IN HIS BOOK ON THE ART OF THE NOVEL, The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts (2007), Milan Kundera defines the novelist by contrast with the lyric poet. He believes that the inspiration for lyric poetry is the young poet himself. This is the lyrical attitude—this heightened self-interest. When the poet understands that there is more to the world than himself and his own emotions, he moves into the attitude of the novelist, “the novelist being born from the ruins of his lyrical world”.
Kundera had already explored the nature of the poetic attitude in his novel Life is Elsewhere (Životje jinde, 1969), about the sentimental poet, Jaromil who embraces the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948. Despite Kundera’s disclaimer at the novel’s end (“Don’t say that Jaromil is a bad poet! That would be too cheap an explanation of his life’s story!”), it is difficult not to feel that this idea—youth marks the lyrical age—is but one step away from the belief that the poetic attitude is juvenile.
Dom Moraes’s poems as well as his life story are inescapably tied up with this idea of charmed and self-absorbed youth. The Bombay-born poet of Goan and ‘East Indian’ descent—the latter term referring to Bombay residents who converted to Catholicism under the Portuguese—published his first book, a stylish account of the cricket matches he had watched on his journeys around the world with his journalist father, at the age of 13. While still a teenager in London, he adopted the persona of the solitary poet and the idea of poetry as something that exerts a primordial pull. In a poem from that era he writes: