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Oh My Rub! - Daljit Nagra

Review by Mario Petrucci

The poetry pamphlet's long lineage - from the loins of its twelfth-century protomorph (Pamphilus, seu de Amore) via the likes of Luther, Pascal and the Chartists - seems far from petering out. This inaugural haul included collaborations inspired by Manga videos and hip-hop (Loungin' Ltd), sorties to rescue literary canon (Rilke, Dedalus; TH Parry-Williams, Shoestring) and powerfully-accomplished prison work (Tim Liardet, Smith/Doorstop). True, websites are now the more visible vehicle for subversive plurality; but Oh My Rub! still carries something of the pamphlet's ancestral gene for topical debate. Daljit Nagra's rich narratives, however, confront religious difference, caste and the confusions of modern identity without ever talking themselves into mere topicality. His stanzas are rooms for Punjabi and English to meet - yes; but with friction as well as opportunity (the Punjabi for 'God', ironically, is 'Rub') and as multicultural go-between his sharp observations cut both ways.

His is a relevance that counts: vital, direct, colloquial - yet vulnerable, risky. Pamphlet verse can balance the boustrophedon extensiveness of books by turning a single idiosyncratic furrow; flush with awkward humanity, Nagra does just that. Refreshingly lived in rather than reconnoitred, these poems generate a 'culturo-linguistic synaesthesia' where cultural references and language are mutually energised, whose multiple immediacies - crucially - address our fluxile times: "Oh my Rub, what is England happening for us?"


copyright mario petrucci 2001