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Favourite Poems: March 2018

This year, I’ve decided to read a poem a day. It gets difficult to quantify, sometimes, mainly because a) I’m exploring what’s poetry supposed to mean, and b) I like reading poetry collections. In addition to poem/day, I’m also trying to read a poetry collection each month*. (But at this point I’m sure I’m just showing off.)

But, since I am doing this for myself, and I am too lazy to think of things to blog about (unless you read my poetry blog where I post more often) I thought hey, why not combine the two, and compile a list of great poems I’ve read every month!

The idea for this series is for me to post at least four poems (one poem/week) that I especially enjoyed every month. This way I can keep a check on myself (with respect to reading) and have something to blog about.

I know it’s mid-April, but I’ve been especially lazy, okay? Bear with me.

Fr March, I’d decided to read non-white/straight/male poets. So I read a lot of translations, women poets, contemporary poets, etc. And I’m not a hipster to talk about that as an “experience”, but I realized how hard it is to find poems like that online.

But, here’s a list of my favourite poems for March:

1) The Patriot, by Nissim Ezekiel

I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,
I should say even 200% correct,
But modern generation is neglecting –
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.
Other day I’m reading newspaper
(Every day I’m reading Times of India
To improve my English Language)
How one goonda fellow
Threw stone at Indirabehn.
Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I am saying (to myself)
Lend me the ears.
Everything is coming –
Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.
Be patiently, brothers and sisters.
You want one glass lassi?
Very good for digestion.
With little salt, lovely drink,
Better than wine;
Not that I am ever tasting the wine.
I’m the total teetotaller, completely total,
But I say
Wine is for the drunkards only.
What you think of prospects of world peace?
Pakistan behaving like this,
China behaving like that,
It is making me really sad, I am telling you.
Really, most harassing me.
All men are brothers, no?
In India also
Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs
All brothers –
Though some are having funny habits.
Still, you tolerate me,
I tolerate you,
One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.
You are going?
But you will visit again
Any time, any day,
I am not believing in ceremony
Always I am enjoying your company.

I’m assuming he wrote this during The Emergency, but it is still relevant, right? To the point that I couldn’t believe it was written so long ago!

2) The Brocade Border, by Kanaka Ha. Ma
Trans: Arundhathi Subramaniam (from Telugu)

Tell me, how can a brocade sari
without an embellished border
be beautiful?
Isn’t it the border that carries,
with the susurus of pleats,
the imperious swathe of body and pallu?

Flowers, creepers, mangoes, grape-clusters, temples, peacocks …
the body, a sea of dreams
the pallu, a night sky.
But it is the quivering earth-edged border
that takes the breath away.
A simple-bordered sari without body or pallu
like the artless mirth of a woman unadorned.

Were she to turn around,
she’d be a serpent-streak across the fence,
here one moment and gone the next.

Hint of foot, radiant flicker of toe beneath border,
her gait, a shimmer of mehendi.

Try as you might to unravel this sari –
game of dice darting between its folds –
it will not yield the secret of its infinitude.

Of course, brocades are necessary to enhance the allure
of lovely women.
And to pin down the vagrant stars and moon
a beguiling sari is all you need.
Yes, we must learn to resist its seductions
but here anyway is a tip:
in today’s world, civilized folk are advised to attach
a matching ‘fall’ to safeguard their borders.

In all honesty, I heard the poet read it out loud in Telugu in a poetry reading I attended in February, and boy, don’t I wish I knew the language! That was my reaction to the poem Lonavala Dawn as well, a rather visceral poem in Chinese (that’s what it says on the website, not sure which language they are referring to exactly) about Lonavala, a small hill station not an hour from where I stay.

4) Nani, by Kamala Das

Nani, the pregnant maid hanged herself
In the privy one day. For three long hours
Until the police came, she was hanging there
A clumsy puppet, and when the wind blew
Turning her gently on the rope, it seemed
To us who were children then, that Nani
Was doing, to delight us, a comic
Dance…..The shrubs grew fast. Before
the summer’s end
The yellow flowers had hugged the doorway
and the walls. The privy, so abandoned,
Became an altar then, a lonely shrine
For a goddess who was dead. Another
Year or two, and, I asked my grandmother
One day, don’t you remember Nani, the dark
Plump one who bathed me near the well?
Grandmother
Shifted the reading glasses on her nose
And stared at me. Nani, she asked, who is she?
With that question ended Nani. Each truth
Ends thus with a query. It is this designed
Deafness that turns mortality into
Immortality, the definite into
The soft indefinite. They are lucky
Who ask questions and move on before
The answers come, those wise ones who reside
In a blue silent zone, unscratched by doubts
For theirs is the clotted peace embedded
In life, like music in the Koel’s egg,
Like lust in the blood, or like the sap in a tree.

I definitely didn’t expect what was going to happen in this poem, and good lord, was I shocked! I thought about the lines They are lucky/ Who ask questions and move on before/ The answers come for an unhealthily long time, and don’t think I’ll forget them any time soon.

5) Advice to women, by Eunice de Souza

Keep cats
if you want to learn to cope with
the otherness of lovers.
Otherness is not always neglect –
Cats return to their litter trays
when they need to.
Don’t cuss out of the window
at their enemies.
That stare of perpetual surprise
in those great green eyes
will teach you
to die alone.

*I read The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes as my poetry collection for the month, and again, I loved most of the poems in it.

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Favourite Poems: February 2018

This year, I’ve decided to read a poem a day. It gets difficult to quantify, sometimes, mainly because a) I’m exploring what’s poetry supposed to mean, and b) I like reading poetry collections. In addition to poem/day, I’m also trying to read a poetry collection each month. (But at this point I’m sure I’m just showing off.)

But, since I am doing this for myself, and I am too lazy to think of things to blog about (unless you read my poetry blog where I post more often) I thought hey, why not combine the two, and compile a list of great poems I’ve read every month!

The idea for this series is for me to post at least four poems (one poem/week) that I especially enjoyed every month. This way I can keep a check on myself (with respect to reading) and have something to blog about.

February has been a weirdly action-packed month for me in a way that’s not happened in years. So, maybe that inspired my favourite poems of the month. (Or at least the ones I’ve mentioned here).

So here’s a list of my favourite poems for Februaury:

1) My wife’s the reason anything gets done, by Lin Manuel Miranda.

If you know me at all in real life, you would know how much I love Lin Manuel Miranda as a person, as well as a writer. Sometimes, I want to chill with him, so he rubs off on me a little bit, and other times I wish I could just be with him so I learn how he’s so amazingly talented and pure… you get the drift.
This poem is the one he read out at the Tony’s as a tribute to the victims of the Orlando shooting. Boy, are we blessed for being alive at the same time as him.

My wife’s the reason anything gets done.
She nudges me towards promise by degrees.
She is a perfect symphony of one.
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play.
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day
This show is proof that history remembers.
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger.
We rise and fall, and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love;
Cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa’s symphony; Eliza tells her story.
Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.

Here’s him performing it: link

2) Daddy, by Sylvia Plath

I’d never really paid attention to Sylvia Plath, or had never really read her up until now, and boy what a big, big mistake that was! I wish i had her craft or emotions while writing, because it oozes out of her words and gets to me like I’ve never really felt before.

Here’s an excerpt:

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do

And here’s the entire poem, which I thought was genius!*

3) Every Day You Play, by Pablo Neruda

I cannot get the notion that Neruda is a paedophile** away even as I read this, but if I push it away, this poem is so beautiful. Of course, I even wrote a post inspired by it. It’s just too beautiful, I think.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

Here’s the link to the entire poem.

 

4) Dreams, by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes is one of my favourite poets, mainly because he taught me that poetry could send out a social message. I’m not saying he’s the first poet to do that, but his is the first poetry I read that made me realize that it is possible.

This is the entire poem:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

 

*I read Ariel as my poetry collection for the month, and I loved most of the poems in it. So, also check out: Tulips, Lady Lazarus, and Cut. I mean how can someone write so wonderfully!!! Beyond me. Besides, the foreword by her daughter almost made me cry. (Maybe I should have written some stuff down for a book reaction post?)

**I generally cannot separate the art from the artist, so posting this is quite weird. But then again, I really like the idea of I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees now that I kind of understand it.


What Spring does with Cherry Trees.

I have never been the Live Fast, Die Young kind of a person. But sometimes, I wish that were not the case.

Thus situation was not supposed to be a thing. This situation was supposed to be a touch and go, something that was fun, uncomplicated, and just a tad bit out of my comfort zone.

It’s become so, so much more. I should have realized (or remembered?) that I don’t do anything half-assed. I should have realised that I was going to go all in, because that’s just who I am. I should have realized that no matter how blasé I am, there are things that don’t work like that.

When I first read I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees, I had no idea what that meant. But knowing you, in your rawest of forms, and yet, not at all, I know what that means. I know what Neruda meant when he said that, because you are the spring and I am the cherry tree.

Some days, I think I remember you as you were before you existed- raw glitter and stardust. I see pieces of you and think, oh, I know you more than I did yesterday, and that’s enough. I see pieces of you and marvel at all the beautiful things the universe has to offer. Maybe the universe isn’t offering it to me, but I marvel still.

I want to write your names in the stars, and the moon. I want to write your name in the vapours of clouds and the smokes of fire, for I’m sure there’s nothing more beautiful than it. I’m sure there’s no name more beautiful than mine on your lips. I’m sure there is no sound more beautiful than the chirpy mornings after you’ve let me in.

There will come a day when all of this ceases to exist, and I will think of this day, writing you an ode with bliss and a contented smile. And I will, one day, think of you as Early Christmas. A life lesson. A lesson in love, and in the beauty of hope and possibility.

Till then, however, I will let your words rain over me. And I will be happy with you for teaching me what it means to be incandescently happy, even if it were momentary. And I will let you do with me spring does with the cherry trees.