Sunday, October 4, 2015

Poetry Session – Oct 1, 2015

Talitha, Shoba, Pamela

It is rare that two readers select the same poet, and another reader repeats the same poet and same poem, unknowingly. Both unusual events took place as seven readers met to perform their chosen poems.

KumKum, Zakia, Sunil

Two anniversaries were marked by the selection of poets. Dante Alighieri, born 1265, had his 750th birth anniversary celebrated this year in June. In a New Yorker article John Kleiner attempts to explain why he occupies so high a place in Italy, and in world literature:

Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321)

The other anniversary was the 150th year after publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

You can see the obvious enjoyment on our faces at the end of the session which a few could not attend who had confirmed:

Sunil, Zakia, Pamela, KumKum, Talitha, Shoba, Joe

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Ántonia by Willa Cather – Sep 18, 2015

My Ántonia  First Edition 1918

Six of us met to read from this classic novel of American Literature. H.L. Mencken, the acerbic critic from Baltimore, said: “I know of no novel that makes the remote folk of the western prairies more real . . . and I know of none that makes them seem better worth knowing.” He added, “No romantic novel ever written in America, by man or woman, is one half so beautiful as My Ántonia.”
Priya, Shoba, Talitha

Nevertheless two of the readers struggled to find a coherent plot until one realised there was not meant to be a plot at all, just a series of sketches by Jim, the adult city-living lawyer, of his early childhood on the prairie in Nebraska. It is a novel of nostalgic remembrance into which enters the enigmatic Ántonia, a girl a few years older, in whom Jim invests all his romantic longing.


KumKum who chose the novel for reading was loyal in defence of its merits, and could answer all the objections others raised. She had studied this novel in one of her lit courses in West Virginia University. A matter unnoticed by other readers was the pervasive class distinctions that separated the children, and was imposed by their parents, or in Jim's case, by his grandparents. There goes egalitarian America!

KumKum listens to Zakia reading

There are astonishing descriptions of the prairie in this novel and many of its best passages are about nature. Of sex there is nothing, zilch (Ántonia has no Oomph! was Priya's verdict). But there is plenty of nostalgia to justify the epigraph of the poem taken from Virgil's Georgics, Book III: Optima dies … prima fugit (the best days are the first to flee).

KumKum, Joe, Priya

Here we are, with the new grandmother, seated in the centre:

back: Joe, Zakia, Priya sitting: KumKum, Talitha, Shoba

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Poetry Session – August 13, 2015

Our second monsoon session of poetry featured no poems about rain, but we welcomed a young visitor in Nikita Cherian, the niece of Talitha, and a new member, Saraswathy Rajendran.

KumKum, Shoba, Priya, Sunil, Kavita, Nikita, Talitha, Pamela, Saraswathy

 We also created a record of sorts for the hard copy size of a handout (10cm x 10 cm) and font size (9pt) so that an A4 page could be arranged to produce 6 copies! This was Priya's feat. She also displayed a degree of loyalty to our reading group worthy of emulation.


A poet whose name rhymes with love came to the rescue of Sunil (see and we have a video of her performing the poem Sunil chose at the White House, introduced by the President of America.

Nikita, Talitha, Pamela, Saraswathy

Since August is the month when we recall the horror of the atom bomb, on this 70th anniversary of Hiroshima we got to hear the poetic voice of a hibakusha (atom bomb survivor).

Cakes for KumKum's Birthday: Gopa, Kavita, Nikita, Talitha, Pamela, KumKum

We also had poems by a major poet in Indian English in the twentieth century, Nissim Ezekiel. The session wound up with a poet of Bengal dear to people on both sides of the border, in a fine translation of two short poems.

Cakes for KumKum's Birthday: Saraswathy & Shoba

Here we stand at the end of the session, which included a brief cake distribution and singing for KumKum on her birthday, two days prior to the meeting.

Joe, Sunil, KumKum, Gopa, Talitha, Pamela, Kavita, Saraswathy, Shoba, Nikita (Priya had to leave early)