Diligent Reader Exercises
1. Mention is made in the full account below of ‘famous’ being rhymed with ‘Seamus’ by Seamus Heaney, and ‘great’ with ‘Seth’ by Vikram Seth. In which sonnet number of The Golden Gate does the latter rhyme occur, and give a few lines surrounding it.
2. Name another poet, also recited at at the session, who stooped to rhyme hiser name in a poem. What was the opening line? And with what words does shee rhyme hiser name in the poem?
3. Give your solution to the enigma of MacLeish’s lines:
A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.
4. Name the readers who chose poets for this session whose poems have never been read before at KRG.
Solutions to DRE by readers:
Wordless as the flight of birds conveys weightlessness.A bird on the ground has weight, sound. Up in the sky it is a silent moving picture. Poetry is a painting. Words are the colours that the poet uses to paint. When finished the picture remains in the readers mind.the words are lost. Akin to the birds shedding their weight in flight.
“Dedicated to those stripped of their lives by the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima on August 6 and on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, to those who even now continue to be tormented by pain and by the fear of death, to those whose anguish and sorrow will remain with them forever, and lastly, to those the world over who loathe atomic bombs.”
“My action concerning the atomic bomb and Roosevelt consisted merely in the fact that, because of the danger that Hitler might be the first to have the bomb, I signed a letter to the President which had been drafted by Szilard. Had I known that that fear was not justified, I, no more than Szilard, would not have participated in opening this Pandora's box. For my distrust of governments was not limited to Germany. Unfortunately, I had no share in the warning made against using the bomb against Japan. Credit for this must go to James Franck. If they only had listened to him!” (p. 61 Einstein and Oppenheimer: The Meaning of Genius by Silvan S. Schweber, Harvard University Press, 2010)
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.
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
The early poems are like an acoustic autobiography Heaney dwells on the names of places and people, their formal and official titles, their informal and demotic variants. Like any Irish countryman, Heaney has to lock a personal name into a place-name so that he can get a fix on the whole history and geography with which each is freighted. Names, titles, accents, nicknames, pronunciations are like a syrup in which a complex politics is suspended; they indicate class, sectarian divisions, family lineage, belongingness, even degrees of intelligence.
“Heaney stayed in Belfast, teaching in a secondary school [after graduating in 1961]. In the next five years Belfast, and Queen's University in particular, became the site of a new literary energy. An English poet Philip Hobsbaum, arrived to start a series of workshops. Henaye, Michael Longley, and other Belfast poets participated in them. A Belfast festival was inaugurated; it published several pamphlets of poems by these two, their friend, Derek Mahon, and others. Heaney wrote to me in Cambridge and inveigled a sequence of poems from me which, unfortunately, was also published in that series. An exchange of letters on these poems was the first intimation I had that there was a new sense of excitement in the literary world of Belfast. It was also the first solid indication to me that Heaney was turning to a career as a poet. We lost contact after that for about two years. The Northern Revival, effectively the literary predecessor of, and then companion to, the Northern Troubles, initially passed me by – and then I had a surprise visit from Heaney in Cambridge.
He had just been married, and he arrived with his wife, Marie, bearing a copy of his first book, 'Death of a Naturalist,' news of a prize that went with it, and, wonder of wonders, a bottle of whiskey. Heaney the teetotaller had gone. Heaney the poet had arrived.”
He is Jewish by extraction, secular by nurture, hailing from the Bene-Israel Marathi community. He is very much a self-made poet. He published his first collection, Bad Day in 1952. You can read a good obit of his by Lawrence Joffe at
“He acted as a mentor to younger poets, such as Dom Moraes, Adil Jussawalla and Gieve Patel. Many of his poems, such as The Night Of The Scorpion, and that supreme antidote to jingoism, The Patriot, are set-works in Indian and British schools.”
“As a story teller Ezekiel creates poems out of ordinary incidents, situations and events that one encounters in day to day life. He picks out a situation, analyses it and describes it in such a way that it immediately assumes a kind of social significance because he views the ordinariness of most of the events with sense of detachment.”
and too much,
but just before he died
his voice became soft and sad
as though whispering secrets
he had learnt too late.
He drew me close to him
and spoke his truths to me.
I felt the breath of his love
But could not hear a word
On Giving Reasons
to paralyse the Evil One.
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.
Shoba said it is a poem on the verb être (to be) and a professor is teaching an impudent student the conjugation of être employing Hamlet's soliloquy, To be or not to be, in French, of course.
“My work has been described as difficult, solitary, withdrawn. I have been labelled variously: a nature poet, a poet socially and historically conscious, even a poet unconscious! I am a symbolist, a surrealist, a whatnot. These are all partially correct, I suppose. But they do not explain the total fabric.”http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/jibanananda-das/
“The process of living is conceived of by Jībanānanda to be a recurrent and repetitive one, moving in circles and alternating between the states of living and dying, but not of declining productivity in either state.” [How's that for academic gibberish?]
Heart to Heart
At a Field-Dressing Station
Not Marble Nor The Gilded Monuments
"Whatever You Say, Say Nothing" (1975)
Nissim Ezekiel (1924 – 2004)
Night of the Scorpion
was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
of steady rain had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.
Parting with his poison - flash
of diabolic tail in the dark room -
he risked the rain again.
The peasants came like swarms of flies
and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
to paralyse the Evil One.
With candles and with lanterns
throwing giant scorpion shadows
on the mud-baked walls
they searched for him: he was not found.
They clicked their tongues.
With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother's blood, they said.
May he sit still, they said
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of all evil
balanced in this unreal world
against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh
of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
they said, and they sat around
on the floor with my mother in the centre,
the peace of understanding on each face.
More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
more insects, and the endless rain.
My mother twisted through and through,
groaning on a mat.
My father, sceptic, rationalist,
trying every curse and blessing,
powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an incantation.
After twenty hours
it lost its sting.
My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.
I Am Very Bothered
... Hein... Quoi... Pardon.... Qu'est-ce qui se passe... Qu'est-ce qu'il y a... Qu'est-ce que c'est?...
Vous ne pouvez pas répondre "présent" comme tout le monde? Pas possible, vous êtes encore dans les nuages.
Être ou ne pas être dans les nuages!
Suffit. Pas tant de manières. Et conjuguez-moi le verbe être, comme tout le monde, c'est tout ce que je vous demande.
En Français, s'il vous plaît, comme tout le monde.
Bien, monsieur. (Il conjugue:)
Je suis ou je ne suis pas
Tu es ou tu n'es pas
Il est ou il n'est pas
Nous sommes ou nous ne sommes pas...
Mais c'est vous qui n'y êtes pas, mon pauvre ami!
C'est exact, monsieur le professeur,
Je suis "où" je ne suis pas
Et, dans le fond, hein, à la réflexion,
Être "où" ne pas être
C'est peut-être aussi la question.
(Jibananada Das Selected Poems, translated by Chidananda Das Gupta, Penguin)