ABOUT THE POEM In ‘Thomas Jefferson in Kathmandu,’ Ravi Shankar attempts an audacious poetic cross-hatching in one of the most challenging poetic forms in English: the terza rima. Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, is recalled by the American lyric speaker among the jostling crowds of Kathmandu, and echoes of his words and memories of his image are braided into scenes of labour, democracy and devotion in a country “on the other side of the world” from Jefferson’s own arena.
Shankar’s sense of pace and rhythm are infectious: as much as the mind wants to dwell on the details of the poem’s argument to extract its meaning, so the eye and ear want to speed forward to hold the poem’s sound on an even keel. As the poem draws towards its ringing close, the speaker, via Jefferson and Kathmandu, holds up his own little “book of wisdom” for this world: the poem.
Thomas Jefferson in Kathmandu
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