Monday, March 11, 2013

Poetry Session ‒ Mar 8, 2013



Ten readers enjoyed the poems of ten poets at this session, the second of the year on Poetry. Men and women were evenly represented among the readers, but the poets were predominantly male.

 KumKum & Thommo

Three poets were read in translation from Urdu, Russian, and Persian, including the incomparable Mirza Ghalib, and the great poet of the Russias, Alexander Pushkin.

 Priya

International Women’s Day was celebrated on the same day. Aptly, we read the poems of two fearless women , Maya Angelou and Forough Farrokhzad, who battled the burdens imposed on women by society. In addition, we considered the matter of whether women hereabouts are flustered  by the admiring gaze of men!

 Kavita & Talitha

We welcomed back two readers who had long been missing from our company, Bobby and Kavita. Here we are after the evening’s reading

 Priya, Talitha, Kavita, KumKum, Zakia, Thommo, Bobby, Mathew, Sunil, Joe

To read more click below …


Full Account and Record of the Poetry Session Mar 8, 2013

Present: Priya, Bobby, Mathew, Sunil, Zakia, Kavita, KumKum, Talitha, Thommo,  Joe
Absent: Sivaram (traveling), Gopa (detained at school unexpectedly)

June 14 is the date set for reading Zorba The Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis (selection of Gopa and Sivaram). The next reading is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (selection of Bobby & Kavita) on April 12.

In the case of  Wodehouse all the selections in the book edited by Stephen Fry (What Ho! : The Best of P. G. Wodehouse) are assigned for reading at the Aug 2013 session. Mathew mentioned that his daughter heard Thommo speak at her school (Choice) and present his slideshow of the great 2012 trip around India in a Tata Nano car.



Bobby Poem by William Henry Davies (1871 –1940)



Davies was a Welsh poet and writer. He spent a lot of time tramping around in USA and UK.  In his time he was a popular poet.  He wrote about life's hardships,  and the human condition as it is reflected by nature.  Naturally, his adventures on the road figure a lot in his writing, and the characters he met populate his work. The poem Bobby read is a quiet one, that laments the loss from our being busy with life and not having time to be still and contemplate the views that nature affords us every day. Davies ends his poem:
A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Talking of ‘stare’ Joe recalled an article on International Women’s Day that appeared in The Hindu that took exception to men staring at women. One Ms Subbulakhsmi  has been the victim apparently of the “Malayali male gaze that scorches every woman.”  Here’s the link:

That gaze Talitha said is a cross between a stare and a leer. Joe was forgiven his looking because it doesn’t belong to the objectionable Mallu variety. He mentioned that the reaction of women to the male gaze is quite different in Italy; there, if a woman was not looked at as she passed by she’d think , ‘what’s wrong with me;’ and decide to emigrate, said, Mathew! And as Mae West noted: It is better to be looked over than overlooked.

Priya  said it was agreed by the women in a TV panel discussion that a woman being labeled ‘sexy’ is a compliment, and not necessarily a sexist remark.


Joe Two Ghazals by Mirza Ghalib (1797-1869) translated by Joe


I have chosen two ghazals of Mirza Ghalib, the glorious poet of Delhi, famous in India and Pakistan.  But first a little about the man who was born Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan in the Ballimaran quarter of Old Delhi, near the Jumma Masjid. He took the pen name of Ghalib, meaning ‘dominant,’ and so he was in his time. He was a witness to the Indian Mutiny and the suppression that followed and the ravaging of the courtly havelis . He had an easy manner, and made lots of friends, whom he showered with letters. The letters form a point of departure in creating a simpler and more straightforward style of prose in Urdu. He confessed his aim in letter-writing to a friend: “Main koshish karta hoon keh koi aisi baat likhoon jo parhay khoosh ho jaaye.” Which I translate as a couplet thus:
Such joy I had in writing this —
You too on reading, shall not miss

His letters were written in a conversational style;  800 survive and were dramatised in a play by Sayeed Alam in which the recipients of his letters figure as characters, including his wife. He was conscious of his stature among his contemporaries:
Hain aur bhi duniya mein sukhanwar bahut achhe /Kahte hain ki Ghalib ka hai andaz-e-bayan aur
There be good poets besides,
But in Ghalib’s voice perfection lies.

Another curious fact is that he gave his individual poems away, so much so that he has become one of the paragons of the Free and Open Software movement. He wrote: Bik jaate hain hum aap mata-e-sukhan ke saath /Lekin ayar-e-taba-e-kharidar dekh kar
My poems, though free, I shall not waste,
By giving to those who have no taste.

As a person Ghalib was liberal, and free, imbibing wine, but not eating pork. In his youth there was a beloved who dislocated his existence; how much, can be gauged from the outpouring of ghazals in his lifetime. His life was a continual  struggle to obtain the patronage of rulers, the nawabs and the British. He struggled with debts all his life. He wrote in Persian and in Urdu. 

Before I recite a ghazal or two, a brief introduction to the form is in order. A ghazal (meaning, a conversation with the beloved) is a traditional form of poetry in Arabic, Persian and Urdu with a few simple rules. It is written in 5 to 12 groups of two-liners, called shers. Each sher stands by itself. The first sher is the Matla, and sets out the pattern to be followed in two respects, the Radif and the Qaaffiyaa. The Radif is the ending word (or words) of the second line of the Matla, and it must be repeated as the ending words of every second line of succeeding shers. The word that precedes the Radif is called the Qaafiyaa and it must be rhymed with words in the corresponding position in all the shers of the ghazal. One more rule is that the last sher, the Maqta, should reference in an imaginative way the author by his Takhallus, or pen-name. That’s all there is to it.

Ghalib collected a few hundred of his ghazals in the Diwaan-e-Ghalib. The first ghazal I have chosen is Koi ummeed bar nahin aati. Ghalib is writing autobiographically with the destruction of Delhi in mind. He is sombre. In the last sher he reflects on the fond Muslim image of the Kaaba in Mecca but declares himself unworthy. 

 Mirza Ghalib's maqbara in Nizamuddin, New Delhi - the enclosure was built by the Ghalib Society

The second ghazal, Aah ko chaiye ek umr asr hone tak, is a more complex reflection on the impossible challenges of love. I have selected 5 of the 7 shers that compose the ghazal, the ones that appealed to me. The rather free translations are mine. I have used standard English couplets or quatrains for the shers, with as many feet as needed. ‘nahin aati’ is the Radif which repeats, and ‘nazar’ is the Qaafiyaa, of the first ghazal; ‘hone tak’ is  is the Radif which repeats, and ‘sar’ is the Qaafiyaa, of the second.

I will only read the original and interpret it as best I can, and leave the translations for you to read on your own. One of the endearing features of a ghazal is that the language is on occasion ambiguous, and yields several  interpretations. Perhaps this is the natural result of complex thoughts being condensed in this demanding form.

After Joe’s reciting and explanation of the verses, KumKum wished he could sing it; out of the question, although Joe thinks there is as much merit in reciting the verses as they would be at a mushaira, as in singing it in a classical raga at a performance. For renditions of these two ghazals as song, the reader can look up Youtube. Here are two versions:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSU9zoem4EM
Ghulam Ali singing Aah ko chaiye ek umr asr hone tak

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItA_Vqe73DU 
Begum Akhtar ‘s rendition of Koi ummeed bar nahin aati



Thommo A poem by Philip Levine (born 1928)


The poet’s biography is extensively treated at

Working in the auto plants of Detroit he saw that the people were voiceless and decided he would be the one to speak for them. A critic said, “Levine has returned again and again in his poems to the lives of factory workers trapped by poverty and the drudgery of the assembly line, which breaks the body and scars the spirit.”

In the poem chosen by Thommo there are lots of poetic words, but it written like prose, with almost arbitrary line divisions. That led to a discussion of the virtues of prose and poetry and the distinction. To KumKum it seemed that the best prose tends toward poetry. Others agreed, but Joe thought the merit of prose is to be clear and persuasive and unambiguous in the exposition, to shun the flourishes that abound in poetry, and use only the known and well-described art of rhetoric. Clean prose, like George Orwell’s, never tends to poetry.

Joe recalls a piece of wit by one of the great physicists of the twentieth century, Paul Dirac, who said: “In prose you say something that nobody knew before, in words which everyone can understand. In poetry you are bound to say something that everybody knows already, in words that nobody can understand.”

Talitha drew attention to the last lines of the poem:
Fact is, silence is the perfect water:
unlike rain it falls from no clouds
to wash our minds, to ease our tired eyes,
to give heart to the thin blades of grass

She said the thought is poetic, though not the form perhaps.

Priya noted that people write poetically about architecture.

Joe remarked on the wildly hyperbolic, and often meaningless, writing indulged in by art commentators and those who write liner notes in art catalogues. It’s a lingo called ‘artspeak.’ See http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2013/jan/27/users-guide-international-art-english

KumKum came up with her own model of good prose: Oscar Wilde in his stories for children, such as The Happy Prince. On the other hand she is often misled by movie reviews which write attractively about movies, but disappoint her when actually viewed.


KumKum  Four poems by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)


Langston Hughes was a major  figure in Modern American Literature. He was born in Missouri in 1902 and died in Harlem in 1967. Hughes graduated from Columbia University.  During his years at Columbia he explored and imbibed the art scene of Harlem, the black dominated community in uptown New York. He was one of the artists who helped bring about the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s.

 Langston Hughes was the first Black American litterateur to support himself from his writings. He was a poet, essayist, short-story writer,  and playwright. He wrote a few novels and books for black children, as well. But, he was a poet foremost, and the depth and variety of his poems speak for that.

His oeuvre testifies to how he felt for his community;  their hopes, disappointments and pains are the theme of his work. He was an outspoken man. He drew the ire of the then powerful and bigoted Senator McCarthy, who did not let off Hughes easily. Hughes also caused a furor among his Black patrons. Both these incidents caused some set-backs in his career. Yet, he continued to write till the end.

I shall now read the poems I chose  of Langston Hughes:



Talitha A poem each by Walter de la Mare (1873–1956 ) & George William Russell (1867-1935)

Walter de la Mare portrait by William Rothens

The poem The Listeners by Walter de la Mare has a medieval air about it which attracted Talitha.  KRG Readers of different vintages confessed to reading this poem, ranging from almost sixty years ago, to forty, thirty and twenty years ago, at some early stage of their education.

Talitha liked some of the words in it, for instance, shadowiness. She noted the contrast between the the silence on the one hand, and the banging on the door, while the horse is distractedly champing on the grass, unconcerned. Walter de la Mare is known as the chief exemplar of the romantic imagination. The word ‘childhood’ is associated with him. A collection of his finest poems for children is titled Peacock Pie. Talitha wanted to access the collection; here it is in its entirety:

 J.B. Priestley said Walter de la Mare was a humble artist who never lost sight of his childhood.

In his short stories supernatural themes are common. The meaning of their disappearance is enigmatic (?).
 
The second poem, Germinal, is also about a wanderer (a common theme between the two poems).  There is a reference to a boy
Ordering Caesar’s legions to bring him
The world for his toy.

There is a knocking and suspense is in the air. Will the vision he sees inflame him? In the ending line, we read,
Be it dark or bright
He is knit with his doom.


Kavita Two poems by Maya Angelou (born 1928)


We have recited the poems of Maya Angelou  before. If you look at the List of Poets and Poems on the right of the blog you will see: Phenomenal Woman, Touched by An Angel, Still I Rise. Bobby thinks a different person might read the same poem differently. However, Joe puts the list there and keeps it updated just so people can pick a different poem, even it be by the same poet.

Still I Rise is the name of one of Angelou’s collections. You can read about it on Maya Angelou’s website:

“ In this poem Angelou celebrates the courage of the human spirit over the harshest of obstacles. “  She has kept a running flow of autobiographies covering different periods of her life.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, deals with her life up to age seventeen. There are five more and counting.

A very striking quatrain in the poem is this:
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Yes, she was a dancer too at one point. KumKum, hearing this poem, pronounced it ‘lovely.’

The second poem A Caged Bird Sings, ends with the lines
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.



Zakia  A Poem by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (born 1956)



Zakia took up this writer’s poetry after listening to her at the recent reading in David Hall; see

The conversation drifted to Dr Mini Vettickal, a professional dancer in the Bharatnatyam tradition, who ‘performed’ one of  Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s (CBD) poems, The River, at her reading by beautifully miming it.  Her performance outshone the poem itself, Joe recalled. Dr Mini Vettickal returned from N. America four years ago and has two children; she performs locally, it seems.

CBD’s first collection of short stories was called Arranged Marriage. The poem Zakia recited, The Walk, is taken from CBD’s collection of poems, Leaving Yuba City, a town in California where she stayed for a while. It is written very much like prose, but Priya saw a lot of poetry in it. It is the scene in a hill school in India in the north, probably near Darjeeling where there are many such schools. CBD must have gone to Loreto Convent (a convent where Irish nuns used to teach), pics of which are available here
http://www.npalumni.org/Loreto/loreto.htm

and


The question of why the children wear patent leather shoes was asked. KumKum thought they may be more water-proof. Patent leather is simply a highly glossy finish of leather with extra varnish:

The wiki article says the original inventor obtained a “patent for preparing flexible leather having a glaze and polish that renders it impervious to water and need only be wiped with a sponge to restore it to its original luster.” Therefore, it would be appropriate for traipsing across the fields in the wet climate of Darjeeling.



Sunil Two poems by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837)


Pushkin has a very well-developed wiki entry from which Sunil read at some length. His great grandfather was an African slave who rose to nobility.  Pushkin fought 29 duels; his opponents must have been bad shots said Thommo!  But the last engagement was fatal for him at age 37. His death is considered one of the greatest blows to Russian literature.

Pushkin is acknowledged to have been the finest poet of Russia. His long poem, Eugene Onegin,  in sonnets with a unique rhyme scheme, described the life of Prince Eugene Onegin. It is a classic of world literature. Joe observed that it was after reading a translation of the poem into English, which maintained the very same stanza and rhyme scheme, that Vikram Seth was inspired to produce The Golden Gate, his own masterly novel in verse. It also employed the very same stanza and rhyme scheme as Eugene Onegin to tell the tale of techies in California’s Silicon Valley. He was studying for his Econ Ph.D. in Stanford U at the time.  See:

Sunil said that though Pushkin was a romantic, he wrote about war – and a host of other things, besides.

The poem A Magic Moment I Remember, is encapsulated between an opening stanza recalling a long ago moment when the poet saw his beloved:
A magic moment I remember:
I raised my eyes and you were there,
A fleeting vision, the quintessence
Of all that's beautiful and rare.

 and an ending stanza where once again there is a reprise of the same scene, after a long period of forgetfulness:
Then came a moment of renaissance,
I looked up - you again are there,
A fleeting vision, the quintessence
Of all that’s beautiful and rare.

Wonderful!

