Poetry of Exile

The poet in an individual is of a later birth than the exile in him. At first he does not know the name of his affliction, but gradually becomes aware of his un/dis- ease being neither new nor unique. It is the pain of exile. The word exile carries with it the historical association of persecution and uprooting. The tradition of the literature of exile is older than history. The theme and poetry of exile are found in the Old Testament of the Bible (ergo in Koran):

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

(Psalm 137; King James Version)

The poetry of exile is found in the Hindu purans. Given below is Shiva’s yearning for the city of Varanasi (Kashi) from which he was exiled:

What all the ice on this mountain is inadequate to do,

That burning will surely subside

If even the breeze coming from Kashi touches my   skin,

Once I was separated from my wife- Sati

That pain was allayed when she came back as Parvati.

Alas!the pain of separation from Kashi torments me more.

Ah Kashi when again shall I get thy soothing touch,

When will thy cooling touch cure me of this fever instantly?

Oh Kashi, who wash the sins of men, the fire of separation from thee

Has made the moon at my head burn like fire with ghee                                                            

It took the daughter of the Himalayas to cure my previous separation

If I don’t get your darshan o Kashi I shall always be tormented.

(Kashi Khand, Skandmahapuran, 44.14-19)

[Translation from Sanskrit by Rajnish Mishra]

 

The theme of exile is found in poetry from all over the world. Poetry of the pain of separation from one’s place of origin has a rich tradition. It entered the stream of modern poetry during the transition of the socio-economic systems from agrarian to industrial. The hunter-gatherer had less opportunities of getting rooted to his place. A farmer could stay rooted to a place from his birth to death and roots, once sprouted, went deep into the soil and connected the man to his place. The strength of his bonding was such that uprooting could only be effected by a natural or geopolitical change of extreme nature. So, the exile, uprooted and pining, is not commonly found in poetry of that time. As the Industrial Revolution altered the socioeconomic structure of the European (and later world) societies, brought in its wake urbanization and rural emigration, and the literature of exile was born. The most well-known example of this genre is from nineteenth century England, John Clare.

 

May it be mine to meet my end in thee;

And, as reward for all my troubles past,

Find one hope true—to die at home at last!

(‘Helpstone’)

An equally well-known example from Urdu poetry is his contemporary Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’, the last Mughal Emperor who spent the last years of his life in exile in Burma wrote a moving ghazal in the memory of his home (land).

Nothing appeals to my heart in this deserted land.

How can it find peace in these times on this land?

O my yearnings go, dwell elsewhere,

Where’ll you live in this besmirched heartland?

I was given four days of life to live. Two were

spent in yearning for, two waiting for my land.

O Zafar, the unfortunate for your burial,

Two yards were not to be had in your beloved land

[Translated from Hindi-Urdu by Rajnish Mishra]

Clare and Zafar, both died in 1860’s. The theme of exile lived on. In fact, the twentieth century saw the number of artists in exile increasing. Bertolt Brecht, a German exile, beautifully captures the irony of hope in transience of the state that ends up being permanent in his poem ‘On the Term of Exile’:

No need to drive a nail into the wall

To hang your hat on;

When you come in, just drop it on the chair

No guest has sat on.

 

Don’t worry about watering the flowers—

In fact, don’t plant them.

You will have gone back home before they bloom,

And who will want them?

 

If mastering the language is too hard,

Only be patient;

The telegram imploring your return

Won’t need translation.

 

Remember, when the ceiling sheds itself

In flakes of plaster,

The wall that keeps you out is crumbling too,

As fast or faster.

Translated from the German by Adam Kirsch, quoted fully from < https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/54759/on-the-term-of-exile&gt;

The twenty-first century did not witness any change in the geopolitics of the world, hence in the state of the exile. The same pain is found in poems of exile from Tibet, Kashmir, Albania, Afghanistan, Sindh, Bangladesh, Greece and the list goes on. Let’s talk about Aga Shahid Ali, the Kashmiri poet in exile in the United States. His poems of exile have a haunting simplicity of images.

 

We shall meet again, in Srinagar,

by the gates of the Villa of Peace,

our hands blossoming into fists

till the soldiers return the keys

and disappear. Again we’ll enter

our last world, the first that vanished

(‘A Pastoral’)

 

It is this tradition of poetry to which many contemporary poems belong. We now find poets in exile, but unlike in most of the poems mentioned till now, not from his nation but from his city of birhth. His poetic oeuvre and imagination are shaped by pain and separation. His poems show his place and times very vividly and clearly yet his city is not restricted to one place or time. He writes:

 

My city, is your city, and theirs.

My city is stuck with what it’s given.

My city as shown, as true, as real,

yes it is all,

and not.

The spirit, the life,

the transience, the sorrows,

the joys, the filth of flowers,

and all that’s seen or not, at all hours,

For the world to see, is my city simplified,

palatable, presentable, made easy.

Multifaceted? Never.

Simply, ‘city for dummies’.

 

His devotion to details, and his transcendence of the same make for a curious combination of contraries:

Disgusting, the filth,
reflected sometimes, on faces.
Cow dung, house waste,
refuse and grime,
Scattered, removed,
then scattered again,
repeat performance,
seen and felt
on skin, in nose, on feet through eyes.
Yet feet go on,
undaunted, eternally,
as time and life run to death,
from flesh to fire to ashes.

His time is not here, and his place is not now.

Reference

Modified from: 

http://stanzaicstylings.blogspot.in/p/rajnish-mishra-poet-in-exile.html

 

 

 

 

 

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Poetry Today

It all began with one of my posts on one of my facebook groups. I’ll paste the complete initial post here:

I have a confession, and a doubt that follows it. First the confession that is in form of narration of a set of events. I’ll number them. 

