What We Do in Solitary: Review of Amit Majmudar's Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita and What He Did in Solitary
(né Amanda Jernigan)
What We Do in Solitary
A Review of Amit Majmudar:
Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with Commentary
New York, New York: Knopf, 2018
ISBN 978-1-524-73347-6, 256 pp., USA $20.00, hardcover
What He Did in Solitary
New York, New York: Knopf, 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-65651-7, 164 pp., USA $27.00, hardcover
My life closed twice before its close—
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me
So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
— Emily Dickinson
Sometimes, in the midst of life, one’s body closes out on one: one dies before one’s time—little by little, or suddenly, one’s fists and knees becoming hoofs before one’s eyes.
They are huge and hopeless to conceive, these transformations: so radical they feel like deaths. Life on the other side of them feels less like survival than it does like resurrection. It is perhaps for this reason that the transformed (the new parent, say; the recovered addict; the trans person; the cancer survivor; . . .) make good believers: to believe in life after death, for such a person, is not belief at all—it is simply memory.
I thought about this frequently reading Amit Majmudar’s new collection What He Did in Solitary. Here is his “Poem Beginning with a Line by Ovid,” perhaps my favorite in the book:
Of bodies changed to other forms I tell
anybody who will listen. Listen: my uncle Rishi
changed into a blue heron’s reflection in water
and stared into the sky until the sun went down
on the day he died. He died of . . .
. . . . . . .
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