The second poem is an ode to the poet’s calling when inspiration comes and he leaves all vanities behind:
The poet's soul awakens, poised,
Just like an eagle stirred from sleep



Mathew  Two poems by Forough Farrokhzad   (1935-1967)


Mathew chose the remarkable work of an Iranian poet, Forough Farrokhzad. She died young when she crashed her car into a wall to avoid hitting a school bus. She has the mystique of all poets who die young.   There’s a site dedicated to her:

As a woman in a conservative society, divorced, she courageously lived alone in Teheran and developed her many talents, one of which was poetry. She took courses in film-making too and made some films. There is paper by Elif Bezal on the poetry and films of the Iranian poet:


In the poem The Wedding Band a woman ponders the meaning of her wedding band, a symbol of fidelity to the spouse. But years later when she looks again, perhaps after many desiccated years of loyal conjugal service, the ring really appears as a symbol of compulsion:
this ring that
still sparkles and shines
is the band of slavery and servitude.

There is a strong note of feminine independence in the poem. Priya said she empathised with the woman in her plight, for marriage is often a form of subservience. After suffering for so long women have become very direct. Talitha made a reference to Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers, a poem read by Priya in an earlier session:

These two lines of that poem
The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand.

point similarly to the burden that is borne by women in their married state not always, but often.

Priya at the end confessed she had not come prepared to read a poem, but only to listen to others. She carried a coffee table magazine with a Vogue-like model on its cover, flipping pages to show the few lines of ‘verse’ facing each photograph. They were quite forgettable lines!




The Poems

Bobby Poem by William Henry Davies
Leisure
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Joe Two Ghazals by Mirza Ghalib
1.  Koi Ummeed Bar Nahin Aathi
Koi ummeed bar nahin aati
Koi soorat nazar nahin aati

Maut ka ek din muayyan hai
Neend kyun raat bhar nahin aati

Aage aati thi haal-e-dil pe hansi
Ab kisi baat par nahin aati

Jaanta hoon savaab-e-taa-at-o-zuhd
Par tabiyat idhar nahin aati

Hai kuchh aisi hi baat jo chup hoon
Varna kya baat kar nahin aati

Kyun na cheekhoon ke yaad karte hain
Meri awaaz gar nahin aati

Daagh-e-dil gar nazar nahin aata
Bu bhi aye chaaragar nahin aati

Hum wahan hain jahan se hum ko bhi
Kuchh hamari khabar nahin aati

Marte hoon arzoo mein marne ki
Maut aati hai par nahin aati

Kaabe kis munh se jaoge Ghalib
Sharm tumko magar nahin aati

ummeed = hope
soorat = face, recollection, mind, pleasure
muayyan = appointed
haal-e-dil = state of the heart
savaab = reward
taa-at-o-zuhd = submission and chastity
tabiyat = disposition
cheekhoon = cry out
gar = if
daagh-e-dil = wounds of the heart
chaaragar = healer
arzoo  = desire

There Is No Hope For Me
There is no hope for me,
No apparition I see.

Death will come on a day that’s set,
Why then am I of sleep bereft?

Of former woes I could make light,
In nothing now can I delight.

Should I submit and pray that I’ll be blessed,
– But toward that end, I can’t be pressed.

There is a matter I can’t disclose,
Else of everything I could discourse.

Why shouldn’t I speak of memory,
Give voice to feelings existentially.

If you don’t see my heart’s laceration,
Please leave your wishes and commiseration.

We’ve reached a place, where even we,
Have no idea of where we be.

We die to quench desire,
Death comes, yet holds its fire.

Ghalib, do you deserve to see the Kaaba?
For shame shows not on you, mian!

(Translated by Joe)

2.  Aah Ko Chaiye Ek Umr Asr Hone Tak  (omitting shers #2 & #6)
Aah ko chaiye ek umr asr hone tak
Kaun jeeta hai teri zulf ke sar hone tak

Aashiqi sabr talab aur tamanna betaab
Dil ka kya rang karoon khoon-e-jigar hone tak

Hamne maana ke tagaaful na karoge lekin
Khaak ho jaayenge ham tumko khabar hone tak.



Partawe-e-khur  se hai shabnam ko fanaa ki taleem
Main bhi hoon ek inayat ki nazar hone tak

Gham-e-hasti ka Asad kisse ho juz marg ilaj
Shama har rang mein jalti hai sahar hone tak

aah = groan
asr = impression
zulf = lock of hair
sar = beginning
aashiqi = courtly love
sabr-e-talab = that which endures
tamanna = desire
khoon-e-jigar = blood of the liver
taghaful = neglectful
partaw-e-khur = sunbeam
shabnam = dew
fanaa = mortality
taleem = instruction
inayat = favour
gham-e-hasti = sorrows of life
juz = besides
marg = death
ilaaj = cure
shama = candle
sahar = dawn

Lament, I May, An Age
Lament, I may, an age
  But will you notice it –
Your mystery's a page
  That none has understood.

True love is patient, but desire fervent,
How may I survive, when I’m so ardent?

Indifference I'll take;
  But to dust I shall reduce,
Before you for my sake,
  Shall deign to hear the news.

The sunbeam’s gaze
  Wills the dew to evanesce;
My continuance I owe
  To the grace of your blindness.

The pains we bear in life, Asad,
  Aren’t cured except by death;
The candle burns till dawn
  Until its final breath.

(Translated by Joe)


Thommo A poem by Philip Levine
HE WOULD NEVER USE ONE WORD WHERE NONE WOULD DO
If you said "Nice day," he would look up
at the three clouds riding overhead,
nod at each, and go back to doing what-
ever he was doing or not doing.
If you asked for a smoke or a light,
he'd hand you whatever he found
in his pockets: a jackknife, a hankie --
usually unsoiled -- a dollar bill,
a subway token. Once he gave me
half the sandwich he was eating
at the little outdoor restaurant
on La Guardia Place. I remember
a single sparrow was perched on the back
of his chair, and when he held out
a piece of bread on his open palm,
the bird snatched it up and went back to
its place without even a thank you,
one hard eye staring at my bad eye
as though I were next. That was in May
of '97, spring had come late,
but the sun warmed both of us for hours
while silence prevailed, if you can call
the blaring of taxi horns and the trucks
fighting for parking and the kids on skates
streaming past silence. My friend Frankie
was such a comfort to me that year,
the year of the crisis. He would turn
up his great dark head just going gray
until his eyes met mine, and that was all
I needed to go on talking nonsense
as he sat patiently waiting me out,
the bird staring over his shoulder.
"Silence is silver," my Zaydee had said,
getting it wrong and right, just as he said
"Water is thicker than blood," thinking
this made him a real American.
Frankie was already American,
being half German, half Indian.
Fact is, silence is the perfect water:
unlike rain it falls from no clouds
to wash our minds, to ease our tired eyes,
to give heart to the thin blades of grass
fighting through the concrete for even air
dirtied by our endless stream of words.


KumKum  Four poems by Langston Hughes
Democracy
Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Freedom
Is a strong seed
Planted
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.


Dream Variations
To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!
To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening...
A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.


As I Grew Older
It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun--
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky--
The wall.
Shadow.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!


Cross
My old man's a white old man
And my old mother's black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.
If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I'm sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well
My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder were I'm going to die,
Being neither white nor black?


Talitha A poem each by Walter de la Mare & George William Russell
The Listeners  by Walter de la Mare
"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
Of the forest's ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:--
"Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.


Germinal  by George William Russell
    CALL not thy wanderer home as yet
        Though it be late.
    Now is his first assailing of
        The invisible gate.
    Be still through that light knocking. The hour
        Is throng’d with fate.

    To that first tapping at the invisible door
        Fate answereth.
    What shining image or voice, what sigh
        Or honied breath,
    Comes forth, shall be the master of life
        Even to death.

    Satyrs may follow after. Seraphs
        On crystal wing
    May blaze. But the delicate first comer
        It shall be King.
    They shall obey, even the mightiest,
        That gentle thing.

    All the strong powers of Dante were bow’d
        To a child’s mild eyes,
    That wrought within him that travail
        From depths up to skies,
    Inferno, Purgatorio
        And Paradise.

    Amid the soul’s grave councillors
        A petulant boy
    Laughs under the laurels and purples, the elf
        Who snatch’d at his joy,
    Ordering Caesar’s legions to bring him
        The world for his toy.

    In ancient shadows and twilights
        Where childhood had stray’d,
    The world’s great sorrows were born
        And its heroes were made.
    In the lost boyhood of Judas
        Christ was betray’d.

    Let thy young wanderer dream on:
        Call him not home.
    A door opens, a breath, a voice
        From the ancient room,
    Speaks to him now. Be it dark or bright
        He is knit with his doom.

Kavita Two poems by Maya Angelou
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.


Zakia  A Poem by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Walk
Each Sunday evening the nuns took us
for a walk. We climbed carefully

in our patent-leather shoes up hillsides looped
with trails the color of earthworms. Below,
the school fell away, the sad green roofs
of the dormitories, the angled classrooms,
the refectory where we learned to cut
buttered bread into polite squares,
to eat bland stews and puddings. The sharp
metallic thrust of the church spire, small, then smaller,
and around it the town: bazaar, post office, the scab

coated donkeys. Straggle of huts
with hesitant woodfires in the yards. All
at a respectful distance, like the local children we passed,
tattered pants and swollen chilblained fingers
color of the torn sky, color of the Sacred Heart
in the painting of Jesus that hung above our beds
with his chest open.

We were trained not to talk to them,

runny-nosed kids with who-knew-what diseases, not even
to wave back, and of course it was improper
to stare. The nuns walked so fast,
already we were passing the plantation, the shrubs
lined up neatly, the thick glossy green
giving out a faint wild odor like our bodies
in bed after lights-out. Passing the pickers,
hill women with branch-scarred arms, bent
under huge baskets strapped to shoulder and head,

the cords in their thin necks
pulling like wires. Back at school
though Sister Dolores cracked the refectory ruler
down on our knuckles, we could not drink
our tea. It tasted salty as the bitten inside
of the mouth, its brown like the women’s necks,
that same tense color.

But now we walk quicker because

it is drizzling. Drops fall on us from pipul leaves
shaped like eyes. We pull on
our grey rainhoods and step in time,
soldiers of Christ squelching through vales of mud.
We are singing, as always on walks,
the nuns leading us with choir-boy voices.
O Kindly Light, and then a song

about the Emerald Isle. Ireland, where they grew up,
these two Sisters not much older
than us. Mountain fog thickens like a cataract
over the sun’s pale eye, it is stumbling-dark,
we must take a shortcut through the upper town. The nuns
motion us, faster, faster, an oval blur of hands
in long black sleeves.


Honeysuckle over a gate, lanterns
in front windows. In one, a woman in a blue sari
holds a baby, his fuzzy backlit head
against the curve of her shoulder. Smell of food
in the air, real food, onion pakoras, like our mothers
once made. Rain in our eyes, our mouths. Salt, salt.
A sudden streetlamp lights the nuns’ faces, damp,

splotched with red like frostbitten
camellias. It prickles the backs of our throats.
The woman watches, wonder-eyed, as we pass
in our wet, determined shoes, singing
Beautiful Killarney, a long line of girls, all of us
so far from home.

Sunil Two poems by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
A Magic Moment I Remember
A magic moment I remember:
I raised my eyes and you were there,
A fleeting vision, the quintessence
Of all that's beautiful and rare.

I pray to mute despair and anguish,
To vain pursuits the world esteems,
Long did I near your soothing accents,
Long did your features haunt my dreams.

Time passed. A rebel storm-blast scattered
The reveries that once were mine
And I forgot your soothing accents,
Your features gracefully divine.

In dark days of enforced retirement
I gazed upon grey skies above
With no ideals to inspire me,
No one to cry for, live for, love.

Then came a moment of renaissance,
I looked up - you again are there,
A fleeting vision, the quintessence
Of all that’s beautiful and rare.

The Poet
Until he hears Apollo's call
To make a hallowed sacrifice,
A Poet lives in feeble thrall
To people's empty vanities;
And silent is his sacred lyre,
His soul partakes of chilly sleep,
And of the world's unworthy sons
He is, perhaps, the very least.

But once Divinity's command
Approaches his exquisite ear,
The poet's soul awakens, poised,
Just like an eagle stirred from sleep.
All worldly pleasures leave him cold,
From common talk he stays aloof,
And will not lower his proud head
Before the nation's sacred cow.
Untamed and brooding, he takes flight,
Seething with sound and agitation,
To reach a sea-swept, desert shore,
A woodland wide and murmuring...

Mathew  Two poems by Forough Farrokhzad  
The Wedding Band
The girl smiled and said: What
is the secret of this gold ring,
the secret of this ring that so tightly
embraces my finger,
the secret of this band
that sparkles and shines so?
the man was startled and said:
it's the ring of good fortune, the ring of life.

Everyone said: Congratulations and best wishes!
the girl said: Alas
that I still have doubts about its meaning.

The years passed, and one night
a downhearted woman looked at that gold band
and saw in its gleaming pattern
days wasted in hopes of husbandly fidelity,
days totally wasted.

The woman grew agitated and cried out:
O my, this ring that
still sparkles and shines
is the band of slavery and servitude.

The Wind-Up Doll
More than this, yes
more than this one can stay silent.

With a fixed gaze
like that of the dead
one can stare for long hours
at the smoke rising from a cigarette
at the shape of a cup
at a faded flower on the rug
at a fading slogan on the wall.

 One can draw back the drapes
with wrinkled fingers and watch
rain falling heavy in the alley
a child standing in a doorway
holding colorful kites
a rickety cart leaving the deserted square
in a noisy rush

 One can stand motionless
by the drapes—blind, deaf.

 One can cry out
with a voice quite false, quite remote
“I love…”
in a man’s domineering arms
one can be a healthy, beautiful female

With a body like a leather tablecloth
with two large and hard breasts,
in bed with a drunk, a madman, a tramp
one can stain the innocence of love.

One can degrade with guile
all the deep mysteries
one can keep on figuring out crossword puzzles
happily discover the inane answers
inane answers, yes—of five or six letters.

With bent head, one can
kneel a lifetime before the cold gilded grill of a tomb
one can find God in a nameless grave
one can trade one’s faith for a worthless coin
one can mold in the corner of a mosque
like an ancient reciter of pilgrim’s prayers.
one can be constant, like zero
whether adding, subtracting, or multiplying.
one can think of your --even your—eyes
in their cocoo of anger
as lusterless holes in a time-worn shoe.
one can dry up in one’s basin, like water.

 With shame one can hide the beauty of a moment’s togetherness
at the bottom of a chest
like an old, funny looking snapshot,
in a day’s empty frame one can display
the picture of an execution, a crucifixion, or a martyrdom,
One can cover the crake in the wall with a mask
one can cope with images more hollow than these.

 One can be like a wind-up doll
and look at the world with eyes of glass,
one can lie for years in lace and tinsel
a body stuffed with straw
inside a felt-lined box,
at every lustful touch
for no reason at all
one can give out a cry
“Ah, so happy am I!”

2 comments:

Shipra said...

It was a very enjoyable poetry Session! Thanks for verbatim blog entry, I could enjoy the experience once again. It was really a worthy session to re-visit.
KumKum

Priya said...

The art magazine that I had brought is an attempt by the publisher and writer Bina Sarkar to collaborate between the two arts- painting and verse. She has asked poets to write a poem after after viewing a work of art and vice versa. Many artists have painted after deriving inspiration from a poem. It is a very interesting experiment and poets like Sylvia Plath, Kamala Das and others have been artistically expressed. Noted Indian contemporary art painter Atul Dodiya has interpreted Plath. It is not one of the best works in the magazine. There are some remarkably memorable works in poetry and in painting.