If one were to count the poets recited, the score was England - 4, India - 2, Lebanon, Germany, Chile, USA, Caribbean - 1 each. Mystic poets, Rastafarian poets, pastoral poets, epic poets, free verse poets, austere poets, and poets of magical illumination arose from the dusty pages of the past to treat the readers to a feast of words. To paraphrase Pablo Neruda, poetry arrived Mar 4 in search of our readers.
Sadly, two of our devoted readers, Amita Palat and Talitha Mathew, will be leaving Kochi. We had a farewell lunch for them next day. However, we hope to have Talitha participating whenever she can make the journey from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi for our readings. Perhaps virtual readings using the power of the Internet can overcome the distance. But how to simulate "the fun, frolic, and the frenzied free-for-alls"? — to quote Talitha.
Attending: Bobby, Thommo , Talitha, Amita, KumKum, Joe, Indira, Minu, Soma, Zakia
The next session for reading the novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce will be on Friday April 8, 2011, at the Cochin Yacht Club library.
Benjamin Zephaniah was born and raised in Birmingham, England, son of a Barbadian father and Jamaican mother.
Zephaniah had little formal education and has been to prison. He became ill and took to poetry as a balm. Yet, he has written books and plays. Although he had been performing since the age of ten, and there was all this poetry in his head, he never wrote it down until the age of twenty-one. He has set out to popularise poetry. In this interview:
he tells about his being brought up by a mother who was illiterate. She would remember recipes in rhyme, for that's how she got the knowledge from her mother. That was the first poetry Zephaniah heard, in the old tradition of bardic chanting. Poetry was all around him although books were not. He believes in oral performance and is confident that teenage boys will read, if the stories are relevant to their lives.
The poem goes on to say If you have not opened up, you have not tried. He is performing poetry in the style of the bards, who sang or chanted and lent their breath to what they had to say, rhythmically, with a beat. Although poetry acquired formal things like meter from that tradition, we moderns have lost the performing spirit, except that there are those like Zephaniah who rediscover it naturally, from an African tradition. He says “Jamaican is English with an African rhythm, if you like”.
In the poem Amita recited titled De Rong Song, Zephaniah urges Don't worry /Be happy, and in a sudden reversal at the end, says Don't happy /Be worried. This poem reminds one of the lyrics to a song Bobby McFerrin wrote on the same theme in 1988, which became a hit and won a Grammy in 1989. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_Worry,_Be_Happy :
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy......
are dying, but the egrets stalk through the rain
as if nothing mortal can affect them, or they lift
like abrupt angels, sail, then settle again.
After his death Gibran was buried in Bsharri in his native Lebanon where a museum has come up to preserve his memory. He wrote that even after death, I am alive and standing beside you. You can read more about his life at
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
Zakia finds a lot of vaguely soothing philosophy in his writing. Bobby said his works were popular on college campuses, and sometimes served as vicarious shorthand for moonstruck lovers. Indira added that Gibran has more votaries among women. KumKum said this is similar to the following J.D. Salinger has on American campuses, but Joe thought what Salinger described is a remote past in America, and not quite relevant to the present campus mood; yet Salinger, because he is a prescribed author in American literature courses on a thousand campuses, is still in print and his stories are known.
A tear and a smile
Lalon Shah had a perceptible influence on Rabindranath Tagore, who introduced the Baul tradition of Bengal to the world. Tagore's music has been influenced significantly by the diversity of Baul tradition. The American poet Allen Ginsberg was also inspired by Lalon Shah in his poem After Lalon, which is included in his poetry collection Cosmopolitan Greetings.
how does it fly in and out?
Joe thought that like Zephaniah's poetry this Baul poem is really a song, and meant to be sung, for Bauls never merely recited. The word Saiin signifies the Divine person. The poem has been translated by many people, and Indira questioned how accurate the translations are to the letter and the spirit of the original. There are many approaches to translating poetry, but in all of them something is lost. She said the readers need to hear it sung in Bengali.
I could not care a tinker's dam!
What's pretty is not wool, but dough;
That's what you'll need to be my beau.
had heard of this game:
(see http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090209223537AA5Wtua )
Repeat verse 3
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Castries HarborWhen the stars self were young over Castries,
I loved you alone and I loved the whole world.
What does it matter that our lives are different?
Burdened with the loves of our different children?
When I think of your young face washed by the wind
and your voice that chuckles in the slap of the sea?
The lights are out on La Toc promontory,
except for the hospital. Across at Vigie
the marina arcs keep vigil. I have kept my own
promise, to leave you the one thing I own,
you whom I loved first: my poetry.
We here for one night. Tomorrow, the Flight will be gone.
