Criticism & Features

Year 2021: 30 Books

Cutlish by Rajiv Mohabir: 2021 Poetry Finalist

By Ruben Quesada

Cutlish by Rajiv Mohabir (Four Way)

Our need to belong is fundamental, and we find ways to make space for ourselves in society.
Queer Indo-Caribbean poet Rajiv Mohabir’s poetry blends language, personal, and colonial
histories. Mohabir’s poetic voices call on us to come together to reconcile the past. He reveals
the continued suffering of racialized forced labor and the economic deprivation it wreaked on
his family.

In the final long poem, “We Come in Planes,” in response to Mahadai Das’s Indo-Caribbean
classic poem “They Came in Ships,” Mohabir’s intergenerational narrative poem illustrates the
reconciliation of Indo-Caribbean people and their language:

Hear the old
time people say, Wha’ deh in rum—
nutin’na deh. Me go tek one
drink now an’go drunk
me go tek a cutlish an’run

The poem blends Hindustani, Creole, and English as it describes Mohabir’s family migration
from Guyana to Britain to North America across three generations. Cutlish is a celebratory,
landmark collection about the language and cultural history of Indo-Caribbean people.

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