  1. I wrote a sonnet. 2. I sent the sonnet to several magazines for publication. 3. It was rejected everywhere. 4. i did not change a single word of the sonnet, and only hit the enter key roughly after every three stressed syllables. 5. I called the resultant ‘thing’ free verse and sent it again. 6. They liked it and accepted it.

Now my doubt:

In our times, keeping all the other elements constant, can the acceptance of a new poet’s poem depend so much upon its conformity with the current trend, i.e. predominance of free verse?
Have you, the other poets, Indian or not, also experienced something like that?

The responses were varied, one of them advised me to stick with the sonnet form and keep submitting for publication etc. To that I replied that I had not burnt my sonnets but kept them safe for a day when I would be able to get them published because a lightweight like me couldn’t afford to remain unpublished. So, I compromised and sold today, to buy tomorrow.

I then posted a sonnet of mine, and its free version. The sonnet as you can see, although not a very regular one, has many features of a traditional sonnet, including a dash of the Petrarchan rhyme scheme abb1/2a cdd1/2c  efe gge, a clear division of flow from octave to sestet etc. yes, I agree that the number of stresses per line is never 5, it has a range of 4-6. There is a lot of enjambment that gives it the flavor of Shakespearean sonnets. With anaphora, alliteration, metaphors, images and symbols galore, the sonnet is not very bad!

Row after row, steps rising from the river,
Row after row, steps falling to the same,
Rising, going westward, falling, coming – a game
Words play on life; and life, a little later                                                                                         Shells the words all down, and leaves
Just the strong impressions, firmly etched,
Deeply carved, with colours true, fetched
From the days of old, when life was lived.
The game, when it’s over; whistles blown,
Feet when tired come over the falling steps,
Tracing back the same old worn out stone –
Steps at the end of a summer-day-long run,
Over them of a never-resting sun –
Lead them gently riverward, down the steps.

The free verse form has a range of stressed syllables per line (1-4 stresses) but majority of lines have 2-3 stresses. The free verse form was liked better and was at least selected on submission, not the fate of its parent sonnet.

Row after row,
steps rising from the river,
row after row,
steps falling to the same,
rising, going westward,
falling, coming – a game
words play on life;
and life, a little later
shells the words all down,
and leaves just the strong impressions,
firmly etched, deeply carved,
with colours true, fetched
from the days of old,
when life was lived.
The game, when it’s over;
whistles blown,
feet when tired
come over the falling steps,
tracing back the same
old worn out stone –
steps at the end
of a summer-day-long run,
over them
of a never-resting sun –
lead them gently
riverward,
down the steps.

My poet friends liked the poem in sonnet form better. To them I said, that I liked the sonnet form better myself. ‘But the trick works. Try it any day. First send your regular form poems to 10 places. The send the same poem converted into free verse to around 10 random (different) magazines/journals and wait for their response’.

Then came an informed comment on my pressing enter key at three syllables: ‘The line is the unit of poetry. Changing the line changes everything. Also, if you broke the line after every three syllables it’s not really ‘free’, is it? Not trying to defend whoever the editors were. There is a lot of seemingly random selection. Subjectivity is not just unavoidable but necessary in the process; obviously they will only publish what they like. But yes, ‘what they like’ can be quite unpredictable’.

To that I pointed out: ‘As you can gather from the example verse give in the comment above, the ‘three syllable’ rule was nearly, or roughly followed. There were many variations. Hence ‘free’ verse. Now, random is characterized by its unpredictability. In this case, it’s highly predictable, hence, not at all random. ‘What they like’ is heavily biased against, e.g. sonnet – a time-tested and respected traditional form’.

At one point the very validity of the form for poetry today was questioned  by calling it strait jacket. To that I replied ‘What you call strait jacket, has been seen as string to the flying kite by some. Wordsworth wrote on beauty and necessity of writing even his kind of Romantic verse – spontaneous overflow – in strict sonnet form. A solid foundation of large vocabulary, good grammar, poetic vision and power to think deeply and clearly are from where one should begin composing. Pity, majority today just launches into writing poetry less-than-half-prepared, so they promote poetry less-than-half-made’.

One discussant gave interesting and useful information: ‘I recommend taking a look at sonnets written in the last half-century. Don Paterson’s anthology ‘101 Sonnets’ might be of interest. The modern sonnet does not always stick to the Petrarchan or Shakespearean forms. Of course if one insists that the modern sonnets are not sonnets we descend into an argument about definitions. You might also find Paterson’s introduction to the anthology interesting’. To that was added another informative remark: ‘I am aware of those, but still you will find good quality sonnets with various variations of Elizabethan, Petrarchan, or even terza rima being published in Hudson Review or Texas Review…’. Then came pointers to a contemporary journal focusing exclusively on sonnets. (not been updated since 2011 apparently) , and to Howard Nemerov sonnet contest, which is a prestigious contest held every year.

The valid objections to the form were regarding: following strict restrictions ‘that you may find in the work of 20th century greats like Robert Frost or Howard Nemerov. However a greater multitude have deviated and improvised like Elizabeth Bishop, Dylan Thomas, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath. Even Percy Shelly deviated in ‘Ozymandias’. I don’t think a great multitude of folks are breaking the rules for the sake of it, they just don’t bother, and the vers libre movement has legalized free verse or even poetry of the eye, the experiments of Cummings or Hulme will remain inaccessible to such strait jacket schools of thoughts. To summarize, “much of the wisdom of one age is a folly of the next” somebody famously said, can’t recollect’.

This one deserved a detailed reply and got one:

I love Frost’s poems. You are right about his adhering to forms. You are also right about the modern poets’ deviation from norms, and the point is proven when we keep their poems side by side to the vapid Edwardian poetry a little before their time of best poetry, i.e. 1920-30. There actually is no verse that is ‘free’, because the moment the word verse is put before it, it becomes highly constrained to a form – the verse form. I have T S Eliot’s one full essay to support my point, where he proves that there actually is no free verse, only good and bad verse! It’s good that you mention Percy Bysshe Shelley to support the point you were making. He is the master of formal poetry, e.g. his brilliant use of terza rima in ‘Ode to the West Wind’ and then in his Triumph of Life, who wrote formal poetry at its best all his life. His ‘Ozymandias’ has five stresses per line, regular rhyme pattern, and although not Shakespearean sonnet can be divided into two unequal parts etc. I agree with a lot of what you say, but the point I am trying to make is that something is definitely rotten in the poetry judging and publishing scene today, and we may do our bit to improve it.

One poet-critic commented: ‘ Sure, not all publications are friendly to formal verse. I think this hostility is diminishing though. (Possibly the editors have become so illiterate they just can’t tell a poem is in meter. I am not kidding.)’

The discussion ended for the time being with a call for action:

I like the sound of the word poet, specially when they call me that. I suspect, strongly, that you like it too. I have always liked calling myself a poet, but the realization of its actual meaning came late. Anybody (like me) can and may think that he is a poet, but being a poet is not easy. A poet writes poems. One who does not, may think whatever he likes, but can not rightfully own the title/position/name of a poet. We have a moral, aesthetic, collective and personal obligation to create: every day. (Don’t mind my self pep-talk, I s\felt a kindred spirit around so gave vent to it). I say we write poems and show each other what we think is good poetry through our own poems.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet#3

Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou vie west
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose unear’d womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime:
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
But if thou live remember’d not to be,
Die single, and thine image dies with thee.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet#3

You may remember that in https://poetrypoeticspleasure.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/shakespeare-today/ a problem was discovered:

How to contemporise and popularize Shakespeare?

and a promise was made:

We will do it.

This post is my step#3 in our journey to 154 sonnets of Shakespeare. I will neither analyse the sonnets nor write about them in a scholarly manner. Others have done it, and have done much better than what I can do. I will try to USE this poem in a micro-insta manner. In our previous post with sonnet#1 I had looked for the lines/phrases that were the meatiest and had the most concentrated matter and had then worked with and on them to create my micropoem. Let’s call it Method#1. That method will always work. In the post with sonnet#2 a different technique was employed: finding out the meaning of the sonnet, and write something parallel, changing the words etc. Let’s call it Method#2.

This sonnet is again a plea, a strong one. The speaker wants the handsome nobleman to produce children, as  it is his personal and social duty.  It is also what wisdom demands of a man: transcend death and age though the next generation. With this theme, using method#2, we can build a new micropoem:

s3

 

Shakespeare’s Sonnet#2

WHEN forty winters shall besiege thy brow
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gaz’d on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:
Then, being ask’d where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserv’d thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘ This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet#2

You may remember that in https://poetrypoeticspleasure.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/shakespeare-today/ a problem was discovered:

How to contemporise and popularize Shakespeare?

and a promise was made:

We will do it.

This post is my step#2 in our journey. I intend to cover all 154 sonnets of his on this blog, post after post, week after week.

No, I’l neither analyse this poem nor write about it in a scholarly manner, for others have done it, and have done much better than what I can do. I will try to USE this poem in a micro-insta manner. In our previous post with sonnet#1 I had looked for the lines/phrases that were the wittiest and had the most concentrated matter and had then worked with and on them to create my micropoem. That method will always work.

We will employ a different technique here. We’ll find out the meaning of the sonnet, and write something parallel, even try to keep the central metaphor in place. The sonnet roughly means:

When age has dug furrows through your face and all your beauty is gone. When your body-cloth is not new but tattered and worn. Then you will know how wise and right it is to have a child. your beauty and youth, passed on thus, live and thus you live your youth when old.

Taking the lines and converting them into verse form, we get something like this:

 

When age has dug furrows

through your face

and all your beauty is gone.

When your body-cloth

is not new

but tattered and worn.

Then you will know

how wise and right

it is to have a child.

Your beauty and youth

passed on thus, live

and thus you live

Your youth when old.

(Inspired by Shakespeare’s Sonnet#2)

PPP Ezine 1.1

PPP Ezine

Poetrypoeticspleasure Ezine

Volume 1; Issue 1; Year 2017

Copyright 2017 Poets of Poetrypoeticspleasure Ezine

All rights reserved.

Respective poets own all copyrights.

Santiago by Richard Lutman

De- branched or Not? by Sandeep Kumar Mishra

Requiem to Peace by Tejasvi Saxena

A Rainy Night (Haiku sequence) by James G. Piatt

Land of my Dream by Yajnaseni Mukherjee

A  Lonely Tree by Asha Visvas

Night Bird by Sergio A. Ortiz

The Breathing Days by Lynn White

Loosening Ties by Suryasri Saha.

The Yellow Streetlight by Mrinalini Raj

About the Poets

It’s difficult to choose and pick poems for an anthologist when so many alternatives, and good ones at that, are available at any given point of time. It becomes even more difficult when the selection is for a poetry ezine as the poets are contemporary and the decision has to be made on poetry hitherto unread, unheard and un-judged.

Of course, it’s refreshing, invigorating and pleasant to know that so many good people are taking (stealing, should I say) time from out of their modern day urban everyday life in order to create a thing of beauty. Look at the profile of the poets in this issue. There are students, teachers, professionals and amateurs, full-time and occasional writers and they take pride in what they do, and identify themselves as poets.

It’s a privilege, and a pleasant one, to get a chance to get exposed to so many novel and valuable ideas arranged in a way that declares:

Though this be common man’s language, and the words used are of everyday use, the syntax too is quite familiar, the overall effect is not at all common, because the urn, well-wrought, is no more just the metal or marble it is made of.

