Saturday, December 19, 2015

Poetry Reading – Dec 4, 2015

The last reading for the year 2015, a poetry session, was held on December 4.

Though there were only five members who made it to the reading, eight poets were read and discussed. Zakia said that the session was unexpectedly vibrant in spite of the curtailed attendance.

Sunil, Priya, Gopa, Zakia, Thommo

Priya read Afro-American poet Langston Hughes, who has been read before. She read his most famous poem  The Negro Speaks Of Rivers, written when he was just 17. The others poems she read were – You and Your Whole Race, feet O’jesus, The City and Park Bench.

An American poet, novelist, playwright and activist Hughes is credited for introducing the new literary art form  jazz poetry, as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes homosexuality remained an issue amongst the literati of his time.

Sunil, Priya, Gopa, Zakia, Thommo

Priya said she read Hughes after meeting a black artist , with the same name, working at a residence in Vagamon, a hill station located in Kottayam-Idukki border of Idukki district of Kerala. The artist told her that crimes against the Blacks continued in America as before and that there had been no respite as generally believed.

Sunil said that even in Bangalore the African community is treated with suspicion adding that there is some good reason behind that. They have often been found guilty of crimes such as drug peddling and related violence.  Gopa said that the AAP government in New Delhi too had unearthed a drug racket involving Africans.

Sunil said that an African from a small country in Africa who was training in Kochi rued the fact that nobody here spoke with him. He felt lonely and ostracised.

Thommo narrated about an African who he met during his Kolkata days and that the man was a helpful character. But after he returned to Nigeria, which saw violence later, nothing more was heard from him.

Gopa read four poets who have written about sisters. She said that she has two sisters and they are close, but lately she was having some differences with one of her sisters over issues of parenting their children. She felt it was a good time to select poems that deal with relationship between sisters. She read My Sister Laura by Spike Milligan, Brother and Sister By Lewis Caroll, The Sisters by Rainer Maria Rilke and One Sister I have in the House by Emily Dickinson.

The mix of poems and poets read by Gopa were widely discussed, especially Dickinson’s poem about her sister in law and confidante, Sue.

Sunil read G. K. Chesterton whose wit was once again enjoyed by the group. The poems were – The Englishman and A Ballad of Abbreviations. True to Chesterton's ethos, both poems were about true blue Britishness and about their competitors in the English language, the Americans.

St George, the patron saint of England was discussed and Sunil said that the St George Church in Edapally is associated with powerful graces; he has been saved many times by his faith in Saint George.

Zakia read the popular 13th Century Iranian Sufi poet Rumi. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, Mawlānā/Mevlânâ, Mevlevî/Mawlawī, and more popularly simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi's poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages . He  has been described as the 'most popular poet' in the United States, in fact as a 'best selling poet.'  Rumi's works were written mostly in Persian.

Thommo read D.H. Lawrence’s  A Bad Beginning. The suggestive circumstances in the poem were discussed animatedly. While Sunil wondered if there was a reference to a third person in the poem, Gopa and Priya felt that a husband was giving an ultimatum to his wife who perhaps had a roving eye? Priya felt that the poem was written on the morning of what is referred to as the Morning After. Thommo said that Austria was a landlocked country and hence the sound of the steamer horn in the poem must be a reference to Europe, or else to a boat on one of the many lakes in Austria.

As there were few readers the group felt that there was time for discussing the poem and poet but as all discussions go astray the group digressed into other subjects.

Everyone wished each other Merry Christmas and Happy New Year at the close of the session.

Sunil, Gopa, Zakia, Thommo

Sunil and Zakia have selected The Long Road to the Deep North By Richard Flaganan as their novel for 2016. Thommo and Priya have selected The Gropes by Tom Sharpe, Joe and Kum Kum have selected Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. The other groups have to send in their selections.

Members present: Priya, Gopa, Zakia, Thommo and Sunil

The next reading date in January 2016 was not discussed but tentatively set for Friday in the third week.  

Poems Read

Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967)

The Negro Speaks of Rivers
I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

You and your whole race.
You and your whole race.
Look down upon the town in which you live
And be ashamed.
Look down upon white folks
And upon yourselves
And be ashamed
That such supine poverty exists there,
That such stupid ignorance breeds children there
Behind such humble shelters of despair—
That you yourselves have not the sense to care
Nor the manhood to stand up and say
I dare you to come one step nearer, evil world,
With your hands of greed seeking to touch my throat, I dare you to come one step nearer me:
When you can say that
you will be free!

Feet o' Jesus
At the feet o' Jesus,
Sorrow like a sea.
Lordy, let yo' mercy
Come driftin' down on me.

At the feet o' Jesus
At yo' feet I stand.
O, ma little Jesus,
Please reach out yo' hand.

Park Bench
I live on a park bench.
You, Park Avenue.
Hell of a distance
Between us two.

I beg a dime for dinner-
You got a butler and maid.
But I'm wakin' up!
Say, ain't you afraid

That I might, just maybe,
In a year or two,
Move on over
To Park Avenue?

The City
In the morning the city
Spreads its wings
Making a song
In stone that sings.

In the evening the city
Goes to bed
Hanging lights
Above its head.

