Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize and the 2015 Michael Murphy Memorial Prize
Vidyan Ravinthiran’s much-anticipated first collection contains many poems about Sri Lanka which fuse politics, personal history and myth. Yet his voice pitches itself not so much halfway between East and West as between emotional forthrightness and linguistic exuberance. Traditional forms contend with brusquer impulses in an era of technological distortion; without taking himself too seriously, the poet asks if perhaps we don’t take ourselves seriously enough.
These are poems of impassioned intelligence, which refuse to separate thought and feeling and seek not only to delight and disturb but to work through difficult problems. The intricacies of the modern relationship are reconnected with the historical world; translations, some from classical Tamil, ask how close two languages or two people can get. Indeed, Grun-tu-molani is concerned throughout with a range of human behaviours common to different societies – the need to assert oneself, save face, explain, and touch; the last of which would not be possible were it not for the distances between us.
'As a very rare kind of British poet indeed - one from a Sri Lankan background readers might expect Vidyan Ravinthiran to have a lot of important things to say. He does, but, like Oscar Wilde, whom this witty and ambitious debut quotes twice, Grun-tu-molani also delights in wrong-footing expectations of earnestness' – Jeremy Noel-Tod, Sunday Times.
'“Grun-tu-molani” is borrowed from Bellow’s phrase meaning “man wants to live” and Ravinthiran’s verse seems driven by a comparably urgent impulse, to perfect his craft. From translations of ancient Tamil texts to contemporary riffs on recession and technology, he combines formal range with wit as well as moral, sensual and emotional complexity' – Maria Crawford, Financial Times, Summer books 2014.
'Grun-tu-Molani brings a light touch and a sometimes damning elegance to subjects including MTV, a chair addressing Jackie Chan, the Tamil Tigers, militarism and the purpose of money – recalling the early Michael Hofmann as he does so, which is a good sign' – Sean O'Brien, Independent.
‘Gripping is not a word you usually associate with poetry, but Vidyan Ravinthiran’s poems are precisely that, and they seldom let go. They are full of surprising turns (and turns of phrase), and their humour can make you squirm, as humour should… A ferocious intelligence is at work in these poems, whose stylish armoured exterior reflects sometimes a literary scholar and sometimes a displaced person; sometimes contemporary Britain and sometimes ancient Sri Lanka’ – Arvind Krishna Mehrotra.