 

Santiago by Richard Lutman

 

The coil of sea arcs his veins alone on the olive water
Cod break the salty crust
A flip and thrash
Slap slapslapslap Slap
The tub brims
The hooks are his again
Oil scattered rainbows warm his feet.
Gray canvas dips towards docks taken by oranges and pomegranates
He listens,
The bright bodies of fish upon the planks in death.
And he turns unafraid
To watch the clouds scurry into the distant hover of scaly shadow.

 

De- branched or Not? by Sandeep Kumar Mishra

 

 

They say going away is not

Love lost but the beginning of creation,

Of  a big bang or a garden fruit,

When they are ripe or ready,

They are de-branched.

 

I prefer a simple union,

Not detachment

Because avalanches await for

Those who stray far and wide.

Why going off is a part of the process?

Is this division or decrement:

One part detached, one part united?

 

It is a wireless connection.

We would love more or forget completely

The distance defines the correlations;

We will meet but misfortune suffices

A refuge for the time;

It is not the matter of gain or loss

A joy kindles the sadness of separation

 

Requiem to Peace by Tejasvi Saxena

 

To seek you is an eternal wait

As drawing streams from dreary desert

Like dredging humanity from dried seabed

Of dead consciences, reeking of death.

 

To find you, is as empty;

As promises you make in a hollow space

That lost your presence long back.

 

From gleam of Nut-brown eyes

To shimmering Dal lake

From scented whiff of kahwas ,

To rows of wooden shikaaras,

From young firans to lanky achkans

Who sought a streak of bright Sun;

To blind eyes and crevices of wombs

Which crack with every sound of gun,

 

Not once, you winced or shrieked aloud

At wailing mothers, mourning on dead

And, gaunt faces of senile fathers;

Whose lives are dim lit

Plummeting in receding rays of sunset.

 

You lit up the hopeless hopes

Of half-widows and half-mothers

Who live one moment after other

In quest of their spouses and sons.

 

You seem to fancy the angst of youths

Who try to grab your tentacle hooks

In unidentified cesspools of blood

Agonized Kashmiriyat knows you though;

 

You march in a Caravan of diplomats

Whose words are sugary entanglements

That bind your fleeting silhouette

To elude in a blink of a swindler’s eye.

 

A Rainy Night (Haiku sequence) by James G. Piatt

 

 

Bells in the church peal

A sudden cheerful refrain

Sending prayers upward

 

Deer in the meadow

Leap in unbound ecstasy

As moisture covers earth

 

Land of my Dream by Yajnaseni Mukherjee

 

 

I leaned on the balustrade

Wind whipped through my untamed hair

The chill engulfed me

I wove the tendrils of hair into the fabric of my dreams

 

The azure horizon kissed the green blue sea

My mind transcended the visible realms

And emerged in the sun kissed land of my dreams

 

Pristine, undulating landscapes

Nomadic wanderlust

Satiated stomachs

Contented smiles

Cozy hearths

Secure havens of peace

Proud city lines

Industrialization saluting technology

The lavish bounty of nature

Harnessed to generate progress

 

No outraged modesty

No outcry of inequality

No gaping chasms of wealth

No pilferage

No terror unleashed

No forced infliction of brutality

No untold tales of torment

Lost in the maze of reality….

 

A  Lonely Tree by Asha Visvas

 

 

Autumn leaves

A calligraphy in ochre

On a blanket of sighs :

A sea of sibilance .

 

The wind whipped tree

Holding a single leaf

The next gust signs it off,

Like the trace of a dream.

 

The shadow of the tree

Rests in the backyard-

Loneliness- bleak and nameless,

Fear howls in the silent house.

 

Night Bird by Sergio A. Ortiz

 

 

I ask for nothing

of this land

that has given me everything

 

I loved and hated its men

found my Adam

he fled with a bodybuilder

as soon as I gained weight

 

I sought God

and in his place found knowledge

I discovered a home in my body

 

and since then

moved from place to place

without desires

 

this is my way

my destiny does not depend on luck

I am the night bird

foretelling death in its song

 

The Breathing Days by Lynn White

In the days when I still breathed,
the days before
living took my breath away,
the days before
I knew my soul was there.
I thought about this time,
this time of no light,
the forever night time
with no breath, no air
to breathe.
Just dust and darkness.

And I pondered.

Would there be slow decay
or fast.
Stillness or movement.
Now I know.
I know everything about
the dust and darkness.
But I can’t tell you.
Not now
in these days
of no breath,
no air
to speak.
Only my soul can speak.
Can you hear me?

First published in Fragments of Chiaroscuro, Summer 2016

Loosening Ties by Suryasri Saha.

 

Relations and ties breach often
at times untold and hard,
parting ways with us,
leaving us all distressed…
Emotions overflow yet the heart
feels desolate…
We wish to reconcile,
entangle the ties in bonds stronger
but the other side often seems too hostile,
they just distance us farther..
Forsaken we feel as if in dire need of the
ones now gone deserting us..
Soul gets hollowed by the void created in life
with their departure sometimes ensuing
confusion as to why they left and
and if they won’t return..
Their thoughts dawns realization reminding
that rendezvous may not happen anytime soon
or maybe never trickling tears but hope remains..

Hope of coming across them,
maybe at some instance of time,
after all storms are calmed,
when all pangs are soothed..
And even if it doesn’t happen,
broken ties don’t redeem as hoped,
live on with their memories you once lived.
Stop being mournful for ties which loosened
in spite of utmost care,
Its not your fault if you tried yet
they are not here..
Turns those sobs of despair into sobs
of happiness felt on reflecting
the sweet memories so never ending.
Sadden yourself no more if you tried
and walked down the mile,
maybe it wasn’t so worthwhile..
Give way not to doubting the love and bond
once shared in the past which now is so tattered
but to the memories of the moments shared
which can never be shattered.
The ones left may not return but
their memories will never waver,
they will stay forever..


The Yellow Streetlight by Mrinalini Raj

 

My first memory

Of that yellow light

On the street, is of years ago;

When I walked half-miles

through that dark

Clutching my mother on the

Left and Papa on my right.

 

Nor were there hundred-homes

Then, neither the Cackling kids

I now hear on the lane outside.

 

Today, when I click,

And stop mid-way on feeling

Again the yellow around,

Often I am asked, why this

‘Love’ ( if you agree).

 

No, I don’t know, why

Your ‘LED’ hurts me, yes, I hear

your issues with

The hundred-Watts. I know

When you say it is hot today,

I see my aunt lying sick

Next-room, ‘It is the heat’, they

say. Your concerns for the

green, I know.

 

While we walked through

The dark, there was

This yellow-street light,

Only one, which

We met always. In that

Quiet there, were three more

With us. Laughs and Smiles

Took shapes.

 
Years piled, and I saw more

Of her, loving a little more

Of that shadowy-bright.

 

Today, She leaves the trails for her

Young whites, vacating all slow.

Maybe these Nights are

her last.

 

About the Poets

 

Richard Lutman has a MFA in Writing from Vermont College.  He has taught composition and literature courses at Rhode Island Community College, Fairfield University, The Learning Connection in Providence, Rhode Island, and short story classes as part of Coastal Carolina University’s Lifelong Learning program. He has published over two dozen short stories, three chapbooks, two novellas and one nonfiction book. He was a 2008 Pushcart nominee in fiction and the recipient of national awards for his non-fiction, short stories and screenplays.   His first novel was published in May of 2016. His web site is: www.patchofdirt.net

 

Sandeep Kumar Mishra is a writer, poet, and lecturer in English Literature. Last year his work published in more than 50 national and international magazines. He has edited a collection of poems by various poets – Pearls (2002) and written a professional guidebook –How to Be (2016) and a collection of poems and art- Feel My Heart (2016).

http://www.sandeepkumarmishra.com/

http://sandeepkumarmishra5574.blogspot.in/

 

Tejasvi Saxena hails from New Delhi, India. He is a dabbler in photography, a poet in solitude and thinker in all seasons. He loves the company of books, kids, nature, music, food and dogs. His works have been published in Muse India, Visual Verse, Duane’s PoeTree, Indian Periodical, Dissident Voice Journal, Tuck Magazine, Spillwords, Scarlet Leaf Review, Random Poem Tree, Peeking Cat Poetry, Phenomenal Literature, The Avocet Review and Thumbprint Magazine. He is on instagram @ Tejasvisaxena.

 

 

James G. Piatt has published 4 novels, “The Ideal Society,” (2012), “The Monk,” (2013),  “The Nostradamus Conspiracy,” (2015), and Archibald McDougle PI: An Archie McDougle Mystery (2017), 3 collections of poetry, “The Silent Pond,” (2012), “Ancient Rhythms,” (2014), and “Light” (2016), and over 1,000 poems, 35 short stories, and 7 essays. His poems have been nominated for pushcart and best of web awards, and many were published in The Top 100 Poems of 2016, 2015, & 2014 Anthologies, and the 2017 Poet’s Showcase and Yearbook. His fourth collection of poetry will be released this year.

 

Yajnaseni Mukherjee speaks three languages, reads and writes poems in two, and dreams in one. She has always been a poet. She writes poems whenever she is not busy doing so many other mundane things. She also gets joy in teaching poetry and literature to University students.

 

Asha Viswas is a former Professor of English, Benaras Hindu University, Varanasi ,India. She has also taught at  Aligarh and at the University of Calabar, Nigeria. She has published three collections of poems. The first collection Melting Memories was published in 1996 [Delhi]. For this she was awarded Michael Madhusudan Academy Award  [Kolkatta] in 1997.  Her second collection Mortgaged Moorings  [writers workshop, Kolkatta] was published in 2001. For this she was given the Editors’ Choice Award by the International Library of Poetry , U.S.A. IN 2003.Her third collection of poems was published in 2011 [Kolkata].

Her poems have featured in the shortlist anthology of all India poetry competition organized by the British council and the poetry Society India , Slug fest [U.S.A.] , The Mawaheb International [Canada] ,The Brob Times [ Ireland] , Jalons [France] and various other journals and anthologies in India. Some of her poems have been translated into French. She has read her poems in Western Europe, the U.S.A. and African universities. She had a fan club of her poetry in the U.S.

 

Sergio A. Ortiz is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. 2nd place in the 2016 Ramón Ataz Annual Poetry Competition sponsored by Alaire publishing house. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FRIGG, Tipton Poetry Journal, Drunk Monkeys, and Bitterzeot Magazine.  He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard. 

Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Her poem ‘A Rose For Gaza’ was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition 2014. This and many other poems, have been widely published, in recent anthologies such as – ‘Alice In Wonderland’ by Silver Birch Press, ‘The Border Crossed Us’ and ‘Rise’ from Vagabond Press and ‘Selfhood’ from Trancendence Zero – and journals such as Apogee, Firewords Quarterly, Indie Soleil, Midnight Circus and Snapdragon as well as many other online and print publications.

Find Lynn at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynn-White-Poetry/1603675983213077?fref=ts and  lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com

Suryasri Saha is doing her B Tech. She is a poet from India who loves writing and believes poetry is her forte.

Link to the book she has written – https://www.amazon.in/Unexpected-Love-Story-someone-expecting-ebook/dp/B01N1NS4TD?_encoding=UTF8&keywords=an%20unexpected%20love%20story&portal-device-attributes=desktop&qid=1496832105&ref_=sr_1_21&s=digital-text&sr=1-21

Mrinalini Raj prefers the tag of a ‘Reader’ over that of a ‘Author/Poet’. An English Literature Undergraduate at St.Xavier’s College, She is on her way to discover Womanhood. She has strong opinions hence few friends.

Blog- mrinu.wordpress.com

 

Shakespeare’s Sonnet #1

FROM fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby Beauty’s rose might never die,
But, as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou, that art now the world’s fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

 

You may remember that in the previous blog post a problem was discovered:

How to contemporise and popularize Shakespeare?

and a promise was made:

We will do it.

This post is my first step in our journey. I intend to cover all 154 sonnets of his on this blog, post after post, week after week.

No, I’l neither analyse this poem nor write about it in a scholarly manner, for others have done it, and have done much better than what I can do. I will try to USE this poem in a micro-insta manner. Let’s look for the lines/phrases that are the wittiest and have the most concentrated. I’ll make a tentative list, you make yours.

‘Beauty’s rose might never die’, ‘Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel’, ‘Making a famine where abundance lies’, ‘Thyself thy foe’, ‘to thy sweet self too cruel’, ‘Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament’ and ‘To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee’. (Shakespeare, Sonnet#1)

Let’s contemporize the language, where needed:

‘Beauty’s rose might never die’, ‘Feed your light’s flame with self-substantial fuel’, ‘Making a famine where abundance lies’, ‘Yourself your enemy’, ‘to your sweet self too cruel’, ‘You that are now the world’s fresh ornament’ and ‘To eat the world’s due, by the grave and you’. (Shakespeare, Sonnet#1)

Can something be made out of these? Let’s see.

That beauty’s rose might never die and feed your light’s flame with self-substantial fuel, not making a famine where abundance lies, nor proving yourself your enemy, and to your sweet self too cruel. You that are now the world’s fresh ornament cannot be allowed to eat the world’s due, by the grave and you. (Shakespeare, Sonnet#1)

Convert it into verse form now, and it looks like a #micropoem:

 

That beauty’s rose

might never die

and feed your light’s flame

with self-substantial fuel,

nor making a famine

where abundance lies,

nor proving yourself your enemy,

and to your sweet self too cruel.

You that are now the world’s fresh ornament

cannot be allowed to eat

the world’s due,

by the grave and you.

                                                                                                                                  (Shakespeare, From Sonnet#1)

 

To avoid all charges of plagiarism, either quote correctly and honestly, alter the theme or alter the treatment and words. Let’s make an #instapoem out of this micropoem now.

Let not life’s love

Breathe its last –

Ever.

Keep our love’s flame

Burning with increase.

Bring not droughts

Beside a running river,

Do not be,

Your enemy,

nor in your heart

sans pity.

 

You give life meaning, beauty

You cannot take away

With you

My celestial view

nor can I

let death take you away.

(Inspired by Shakespeare’s Sonnet#1)

Shakespeare Today

A couple of days ago during a discussion I had to face a question: ‘In today’s age of micropoetry and instapoems, is that thing we used to call poetry dying?’ The answer was: ‘Yes’. From there, the discussion could proceed only in two directions or questions. The first one was, ‘Is there some problem with the people?’ and the second one, ‘Is there some problem with poetry?’ The easier, and the ivory tower, way would be to answer the first question in affirmative and proceed. We took the honest and more difficult way and tried to answer the second question. Poetry can never be seen in a vacuum and there is no poetry without its readers/audience. The Classical Greek and Latin poetry was in sync with its times and people. The same can be said of Elizabethan, Jacobean, Restoration, Neoclassical and Romantic poetry. Poetry was the most popular written/spoken art form then. How about now, when fiction in the prose form is popular? Where does poetry survive nowadays? What is the validity of the poetic canon today?

That led us to another question; the question of meaningfulness of canons that hold in the ivory tower of academia only. As I have a habit of bringing in objective methods and tools (touchstone, if you want). I brought in Shakespeare who anchors all canons, and as an example took his sonnets. That led us to another question: (Why) Are his sonnets popular? We suspected that they are popular only in a small community of literature teachers, students etc., not with the common man.

Our conclusion was:

The modern man is incapable OR untrained to be moved by the thought, language and depth of Shakespearean sonnets.

Today, in hindsight, I want to prove that conclusion wrong. Of course there’s vested interest. I love Shakespeare and expect (want) everyone to love him. The modern man is not incapable, untrained he may be.  The youth today may (do?) not love him, as they are not exposed to his work, he needs to be translated. Shakespeare should be brought back, not in the curricula, but in life.

Is someone doing that? To find answer, I went surfing the internet. I surfed and clicked and closed and searched and clicked again to finally reach an interesting post:

https://ashlandtheater.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/ron-danko-%E2%80%98shakespeare%E2%80%99s-sonnets-and-a-will-to-boot%E2%80%99/

I found out a couple of interesting ideas there. The post had faith in the Bard’s literary powers and understanding of human nature. It had taken up Shakespeare’s sonnets (yes, not his plays) and played with its structure and narrative possibilities to create dramatic tension in order to popularize them.

That idea is good no doubt, but the medium was changed. From pure poetry or poetic performance, the sonnets were converted into a dramatic performance. That is good in many ways, but Poetry loses in the process.

Our basic question remained: How to contemporise and popularize Shakespeare?

If Shakespeare was as good as they say then his poems must big time even today. Only his language needs to be contemporised and his metaphors translated.

Who will do it?

Of course, we: you and me.

I’ll do it through my blog here, sonnet after sonnet. The posts will be titled and tagged ‘Shakespeare Today‘.

You think how you will do it.

Can We (Do We) not Define Poetry?

If critical theory has succeeded in convincing me of one thing, it is that: ‘It is impossible to define anything, abstract or concrete, with absolute certainty’.

Applied on poetry, my wisdom will be re-phrased in a focused manner as:

‘It is impossible to define poetry with absolute certainty’.

Convinced as I am of the infallibility of theoretical wisdom, I dare to look into my own practice in life, and find out that I am not at all theoretical. I never ask, ‘Can I define poetry?’ as I do define it, and I know that I do so.

In a previous post <https://poetrypoeticspleasure.wordpress.com/&gt; I had tried to do something similar and had defined poetry through its characteristics that are:

1.Poetry is a thing on page or screen, it is ‘a set of sounds that are arranged in a pattern that conforms to a wide range of available possibilities’.

2.It has beauty or/and concentrated meaning in it and both are important.  Poetic beauty constitutes of sound patterns, rhythm, rhetorical figures, tropes, symbols, images and, even in this postmodern age of no fixed points, diction. 

In this post I will approach the problem from another direction. Instead of doing it through the text in hand and its characteristics, I’ll try to define poetry by its effect. There’s a risk here as the attempt may end up as another footnote either to the Romantic idea of poetry or to the reader-response kind of analysis. As I know that risk, I’ll try to stay clear of both Scylla and Charybdis (conscious allusion to the redoubtable critic-poet Mr. Eliot).

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

How does a reader/audience call a piece a poem? How do I call a piece, e.g. the four lines above, poetic? Of course I don’t carry a check list and tick mark characteristics to decide the things. I simply read the lines and vote by the end of the very first line. That will not do in a formal piece of writing. So, let’s see what makes these lines poetic. Does poetry lie in its form? Does it lie in its content? Or is it the appeal of the theme and subject to something in me that makes this piece (subjectively) poetic?

To answer the first question, let’s change the form by the simple act of paraphrasing:

I wonder if I can compare you with a summer’s day, although you are more beautiful, calmer and more soothing to senses. Although strong breezes disturb the calm and peacefulness of the days in that season and  the season itself is too short, from the larger perspectives.

I have tried to keep close to the meaning of the verse lines but the result does not sound or feel like poetry. What happened during the transformation? The iambic pentameter lines rhyming in quatrain form were converted into an amorphous prose mass. The play of sounds (e.g. alliteration, assonance and consonance) was altered and watered down. The the strategic positioning of key words was lost and there passed a glory from the page. Therefore, poetry has a strong and definite dependence upon form (we’ll not deal with the inconvenient categories of poetic prose and prose-poetry here).

Coleridge had taken another verse to prove a similar point about poetry in his Biographia Literaria. Here’s a very well known verse that we’ll read to see whether it’s a poem too.

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
February has twenty eight alone
All the rest have thirty-one
Except in Leap Year, that’s the time
When February’s Days are twenty-nine

It’s a powerful and useful mnemonic aid and I am very sure that you have heard it. Can it be called a poem? Well, I will never call it a poem. Why? Its content and purpose are not at all in keeping with what we see as poetry, i.e. there are cultural indicators that are unwritten and ingrained up to the sub-conscious level, that make easy and fast decision making possible while differentiating between poetry and non-poetry.  I have been accustomed to, trained in a tradition that does not let me accept the piece above as poetic, although its form is verse. I don’t have to run the paraphrase test here. There’s no need for that as decision making is not at all difficult. Culturally speaking, the content of a piece plays a major role in deciding its type.

Now we have reached our third and last question:

Is it the appeal of the theme and subject to something in me that makes this piece (subjectively) poetic? There’s a definite relationship between my liking or disliking a piece and its theme and subject, but that has no relation with its being in verse or prose.

Barring the exemplary exceptions, answering the first two questions will help us decide whether a piece is poetic or not. The process that quickly assesses whether a piece is poetry/poetic or not consists of comparison and/or contrast and placing a new example in relation with the old ones, i.e. assessing the new piece on the touchstone of tradition. Therefore, my expectations from poetry regarding form, content, propriety etc. will decide whether I call something poetry or not, and my expectations will arise from my own past exposure to the poetic tradition. Canons come into play here. More about that and the decision making process in another blog post.

Aga Shahid Ali’s “Postcard from Kashmir”: A Romatic Poem

postcard

This is a Romantic poem, the poet is a Romantic poet, and the spirit that animates it is Romantic.

You may remember in the post on the Romantic Spirit, I had requested for some time before I took up the spirit of melancholy later. This is that time and Ali’s “Postcard” is the poem with which I do that. I’ll try a close reading here, and it is for that purpose that I have highlighted, underlined and made boxes all over the text liberally.

My method in this poem will be to begin in the end. The last four lines, i.e. “And my memory…undeveloped” have only one verb: “will be”. They are juxtaposed with the preceding four-and-a-half lines, i.e. “When I return…overexposed”, again  with only one verb: “won’t be”. And yes, there’s zeugma in the yoking of “won’t be” with the four phrases that begin with “so”. The balancing of sentences with opposite verbs is significant. Moreover, “won’t be” in the seventh line is structurally mid-way from both the beginning and the end in this poem of fourteen lines (please don’t call it a sonnet yet).

The strategic positioning and need of negation in future arises from the present that has  miniaturized, commercialized, and (in Baudelairean terms) Disnefied “home” from a prelapsarian past. Irony, the potent weapon of the powerless, is subtly sent to work here. The word “so” is the key. Of course, in poetry, unlike life, accidents are rare. Therefore,  four instances of the same word in four consecutive lines, yoked strongly with one verb at one place, is definitely significant. The unstated structure is “so”…”as” kind of comparison from which the “as” part has been omitted. Inserting it results into:

When I return, the colors won’t be so brilliant [as that in the postcard at present/as they were in my past/ as they used to be in the past of other people]                                                            

[When I return,] [T]the Jhelum’s waters [won’t be]  so clean, so ultramarine  [as that in the postcard at present/as they were in my past/as they used to be in the past of other people]

[When I return,] [M] my love [won’t be] so overexposed [as that in the postcard at present/as they were in my past/as they used to be in the past of other people].

Therefore, there are three possible correct readings of these lines. As the occasion of the birth of all these lines is the arrival of that postcard, the first reading, that’s located in the present time, is definitely and obviously valid. We’ll see towards the end that the second reading is misleading. The third reading, with the past of other people, or Kashmir in the accounts of people other than the speaker, Kashmir is the picturesque paradise on earth that it once used to be. So, the postcard in the present time and all the accounts of Kashmir in other people’s memory or the collective memory of the people of Kashmir exist in an ambiguous tension in the interpretative possibilities of the first few lines centred in “home”.

The word home is linked with hand, love and memory in a neat pattern. The word “my” is the strong binding force that attaches them to the speaker, and to one another in this poem.  It’s his home that he calls his love and holds in his hands, that’s also in his memory. Home in hand is upon the postcard in present time, but it is only a representation, or distortion, of a past time.  Home in memory may have its origin in direct sensory experience and later retention of Kashmir or absorption of a picturesque Kashmir already developed and in place in stories, myths and histories when the speaker started thinking of and imbibing ideas of home. Or, it can be an amalgamation of various personal, ancestral, regional, communal and collective pasts. For our poet, past is ancestral past and it never dies:

snow

Before we go any further with interpretation, a short digression on home and past in Ali’s poetry is in order. Amitav Ghosh wrote a beautiful piece on Shahid Ali’s death, life, and love for his home and culture. In it he mentioned the physical and mental pain the poet went through and also pleasure that he derived from his life: present and past. I remember three words from that piece that meant everything to Ali: Kashmir, Kashmir, Kashmir. Ali’s poetry and his life are not divorced. He is not fully subjective, but his is not the passionless and hard kind of modern or postmodern poetry. His is the poetry of heart, home and past, and that’s the reason I call him a Romantic. Ali is never away from Kashmir. Kashmir is with him, in him and he in it. Kashmir is not a place for this exile. It has become a memory. It’s vivid, even immediate, but in his mind. It’s his heaven or hell, or whatever else he makes of it.

land

Home and pain go hand in hand, as home is not where he is or will be. It is where he used to be and still is, whenever he looks back. The poet’s eyes “in a fine frenzy rolling” glance form present to past, from America to India, from twenty-first century to eleventh century, and

lh

Irony and repetition are used in the first seven lines too, and alliteration is the force that binds the key words there: home, half-inch Himalayas, hold and hand, the last two words contributing to the masculine rhyme too. Home has been shrunk, and a definitely phallic Himalayas is held in hands. Psychoanalytically speaking, there definitely is rage and repression, along with transference, because pain is not fully expressed and the parental injunction for neatness that had been internalized resurfaces.

The word “home” comes thrice in the beginning of the poem. It’s first shrunk into 24 square inches in area, then reduced in dimensions too into half-inch, and finally denied any possibility of return. The very first word of the very first line of this poem is Kashmir. The very mention of the word Kashmir invokes the following lines:

pIf there’s a paradise on the earth,                                                                                                         It’s here, it’s here, it’s here.

It is from that paradise that the speaker has been exiled. The fall is irreversible. This Adam will never return to his Kashmir. His paradise is lost and not because of an angel denying him access to Eden on God’s orders, but because it’s not there anymore. It can only be found shrunk onto an area of four by six inches. Between the home that he can’t return to, and the postcard that re-presents home, lies its memory.

The postcard of the title that is never mentioned by name in the poem is coloured, as is proven by the ultramarine Jhelum. The very presence of the prefix ultra- that means beyond in Latin is pregnant with possibilities. As affirmed already, there aren’t any accidents in poetry, this particular shade of blue that’s contextually totally justified, is not innocent of other interpretations. The reading of ultra- as over or beyond is underscored and emphasized by the prefix over- in the very next line. Thus there are six indicators (four times “so”, ultra- and over-) in the four lines governed by  “won’t be” that make the negation complete and final. Thus the postcard held in hands in the present time re-presents an extinct Kashmir at the best, probably not even that. In an age of commercialization and packaging, probably the postcard “creates” a Kashmir that the speaker had neither seen nor heard of. That may be the reason behind his chagrin, if it isn’t called rage.

I don’t know why, but while reading this poem, Yeats’s “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” flashed into my mind suddenly. I quote it in part before we look closer:

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,                                                                                    
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

The speaker wants (wishes) to go home, although he doesn’t call it by that name. His home is in a kind of pastoral past, and he is away from both the pastoral and the past while he stands in his present time on the roadways or on the pavements. Water is there, just as Jhelum is in Ali’s poem.

The last few lines play, and not so subtly as traces are left, with distortion of home. The coloured postcard of the beginning is not home but an enhanced slice of the picturesque. The scale is altered, home is “shrunk” and hands are left holding a half-inch Himalayas. Thus irony functions to show the unreal nature of colours, neatness and dimensions. The ‘overexposed” love of the speaker is also not home, as the prefix over- suggests. Finally, the memory, looking back at home, will find no colours there, and no clarity of vision. Home is lost irrevocably. Whatever the speaker does, it can never be reached again. The pain of loss is intensified by its erasure from and distortion in the memory too. There is a technical detail that must be mentioned here. Coloured and black-and-white photographs are developed from two different types of negatives. Just as one kind of photograph can’t substitute for another, negatives are also not interchangeable. The Kashmir of the first few lines and that of the last few are not one and the same. Neither are they related in any way. Real or not, the postcard has colours. Developed or not, the negative is black-and-white.

Ali died away from home. He never returned. In a way, it was good for the romantic in him as there actually was no home to return to; there never is a path in space that cuts across time.

The boat laid up, the voyage o’er,
And passed the stormy wave,
The world is going as before,
The poet in his grave.      

(John Clare, “The Poet’s Death”)