Spike Milligan (1918  2002)
My Sister Laura
My sister Laura's bigger than me
And lifts me up quite easily.
I can't lift her, I've tried and tried;
She must have something heavy inside.
Spike Milligan

Lewis Carroll (1832  1898)

Brother And Sister
"SISTER, sister, go to bed!
Go and rest your weary head."
Thus the prudent brother said.

"Do you want a battered hide,
Or scratches to your face applied?"
Thus his sister calm replied.

"Sister, do not raise my wrath.
I'd make you into mutton broth
As easily as kill a moth"

The sister raised her beaming eye
And looked on him indignantly
And sternly answered, "Only try!"

Off to the cook he quickly ran.
"Dear Cook, please lend a frying-pan
To me as quickly as you can."

And wherefore should I lend it you?"
"The reason, Cook, is plain to view.
I wish to make an Irish stew."

"What meat is in that stew to go?"
"My sister'll be the contents!"
"You'll lend the pan to me, Cook?"

Moral: Never stew your sister.
Lewis Carroll

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875  1926)

The Sisters
Look how the same possibilities
unfold in their opposite demeanors,
as though one saw different ages
passing through two identical rooms.

Each thinks that she props up the other,
while resting wearily on her support;
and they can't make use of one another,
for they cause blood to rest on blood,

when as in the former times they softly touch
and try, along the tree-lined walks,
to feel themselves conducted and to lead;
ah, the ways they go are not the same.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Emily Dickinson (1830  1886)

One Sister Have I In Our House
One Sister have I in our house,
And one, a hedge away.
There's only one recorded,
But both belong to me.

One came the road that I came—
And wore my last year's gown—
The other, as a bird her nest,
Builded our hearts among.

She did not sing as we did—
It was a different tune—
Herself to her a music
As Bumble bee of June.

Today is far from Childhood—
But up and down the hills
I held her hand the tighter—
Which shortened all the miles—

And still her hum
The years among,
Deceives the Butterfly;
Still in her Eye
The Violets lie
Mouldered this many May.

I spilt the dew—
But took the morn—
I chose this single star
From out the wide night's numbers—
Sue - forevermore!
Emily Dickinson

G.K Chesterton  (1874  1936)

G.K Chesterton
The Englishman
St George he was for England,
And before he killed the dragon
He drank a pint of English ale
Out of an English flagon.
For though he fast right readily
In hair-shirt or in mail,
It isn’t safe to give him cakes
Unless you give him ale.

St George he was for England,
And right gallantly set free
The lady left for dragon’s meat
And tied up to a tree;
But since he stood for England
And knew what England means,
Unless you give him bacon
You mustn’t give him beans.

St George he is for England,
And shall wear the shield he wore
When we go out in armour
With battle-cross before.
But though he is jolly company
And very pleased to dine,
It isn’t safe to give him nuts
Unless you give him wine.

A Ballad of Abbreviations
The American's a hustler, for he says so,
And surely the American must know.
He will prove to you with figures why it pays so
Beginning with his boyhood long ago.
When the slow-maturing anecdote is ripest,
He'll dictate it like a Board of Trade Report,
And because he has no time to call a typist,
He calls her a Stenographer for short.

He is never known to loiter or malinger,
He rushes, for he knows he has "a date" ;
He is always on the spot and full of ginger,
Which is why he is invariably late.
When he guesses that it's getting even later,
His vocabulary's vehement and swift,
And he yells for what he calls the Elevator,
A slang abbreviation for a lift.

Then nothing can be nattier or nicer
For those who like a light and rapid style.
Than to trifle with a work of Mr Dreiser
As it comes along in wagons by the mile.
He has taught us what a swift selective art meant
By description of his dinners and all that,
And his dwelling, which he says is an Apartment,
Because he cannot stop to say a flat.

We may whisper of his wild precipitation,
That it's speed in rather longer than a span,
But there really is a definite occasion
When he does not use the longest word he can.
When he substitutes, I freely make admission,
One shorter and much easier to spell ;
If you ask him what he thinks of Prohibition,
He may tell you quite succinctly it is Hell.

Rumi (1207  1273)


D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930)

D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930)
A Bad Beginning
THE YELLOW sun steps over the mountain-top
And falters a few short steps across the lake—
Are you awake?
See, glittering on the milk-blue, morning lake
They are laying the golden racing-track of the sun;
The day has begun.
The sun is in my eyes, I must get up.
I want to go, there’s a gold road blazes before
My breast—which is so sore.
What?—your throat is bruised, bruised with my kisses?
Ah, but if I am cruel what then are you?
I am bruised right through.
What if I love you!—This misery
Of your dissatisfaction and misprision
Stupefies me.
Ah yes, your open arms! Ah yes, ah yes,
You would take me to your breast!—But no,
You should come to mine,
It were better so.
Here I am—get up and come to me!
Not as a visitor either, nor a sweet
And winsome child of innocence; nor
As an insolent mistress telling my pulse’s beat.
Come to me like a woman coming home
To the man who is her husband, all the rest
Subordinate to this, that he and she
Are joined together for ever, as is best.
Behind me on the lake I hear the steamer drumming
From Austria. There lies the world, and here
Am I. Which way are you coming?
(From Look! We Have Come Through! 1918)

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