Eunice de’Souza

Eunice de Souza (1940) is the author of several books of poems. Her groundbreaking debut Fix was published in 1979 followed by Women in Dutch Painting (1988), Ways of Belonging (1990), A Necklace of Skulls (2009). Her poems are spare, unsettling, ironic, lyrical, referencing a landscape striated with relationships to city, lovers, pets and poetry itself. If Fix established her as a poet with an original and remarkable voice, learn from the Almond Leaf settles that reputation with a volume of poems more distilled, extracted, potent and ultimately utterly wise. Over the last forty years Eunice de Souza has distinguished herself as an inspirational teacher, influencing generations of undergraduates at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai; as a scholar of illuminating research into poetry written in English in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and poetry written by women; as an anthologist of several important collections of poetry the latest These My Words: The Penguin Book of Indian Poetry (2012) with Melanie Silgardo. She has also written two works of fiction Dangerlok (2001) and Dev and Simran (2003) as well as several books for children. She lives in Mumbai.

  • Learn from the Almond Leaf

    About the Book

    In these her late poems, the volcano that is Eunice de Souza is still erupting. As in her early work too, what she here ‘upchucks’ is lava, molten lines that burn and glow and leave a permanent mark. The tone, as before, is casual, bantering, close to the spoken idiom that is uniquely hers. When terrible things happen the tone changes, quickens, then relaxes again. Life is bemusing, ludicrous; death even more so. In the work of no other poet I can think of do you find such brevity and grandeur, swiftness of utterance and the unbearable weight of grief, unbearable because de Souza is so dry-eyed. ‘The crone’s still capable/of spite’ she writes in one poem, the old necklace-of-skulls self-irony intact, except that in her case ‘spite’ also means ‘wisdom’. It is easy to forget that the crone is deeply moral as well, and like any moral being she too feels that she’s lived ‘In the wrong season.’ There is plenty in these spare but unsparing poems to remind us of the classical virtues we associate with Bhartrhari, for instance, or a Latin epigrammatist like Martial. These are poems to live by. In time, they will come to be seen as classics of our literature, as many of her earlier poems already are. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra