Monday, October 13, 2014

Poetry Reading – Oct 10, 2014


Ten of us met in the verandah outside the dining hall of the CYC, for the Library was still stowed with furniture. The variety of poems was amazing.

Pablo Neruda  was the pen name, later assumed name, of the Chilean poet-diplomat

Six readers chose British poets, two American, one Finnish, and one Chilean. Since Oct 2014 was the month of Dylan Thomas’s centenary, three readers decided in his favour.

Dylan Thomas portrait 1934 by Alfred Janes

One of the happy outcomes of our poetry sessions is to make the readers aware of the great wealth of poetry and the unusual people who follow the generally unremunerative profession of poetry. Particularly, when that profession is pursued to the exclusion of sidelines, as happened in the case of Dylan Thomas.

Sunil, Joe, Pamela, Thommo, Talitha, KumKum, Sreelatha, Preeti, Sujatha
(Mathew unseen behind the lens)

We had the experience for the first time of encountering poets who wrote poems primarily for children. For a full account of what we read and the discussions, click below.


Full Account of the Poetry Reading on Oct 10, 2014
Present: Pamela, Preeti, Joe, Thommo, Talitha, KumKum, Sreelatha, Sujatha, Mathew, Sunil
Absent: Zakia (out of town), Kavita (?), Ankush (incommunicado), Govind (flu), Gopa (laryngitis), Priya (family matters)

The next reading for the novel Herzog by Saul Bellow has been fixed for Fri Nov 14, 2014.

All selections of fiction have to be in by Oct 31; please go about it in your group. I will publish the Diligent Reader exercise based on  Of Human Bondage on Fri Oct 17. Thus far 4 have sent in their responses; I hope a few more will respond.

1. Mathew
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 – 1915)

Ella Wheeler in 1908

Ella Wheeler was born in 1850 on a farm in Johnstown, Wisconsin, the youngest of four children.  She started writing poetry at a very early age, and was well known as a poet in her own state by the time she graduated from high school.

She wrote on theosophy and spiritualism, and believed in reincarnation, considering her writing as a tool to give hope to people.

Her most famous poem, The Way Of The World, was first published in the February 25, 1883 issue of the New York Sun. The inspiration for the poem came as she was travelling to attend the Governor's inaugural ball in Madison, Wisconsin. On her way a young woman dressed in black sat across the aisle from her, crying. Miss Wheeler sat next to her and sought to comfort her for the rest of the journey. When they arrived, the poet was so depressed that she could barely attend the scheduled festivities. As she looked at her own radiant face in the mirror, she suddenly recalled the sorrowful widow. It was at that moment that she wrote the opening lines of The Way Of The World:
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth
But has trouble enough of its own
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Wheeler_Wilcox )

She sent the poem to the Sun and got $5 for it. Her best-known work was Poems of Passion. Ella Wheeler Wilcox died of cancer on October 30, 1919.

This poem has a parallel in Luke 7:32
They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.

Another wit (Anthony Burgess) mangled Wilcox’s oft-quoted saying and made it read:
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Snore, and you sleep alone.

Some lines make you sit up and think on their truth:
alone you must drink life’s gall.
...
no man can help you die.
...
we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

CJ remarked about the second poem (Love’s coming) how girls go through a phase when they are waiting for a knight in shining armour to sweep them off their feet, but often it’s the guy next door who is really deserving of the girl’s affection. The following lines attest to this:
He brought her the balm of a heavenly calm,
And a peace which crowned her life.

But Joe thought this phrase seems to condemn them to a humdrum life, calm perhaps, but no thrill.

One of the men among the readers said that a young man’s opinion about desirable girls could be summarised thus: any girl, but not one drunk on Mills and Boon romances. Thommo said there is a fair fraction of males among authors of M&B chick lit. The series has come to India:

 Joe mentioned an engineer who worked for him wrote asking for his vote to ‘like’ a romance written by his wife who was hoping thereby to get selected on the M&B aspiring Indian authors panel.

Talitha enumerated the categories into which the M&B series fell:
Modern
Tempestuous
Passionate
Etc.

Sunil imagined a computer program could generate passably passionate M&B novellas, given an array of names and epithets to describe desirable women and dashing men, and a few plot lines in which they could be enmeshed.

2. Thommo
Aleksis Kivi (1834 – 1872)

Aleksis Kivi portrait by Albert Edelfelt

Thommo introduced the Finn who is considered the national author of Finland. His novel, Seven Brothers, is still thought of highly, a century later, although at the time his countrymen disapproved of it for its portrayal of rambunctious characters. You may read more at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksis_Kivi

The poem, My Heart’s Song, begins with the cry of David for his son, Absalom, who was killed when he rebelled against his father:
'O my son Absalom--my son, my son Absalom--if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!

The poet is in a similar situation of grieving and he commends his son to Tuoni, the god of the next world. Whoever translated the poem has kept a soothing rhythm and endowed it with rhyme.

Sunil remarked how two persons in the Bible came to grief through their hair, Absalom and Samson.
Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going. (2 Samuel 18:9)
 Absalom hanging - Absalom has a ‘bad hair day’

Samson had a weakness for women, especially non-Israeli women. He was passionate about Delilah, a Philistine, and that led him to reveal to her the secret of his strength lay in his hair. It was shorn by Delilah and as a result, he was captured, blinded, and forced to grind grain for his enemies:
She [Delilah] made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. (Judges 16:19)

Samson and Delilah (1922), film directed by Alexander Korda, starring Maria Corda as Delilah and Alfredo Galoar as Samson

3. KumKum
Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)

Dylan Thomas portrait by Augustus John, 1937-8; 'provided with a bottle of beer he sat very patiently', the painter recalled

KumKum, Talitha and Joe decided to read from Dylan Thomas for it will be his birth centenary on Oct 27, and there are worldwide celebrations afoot and special events in Britain. Even India is involved because four Indian poets are to visit Wales, stay with Welsh poets and travel there and hopefully write some poems from the resulting collaboration. See

Joe gave this introduction. The Anglo-Welsh poet had a yen to write poetry from an early age. He was a school dropout at age 16. He published his first poem collection called ’18 Poems’ at age 20 – all poems written when he was a teenager. It took a few years before it was noticed and written about favourably by the opinion makers. His childhood in Swansea and visits to neighbouring farms provided him with abundant images of nature which he came to love.  In his lifetime he published 5 more collections, but his Collected Poems 1934 – 1953 number  only 90. He did scripts for plays, broadcasts, and gave innumerable performances of his poetry. But one reader Tindall, a professor, published a volume titled A Reader's Guide to Dylan Thomas
http://books.google.co.in/books?id=EVIGMyDkaNQC

in which he and his students devoted themselves to decrypting the meanings, and arrived at alternatives for each poem. Dylan Thomas described his method thus in a letter:  
A poem by myself needs a host of images, because its centre is a host of images. I make one image . . . let it breed another, let that image contradict the first, make of the third image bred out of the other two together, a fourth contradictory image, and let them all, within my imposed formal limits, conflict. Each image holds within it the seed of its own destruction and my dialectical method as I understand it, is a constant building up and breaking down of the images that come out of the central seed, which is itself destructive and constructive at the same time.

Naturally, there is obscurity as to meaning since readers cannot be expected to follow his contradictory images. Besides an unorthodox syntax is evident in many of his poems, along with the reluctance to make public his private hoard of memories. His poems were often expressions, rather than a communication of meaning. Sound is extremely important to him, as it should be to all poets, but they come but rarely in lyrics of simple beauty from the pen of Dylan Thomas. Rather they are sonorous and dramatic words, deriving great effect from his orotund declamation, which owes little to Welsh and was something he picked up in London.

He had difficulties with money throughout his life and was a little too fond of beer, and later whiskey (in America). He married Caitlin, a model and dancer, having 3 children by her and many quarrels. She too was addicted to alcohol. 

Dylan Thomas with his wife, Caitlin McNamara. Despite various infidelities and regular arguments they stayed together until Thomas died in 1953

During the war he made patriotic broadcasts for BBC and wrote film scripts. In 1952 he had a chance to go to USA when the director (Brinnin, who later wrote a biography) of the 92nd Street Y Poetry Center arranged a tour. There he achieved not only fame, but a great following, putting to shame the reticent, understated manner in which poems used to be recited in America (and still are). On his third visit he collapsed after a night of drinking, but his death, it has now been established through research, was on account of the wrong treatment when he was taken to hospital; he was actually suffering from pneumonia but instead of antibiotics, he was administered 30 gm of morphine. He never came out of the coma. He is buried in Wales at Laugharne.

Joe said when he read that a memorial museum for him in Swansea is to get a facelift costing 1m, he thought how ironical that a poet who in his lifetime could handily have used a fiver here or a fiver there (he did feed off his charitable friends and admirers), after his death has such enormous sums spent on brick and mortar in his honour. Similar is the case with van Gogh, the artist.

An extensive bio of DT is at

and an  illustrated bio with photographs of the places in his life is at

The poem KumKum read is a light hearted one, poking fun at poets and their methods, and instructing his aunt (the one at whose farm in childhood he had spent happy hours) how to write poetry of the modern kind:
Never be lucid, never state,
If you would be regarded great,
The simplest thought or sentiment,
(For thought, we know, is decadent);

Before starting KumKum noted a few allusions: Chantley Bore is a line of furniture by a famous maker, Marten Bass; David G was TV host, and Grigson a British literary critic. At the end there was laughter when DT holds out the thought that the fate of his aunt’s poems, written according to his elaborate prescription, may only be as kindling for a fire!


4. Talitha
Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)

Dylan Thomas in a bookshop

Talitha recited the beginning of Under Milk Wood, a ‘play for voices’ that was broadcast first, and then later made into a film in 1974 with a wide cast of characters, including Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole and Elizabeth Taylor. Talitha mentioned that the composition of KRG has changed over the last few years, and some repetition may be okay (Do not go gentle into that good night has been recited twice), but it’s better to come up with new poems; there are so many to choose from for DT.

Talitha mentioned the story of DT having 18 whiskeys the night before the day he died. But that, Joe says is a myth erected by Brinnin, the biographer who was the host of DT in New York – he would have looked negligent if DT died of neglect on a tour invitation he had arranged. Hence, this story, he put out.

Talitha said DT plays with words and sounds. KumKum remarked on the unusual phrase ‘fishingboatbobbing sea.’ Thommo narrated how full of song the Welsh are when they go to the playground to encourage the national team; everyone starts chanting in a well-rehearsed way to set up and enormous sound in the stadium.


5. Pamela
Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973)

Pablo Neruda at age 69

Pamela read from the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, who was a diplomat, politician and poet (not in that order). Living in times of repression under Col. Pinochet, it was difficult to avoid being embroiled in politics if one had any sensitivity. When Neruda died of cancer, there were no celebratory notices on account of the country’s totalitarian control, but lots of his admirers gathered. He won the Nobel for Literature in 1971 "for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent's destiny and dreams." For more about his biography, please read the wiki

In his Nobel lecture:

Neruda discounts any formula for writing poetry. He says “I did not learn from books any recipe for writing a poem, and I, in my turn, will avoid giving any advice on mode or style which might give the new poets even a drop of supposed insight.” He affirms:
the necessary components for the making of the poem [were] received through contributions from the earth and from the soul. And I believe that poetry is an action, ephemeral or solemn, in which there enter as equal partners solitude and solidarity, emotion and action, the nearness to oneself, the nearness to mankind and to the secret manifestations of nature.

The poem I'm Explaining a Few Things comes in two parts, the first is about prosperity, and the second, disaster. Chile under dictators is brought out by these lines
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
...
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born

The political problems of the time have sharp analogues today, and people tend to interpret this poem in terms of the recent disastrous Israeli assault on the lives and homes of Palestinians in Gaza, said Pamela. In dictatorships poets and authors cannot help weighing in on politics, Joe said. KumKum said even in India the case of J&K could give rise to a similar outcry. Joe mentioned the frequent resort among spokespersons of the GOI to the phrase ‘befitting reply’ to describe the tit-for-tat in the round of cross-border firings that has been going on for weeks with Pakistan. KumKum said that’s what Joe gets when he disputes something with her! Thommo, laughing, asked if this is new development, or was it so even before?


6. Preeti
Jon Stallworthy (1935 – )

Jon Stallworthy, Prof. of English at Oxford University

Preeti read from a poem called The Almond Tree directly from her Macbook and apologised for not having made copies for the readers. It is about the birth of a son whom thepoet addresses in a lovely metaphor
New–
minted, my bright farthing!
...
Welcome
to your white sheet,
my best poem!

Which famous poet before called his son his best poem? It was Ben Jonson who wrote the touching elegy, On my First Sonne, for his son, Benjamin, when he died of the plague at age seven. There he uses a similar phrase to state what should be engraved on his son’s gravestone:
Rest in soft peace, and, ask'd, say, here doth lye
Ben. Jonson his best piece of poetry.


Poets cannot lose the memory of all the poets who came before. And then comes the defining moment when the father learns:
your son is a mongol
the doctor said.

The sad sentence marks the unknowing that will descend between his son and him
my son sailed from me; never to come
ashore into my kingdom

The rhyme lends a striking cadence to parts 6 and 7, the first ABAB, the second ABBA, until the last line clatters with a wail
love shattered and set free

As Preeti said, she liked the way the poet ‘brings you back out.’

It’s quite a marvellous poem by this emeritus professor of English at Oxford, who won the Newdigate Poetry Prize when he was a student there. A critic said about his first collection in 1961, that he had “a gift few poets possess, and which all poets wish for—the ability to strike out a memorable and epigrammatic line which is at once simple and deeply disturbing.” That gift is certainly in evidence here.

Incidentally, Simon Barnes (sports writer for The Times, London) described in a deep and beautiful 2006 article his relationship to his then 5-year old son, Eddie, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. The miracle is the effect on the parent, who is no saint, but conquers the divide of communication with love. Since 2006 that newspaper has gone behind a paywall, and the article can no more be accessed without a subscription. But I do have it in my bhandar as a Word file.


7. Sujatha
Stephen Spender (1909 – 1995)

Sir Stephen Harold Spender, CBE, was an English poet, novelist and essayist

Spender was a poet who wrote mostly about social justice. He was bisexual, which is evident in some of his poems. The son of a painter mother and a journalist father, he was educated at various schools and joined Oxford, but did not complete, leaving the university in 1929. Big influences in his life were the poet W.H. Auden, and Christopher Isherwood. 

Spender between Auden and Isherwood

Ironically he became a fellow of University College, Oxford, in 1973, without ever having passed an examination in his life. He was familiar with all the known poets of his day. Joe used to read his essays often in the magazine Encounter (he was its editor); it sold on Calcutta’s streets for the amazing prize of one rupee in 1960. It later transpired the magazine was funded by CIA, for which it was a front. Spender resigned on learning of this. For more, please read the wiki site

Because their names were often associated, Spender’s style is thought to have been moulded by Auden’s. In the New Yorker, for example, Vendler observed that
at first [Spender] imitated Auden's self-possessed ironies, his determined use of technological objects. . . . But no two poets can have been more different. Auden's rigid, brilliant, peremptory, categorizing, allegorical mind demanded forms altogether different from Spender's dreamy, liquid, guilty, hovering sensibility. Auden is a poet of firmly historical time, Spender of timeless nostalgic space.

Humanoid pylons in an Icelandic contest

Sujatha saw the first poem (Pylons) as an ode to industrial progress and rural electrification (in that respect like PM Narendra Modi, said CJ). Strange for a poet to sing that tune, but he has a couple of arresting lines in his poem, e.g., this analogy for pylons,
Bare like nude giant girls that have no secret

and this
clouds shall lean their swan-white neck

Sujatha drew attention to the spareness of the language used to describe what the poet sees and what he imagines. The words are economical but they tell everything, including the future.

She quoted from the wiki page to assert Spender continued to be attracted sexually to boys although in later life he married women (more than once). A line in his published diaries "Whatever happens, I shall never be alone. I shall always have a boy, a railway fare, or a revolution." was later revised to read: "Whatever happens, I shall never be alone. I shall always have an affair, a railway fare, or a revolution."

None of his early poems had titles. In the poem What I Expected the poet comes to a stark realisation; like Gautama Buddha coming out of his palace, he is made aware of all the negativities and bad things he was not prepared for. The juvenile exposure to bullies described in Rough must have been a trial to the young poet, but he overcomes it through his interior strength:
I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys
Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.
...
I longed to forgive them, yet they never smiled.

KumKum was attracted to the last line. The last poem, To My Daughter, Sujatha found in a literary supplement to a newspaper. She liked it very much and often reads it to her own daughter.


8. Sunil
Roald Dahl (1916 – 1990)

Roald Dahl in 1954

Sunil is averse to TV in the same manner as Roald Dahl describes in the poem Television. Here's a live recording of the poem

Joe noted though that the television adaptations of Dahl’s work have not only made him rich, but brought widespread fame. The poet was a fighter pilot ace in World War II. He wrote for adults and children and became a best-selling author. His parents were Norwegians who settled in Wales. “Dahl's short stories are known for their unexpected endings and his children's books for their unsentimental, often very dark humour.” Read more about him at

The stories are full of imagination; in them people are often not what they appear to be. Many KRG readers have read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or read it to their children. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory audiobook cover

Preeti said even, or especially, his children’s books are ‘cool,’ the ultimate approving epithet of the modern generation toward folk belonging to a previous generation. She didn’t believe any chocolate maker could be so scary as Johnny Depp playing Willy Wonka in the film

There is a ‘twist in the chocolate cake,’ said Sunil, the time after he died.

Preeti said there is a Roald Dahl cook book

but CJ vouchsafed he would not go by those recipes!


9. Joe
Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)

Dylan Thomas - 18 Poems, first edition of his first collection

Joe read Fern Hill, one of DT’s famous poems. It speaks about nature, and the experience he enjoyed on his aunt’s farm; it is also a lament for lost youth. Prince Charles (the Prince of Wales) as the royal patron of the Dylan Thomas festival  recorded the poem for the occasion

Joe tried to invest the poem with the dreams and nostalgia of DT’s imagination, which often runs away with him in surreal flights of fancy:
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

The poem ebbs and rises, going high and low, fast and slow. It is one of those poems which you cannot grasp until it comes tripping off the tongue of a sensitive cantor; for the sound is more revealing than the words on the page are. The poet is making music with words. It is one of the wonderful discoveries you make when great poetic talents unburden themselves of their poetry. Amit Majumdar said of Rimbaud:
Rimbaud attained his precocity, it seems to me, through music. The young Rimbaud only seems to be composing French poems; he is actually composing music using French word-sounds as his instrument

Much the same may be said of DT.

10. Sreelatha
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel ) (1904 – 1991)

Theodor Seuss Geisel, American writer, poet, and cartoonist. He was most widely known for his children's books

The National Read Across America Day, is held on the school day closest to March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss, a children’s author greatly loved in America. His famous stories in rhyme are The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Lorax. See
http://seuss.wikia.com/wiki/Dr._Seuss_Wiki

Dr Seuss is almost an industry, although he’s dead. “It was not uncommon for him to throw out 95% of his material until he settled on a theme for his book. For a writer he was unusual in that he preferred to be paid only after he finished his work rather than in advance.” See

About stories having a moral he said, "kids can see a moral coming a mile off," and remarked that he himself was "subversive as hell." Sreelatha mentioned she first came to know about Dr Seuss when she was travelling with her child on a flight to Ghana and the steward brought the book The Cat in the Hat, for her daughter. She said the experience of reading it turned her into a ‘poet’ after she reached Africa. CJ noted she was lucky for that was a time when TV’s small screen had not become standard in aircraft to occupy the passenger’s time (laughing).


Oh the Places You'll Go

Sreelatha said of the poem that it presents all the lumps of life. Dr. Seuss is pragmatic – life is not just filled with good things.
Out there things can happen
...
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.
...
And when you're in a Slump,
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.
...
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

Dr Seuss is a truth-teller and he is giving the kind of advice invited speakers are asked to deliver at the degree-granting ceremonies of universities, here called Convocation, there called Commencement. We recall the maxim of Emily Dickinson in a poem that begins
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Sreelatha said she loves this children’s poem which ends with the admonition  ‘get on your way’ and recalls the line when starting a journey. Hakken-Kraks means sea monsters, a word coined by Dr Seuss, which has an ancient history, for the Kraken were well-known in Norwegian mythology. See

and Haakon is a proper name in Norway, indeed there is a Prince Haakon.



The Poems

1. Mathew
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 – 1915)
1. Solitude
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
    Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
    But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
    Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
    But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
    Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
    But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
    Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
    But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
    Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
    But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
    For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
    Through the narrow aisles of pain.

2. Love's Coming
She had looked for his coming as warriors come,
With the clash of arms and the bugle's call;
But he came instead with a stealthy tread,
Which she did not hear at all.

She had thought how his armor would blaze in the sun,
As he rode like a prince to claim his bride;
In the sweet dim light of the falling night
She found him at her side.

She had dreamed how the gaze of his strange, bold eye
Would wake her heart to a sudden glow:
She found in his face the familiar grace
Of a friend she used to know.

She had dreamed how his coming would stir her soul,
As the ocean is stirred by the wild storm's strife:
He brought her the balm of a heavenly calm,
And a peace which crowned her life.


2. Thommo
Aleksis Kivi (1834 – 1872)
My Heart's Song
Absalom, my son, that I could have died for you, my son.
Life holds no pleasure, let me descent to hell, weeping

Grove of Tuoni, grove of evening,
There a sandy cradle is waiting,
There I will carry my child.

There the child is free from sorrow
In the wood, in the meadow
Tending the cattle of Tuoni.

There my child is free from sorrow
When the evening casts it's shadow
Rocked in the cradle of Tuoni.

There my child is free from sorrow,
Lulled to sleep by a birdsong mellow,
Rocked in a cradle of gold.

Peace of Tuoni, far from passion
Far away from man's oppression
Far from the treacherous world.  


3. KumKum
Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)
A Letter to My Aunt
To you, my aunt, who would explore
The literary Chankley Bore,
The paths are hard, for you are not
A literary Hottentot
But just a kind and cultured dame
Who knows not Eliot (to her shame).
Fie on you, aunt, that you should see
No genius in David G.,
No elemental form and sound
In T.S.E. and Ezra Pound.
Fie on you, aunt! I'll show you how
To elevate your middle brow,
And how to scale and see the sights
From modernist Parnassian heights.

First buy a hat, no Paris model
But one the Swiss wear when they yodel,
A bowler thing with one or two
Feathers to conceal the view;
And then in sandals walk the street
(All modern painters use their feet
For painting, on their canvas strips,
Their wives or mothers, minus hips).

Perhaps it would be best if you
Created something very new,
A dirty novel done in Erse
Or written backwards in Welsh verse,
Or paintings on the backs of vests,
Or Sanskrit psalms on lepers' chests.
But if this proved imposs-i-ble
Perhaps it would be just as well,
For you could then write what you please,
And modern verse is done with ease.

Do not forget that 'limpet' rhymes
With 'strumpet' in these troubled times,
And commas are the worst of crimes;
Few understand the works of Cummings,
And few James Joyce's mental slummings,
And few young Auden's coded chatter;
But then it is the few that matter.
Never be lucid, never state,
If you would be regarded great,
The simplest thought or sentiment,
(For thought, we know, is decadent);
Never omit such vital words
As belly, genitals and -----,
For these are things that play a part
(And what a part) in all good art.
Remember this: each rose is wormy,
And every lovely woman's germy;
Remember this: that love depends
On how the Gallic letter bends;
Remember, too, that life is hell
And even heaven has a smell
Of putrefying angels who
Make deadly whoopee in the blue.
These things remembered, what can stop
A poet going to the top?

A final word: before you start
The convulsions of your art,
Remove your brains, take out your heart;
Minus these curses, you can be
A genius like David G.

Take courage, aunt, and send your stuff
To Geoffrey Grigson with my luff,
And may I yet live to admire
How well your poems light the fire.


4. Talitha
Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)
Under Milk Wood
FIRST VOICE (Very softly)
To begin at the beginning:

It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless
and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched,
courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the
sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea.
The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night
in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat
there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock,
the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows' weeds.
And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are
sleeping now.

Hush, the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers,
the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher,
postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman,
drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot
cocklewomen and the tidy wives. Young girls lie bedded soft
or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux,
bridesmaided by glowworms down the aisles of the
organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the
bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrodgered sea. And
the anthracite statues of the horses sleep in the fields,
and the cows in the byres, and the dogs in the wetnosed
yards; and the cats nap in the slant corners or lope sly,
streaking and needling, on the one cloud of the roofs.

You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing.
Only your eyes are unclosed to see the black and folded
town fast, and slow, asleep. And you alone can hear the
invisiblestarfall, the darkest-beforedawn minutely dewgrazed
stir of the black, dab-filled sea where the Arethusa, the
Curlew and the Skylark, Zanzibar, Rhiannon, the Rover,
theCormorant, and the Star of Wales tilt and ride.

Listen. It is night moving in the streets, the processional
salt slow musical wind in Coronation Street and Cockle Row,
it is the grass growing on Llaregyb Hill, dewfall, starfall,
the sleep of birds in Milk Wood.

Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning in
bonnet and brooch and bombazine black, butterfly choker and
bootlace bow, coughing like nannygoats, sucking mintoes,
fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a
domino; in Ocky Milkman's lofts like a mouse with gloves;
in Dai Bread's bakery flying like black flour. It is to-night
in Donkey Street, trotting silent, With seaweed on its
hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtained fernpot,
text and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercolours
done by hand, china dog and rosy tin teacaddy. It is night
neddying among the snuggeries of babies.
...
From where you are, you can hear their dreams.

Captain Cat, the retired blind sea-captain, asleep in his
bunk in the seashelled, ship-in-bottled, shipshape best
cabin of Schooner House dreams of

        SECOND VOICE

never such seas as any that swamped the decks of his S.S.
Kidwelly bellying over the bedclothes and jellyfish-slippery
sucking him down salt deep into the Davy dark where the fish
come biting out and nibble him down to his wishbone, and
the long drowned nuzzle up to him.

FIRST DROWNED: Remember me, Captain?
CAPTAIN CAT: You're Dancing Williams!
FIRST DROWNED: I lost my step in Nantucket.
SECOND DROWNED: Do you see me, Captain? the white bone talking? I'm Tom-Fred thedonkeyman...we shared the same girl once...her name was
Mrs Probert...
WOMAN'S VOICE: Rosie Probert, thirty three Duck Lane. Come on up, boys,
I'm dead.
THIRD DROWNED: Hold me, Captain, I'm Jonah Jarvis, come to a bad end, very
enjoyable.
FOURTH DROWNED: Alfred Pomeroy Jones, sea-lawyer, born in Mumbles, sung
like a linnet, crowned you with a flagon, tattooed with
mermaids, thirst like a dredger, died of blisters.
FIRST DROWNED: This skull at your earhole is
FIFTH DROWNED: Curly Bevan. Tell my auntie it was me that pawned her ormolu clock.
CAPTAIN CAT: Aye, aye, Curly.
SECOND DROWNED: Tell my missus no I never
 THIRD DROWNED: I never done what she said I never.
FOURTH DROWNED: Yes they did.
FIFTH DROWNED: And who brings coconuts and shawls and parrots to my
Gwen now?

FIRST DROWNED: How's it above?
SECOND DROWNED: Is there rum and laverbread?
THIRD DROWNED: Bosoms and robins?
FOURTH DROWNED: Concertinas?
FIFTH DROWNED: Ebenezer's bell?
FIRST DROWNED: Fighting and onions?
SECOND DROWNED: And sparrows and daisies?
THIRD DROWNED: Tiddlers in a jamjar?
FOURTH DROWNED: Buttermilk and whippets?
FIFTH DROWNED: Rock-a-bye baby?
FIRST DROWNED: Washing on the line?
SECOND DROWNED: And old girls in the snug?
THIRD DROWNED: How's the tenors in Dowlais?
FOURTH DROWNED: Who milks the cows in Maesgwyn?
FIFTH DROWNED: When she smiles, is there dimples?
FIRST DROWNED: What's the smell of parsley?
CAPTAIN CAT: Oh, my dead dears!


5. Pamela
Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973)
I'm Explaining a Few Things
You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?
I'll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out
over Castille's dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
Everything
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings --
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you'll ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!


6. Preeti
Jon Stallworthy (1935 – )
The Almond Tree
1
All the way to the hospital
the lights were green as peppermints.
Trees of black iron broke into leaf
ahead of me, as if
I were the lucky prince
in an enchanted wood
summoning summer with my whistle,
banishing winter with a nod.

Swung by the road from bend to bend,
I was aware that blood was running
down through the delta of my wrist
and under arches
of bright bone. Centuries,
continents it had crossed;
from an undisclosed beginning
spiraling to an unmapped end.

2
Crossing (at sixty) Magdalen Bridge
Let it be a son, a son, said
the man in the driving mirror,
Let it be a son. The tower
held up its hand: the college
bells shook their blessing on his head.

3
I parked in an almond's
shadow blossom, for the tree
was waving, waving me
upstairs with a child's hands.

4
Up
the spinal stair
and at the top
along
a bone-white corridor
the blood tide swung
me swung me to a room
whose walls shuddered
with the shuddering womb.
Under the sheet
wave after wave, wave
after wave beat
on the bone coast, bringing
ashore–whom?
                        New–
minted, my bright farthing!
Coined by our love, stamped with
our images, how you
enrich us! Both
you make one. Welcome
to your white sheet,
my best poem!

5
At seven-thirty
the visitors' bell
scissored the calm
of the corridors.
The doctor walked with me
to the slicing doors.
His hand upon my arm,
his voice–I have to tell
you–set another bell
beating in my head:
your son is a mongol
the doctor said.

6
How easily the word went in–
clean as a bullet
leaving no mark on the skin,
stopping the heart within it.

This was my first death.
The "I" ascending on a slow
last thermal breath
studied the man below

as a pilot treading air might
the buckled shell of his plane–
boot, glove and helmet
feeling no pain

from the snapped wires' radiant ends.
Looking down from a thousand feet
I held four walls in the lens
of an eye; wall, window, the street

a torrent of windscreens, my own
car under its almond tree,
and the almond waving me down.
I wrestled against gravity,

but light was melting and the gulf
cracked open. Unfamiliar
the body of my late self
I carried to the car.

7
The hospital–its heavy freight
lashed down ship-shape ward over ward–
steamed into the night with some on board
soon to be lost if the desperate

charts were known. Others would come
altered to land or find the land
altered. At their voyage's end
some would be added to, some

diminished. In a numbered cot
my son sailed from me; never to come
ashore into my kingdom
speaking my language. Better not

look that way. The almond tree
was beautiful in labor. Blood-
dark, quickening, bud after bud
split, flower after flower shook free.

On the darkening wind a pale
face floated. Out of reach. Only when
the buds, all the buds, were broken
would the tree be in full sail.

In labor the tree was becoming
itself. I, too, rooted in earth
and ringed by darkness, from the death
of myself saw myself blossoming,

wrenched from the caul of my thirty
years' growing, fathered by my son,
unkindly in a kind season
by love shattered and set free.


7. Sujatha
Stephen Spender (1909 – 1995)
1. The Pylons
The secret of these hills was stone, and cottages
Of that stone made,
And crumbling roads

That turned on sudden hidden villages
Now over these small hills, they have built the concrete
That trails black wire
Pylons, those pillars
Bare like nude giant girls that have no secret.

The valley with its gilt and evening look
And the green chestnut
Of customary root,
Are mocked dry like the parched bed of a brook.

But far above and far as sight endures
Like whips of anger
With lightning's danger
There runs the quick perspective of the future.

This dwarfs our emerald country by its trek
So tall with prophecy
Dreaming of cities
Where often clouds shall lean their swan-white neck.

2. What I Expected
What I expected, was
Thunder, fighting,
Long struggles with men
And climbing.
After continual straining
I should grow strong;
Then the rocks would shake,
And I rest long.
What I had not foreseen
Was the gradual day
Weakening the will
Leaking the brightness away,
The lack of good to touch,
The fading of body and soul
—Smoke before wind,
Corrupt, unsubstantial.
The wearing of Time,
And watching of cripples pass
With limbs shaped like questions
In their odd twist,
The pulverous grief
Melting the bones with pity,
The sick falling from earth—
These, I could not foresee.
Expecting always
Some brightness to hold in trust,
Some final innocence
Exempt from dust,
That, hanging solid,
Would dangle through all,
Like the created poem,
Or faceted crystal.

3. Rough
My parents kept me from children who were rough
and who threw words like stones and who wore torn clothes.
Their thighs showed through rags. They ran in the street
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.
I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron
And their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms.
I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys
Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.
They were lithe, they sprang out behind hedges
Like dogs to bark at our world. They threw mud
And I looked another way, pretending to smile,
I longed to forgive them, yet they never smiled.

4. To My Daughter
Bright clasp of her whole hand around my finger,
My daughter, as we walk together now.
All my life I'll feel a ring invisibly
Circle this bone with shining: when she is grown
Far from today as her eyes are far already.


8. Sunil
Roald Dahl (1916 – 1990)
Television
The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK -- HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.


9. Joe
Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)
Fern Hill
(Written in 1945, Fern Hill begins as an evocation of Dylan Thomas's childhood visits to his aunt's farm, which expands into dreamlike metaphors and a lament for lost youth.)
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

In My Craft or Sullen Art
In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art


10. Sreelatha
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel ) (1904 – 1991)
Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets.  Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.

It's opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don't worry.  Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!

You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted.  But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out?  Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored.  there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame!  You'll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.

I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So...
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way! 

1 comment:

Radha Misra said...

Please ask talitha to contact me on my email - misradha@gmail.com. I am friend from Sophia polytechnic and hv been searching for her.
Thank you
Radha Misra