, the deadly, and the hilarious are often indistinct.
“20 At the Shore Temple,” from Series | India:
Dawn breaks over the Bay of Bengal and waves
cherish the low steps and the statues’ broken feet.
Surely this is all. Everything I would share with you
is here at this tide and temple.
Stay with me, Mother. Watch the gulls.
In our other life I will tell you who we were
this morning, here, on this beach.
“With her invocation of John Ashbery at the head of her long poem, Elizabeth Gray takes aim at an older mood that surrealism and modernism divided between them: Shakespearean woe-or-wonder, the Sublime, and the marvel. Her little band of American travelers, in their muddled breakthrough passage to India, refracts what the writer more clearly and subtly has found there. As one of several works that will be geographically centered while plotted by ‘field,’ it commences a spiritual adventure, a passage through India and on out.” – John Peck
“In a gorgeously-woven book-length sequence of poems that moves from New York to India, from a dying mother to a motley group of spiritual seekers, Liz Gray masterfully explores human desire and ambivalence as well as the contemporary world’s inescapable mélange of the crass and the divine. These poems delight in the linguistic opportunities of Sanskrit texts and myths as well as our own Modernist canon. Gray possesses a fine poetic intelligence, as humble and compassionate as it is keen.” – Jennifer Grotz
“It’s virtually impossible to write about India without getting it all or in part wrong; the world’s largest democracy resists characterization as a monolithic entity, pulses chaotically with beggary and beauty, color and corruption, plunges into depths of spiritual perception manifest in a host of competing languages and customs. Elizabeth T. Gray manages with great skill and invention to thread together a sublime garland of poems that are simultaneously lyrically, formally and narratively complex, that enter into the heart of the Vedas with wit and weight, vigorously bringing alive blossoms of engagement with this ancient culture and its intersection with American yearning, never exoticizing its people and traditions, never relying on the expected conjecture, but rather using the gift of language to create song and sanctuary. ‘Doesn’t love dismember ourselves?,’ a poem in the collection asks, ‘Every curve and secretion offered up? / Afterward you pick up your skin and go home.’ Readers will find, heading home better revealed to themselves, that the voice of these poems continues to resonate and that like the banyan tree, an epiphyte whose seeds germinate in the crevices of a host tree, that these poems have taken root in the mind, creating a sacred place of shelter and revelation.” – Ravi Shankar
“The wisdom here is accessible even for readers unfamiliar with the Bhagavad Gita and other spiritual texts and the speaker is relatable in her willingness to share the questions, reasoning, and doubts that she experiences while in India and in the time following. ” Read the full review.