A Tear and a Smile
Fakir Lalon Shah
As I Ponder’d in Silence
(From Part 1 of Faust)
The shepherd decked him for the dance,
In ribbons, vest, and wreath to prance,
Adorned with fine arraying.
Now round the linden lass and lad
Were thronging, dancing there like mad.
Thus fiddle-bow was playing.
He crowded and he pushed in haste,
Then bumped into a maiden's waist,
Elbow against her laying.
The lively damsel turned her head:
"I find that stupid, now!" she said.
"Don't be so rude and swaying!"
Then round and round they winged their flight,
They danced to left, they danced to right,
All petticoats displaying.
They grew so red, they grew so warm,
Then rested panting, arm in arm,
On hip the elbow staying.
"I say, don't make so free with me!
How many fooled his bride-to-be,
Deceiving and betraying!"
And yet he coaxed her to one side,
And from the linden far and wide:
Rang shouts and fiddle-playing.Old Peasant. Good Doctor, this is fine of you,
That you don't scorn us here today,
And now amid this crowding throng,
A highly-learned man, you stray.
Hence take in turn the finest mug
That with a fresh, cool drink we've filled.
I pledge you, sir, and wish aloud
Not only that your thirst be stilled:
For every drop the mug conveys,
A day be added to your days!Faust. I take the refreshing drink and thus I too
Return the health with thanks to all of you.
The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
With coral clasps and amber studs;
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.
If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.
To wayward winter reckoning yields:
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten,—
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.
provide the sta[le fo your lines?
Turn inward. Scrape the bottom of your past.
Ransack the cupboard
for skeletons of your Brahmin chldhood
(the nights with father dreaming
the Four Thousand3 as sleep
pinched your things blue). You may then,
Perhaps, strike out a line for yourself
from the iron of your life's ordinariness.
And so it eventually happened—·
stood there, that day, forty years taller
Hawks in ripples circumscribe my vision.
prod the stone-carrion
3. Collection of Tamil hymns written between the fifth and ninth centuries A.D.
4. Rock-cut temples at Mamallapuram near Madras.
5. King whose penance brought the Ganga from heaven down to earth.
Canto XII from The Heights of Macchu Picchu
Arise to birth with me, my brother. Give me your hand out of the depths sown by your sorrows. You will not return from these stone fastnesses. You will not emerge from subterranean time. Your rasping voice will not come back, nor your pierced eyes rise from their sockets. Look at me from the depths of the earth, tiller of fields, weaver, reticent shepherd, groom of totemic guanacos, mason high on your treacherous scaffolding, iceman of Andean tears, jeweler with crushed fingers, farmer anxious among his seedlings, potter wasted among his clays-- bring to the cup of this new life your ancient buried sorrows. Show me your blood and your furrow; say to me: here I was scourged because a gem was dull or because the earth failed to give up in time its tithe of corn or stone. Point out to me the rock on which you stumbled, the wood they used to crucify your body. Strike the old flints to kindle ancient lamps, light up the whips glued to your wounds throughout the centuries and light the axes gleaming with your blood. I come to speak for your dead mouths. Throughout the earth let dead lips congregate, out of the depths spin this long night to me as if I rode at anchor here with you. And tell me everything, tell chain by chain, and link by link, and step by step; sharpen the knives you kept hidden away, thrust them into my breast, into my hands, like a torrent of sunbursts, an Amazon of buried jaguars, and leave me cry: hours, days and years, blind ages, stellar centuries. And give me silence, give me water, hope. Give me the struggle, the iron, the volcanoes. Let bodies cling like magnets to my body. Come quickly to my veins and to my mouth. Speak through my speech, and through my blood.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree : Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls and towers were girdled round : And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ; And here were forests ancient as the hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover ! A savage place ! as holy and enchanted As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover ! And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, A mighty fountain momently was forced : Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail : And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever It flung up momently the sacred river. Five miles meandering with a mazy motion Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, Then reached the caverns measureless to man, And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean : And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war ! The shadow of the dome of pleasure Floated midway on the waves ; Where was heard the mingled measure From the fountain and the caves. It was a miracle of rare device, A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice ! A damsel with a dulcimer In a vision once I saw : It was an Abyssinian maid, And on her dulcimer she played, Singing of Mount Abora. Could I revive within me Her symphony and song, To such a deep delight 'twould win me, That with music loud and long, I would build that dome in air, That sunny dome ! those caves of ice ! And all who heard should see them there, And all should cry, Beware ! Beware ! His flashing eyes, his floating hair ! Weave a circle round him thrice, And close your eyes with holy dread, For he on honey-dew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise. Samuel Taylor Coleridge