Category Archives: Poetry

Three poems

Three of my poems have been published in the latest issue of Pratilipi. The issue also has works by Keki Daruwalla, Sridala, Meena and Sridhar/Thayil. Do read.

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Things i am liking tonight

Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger. So far. Despite the tense straining of muscles I generally feel against things hyped and vulgarly in the news.

I’m trying to get over this perversity of not being able to watch, read, enjoy things when other people tell me they are so-very-enjoyable. Sometimes they really are.

Anyway, I’ve just started and I like the gritty texture, the grime that Adiga unabashedly describes. Mud, lizards, buffaloes, black oozing rivers. I have a fondness for the unpretty image done well.

Also, Eavan Boland‘s poem Love. Here’s an extract:

And yet I want to return to you
on the bridge of the Iowa river as you were,
with snow on the shoulders of your coat
and a car passing with its headlights on:

I see you as a hero in a text —
the image blazing and the edges gilded —
and I long to cry out the epic question
my dear companion:
Will we ever live so intensely again?

Read the full poem here.

and

my trusty camera. There is a dilemma attached to this one. I like photographing people more than things, or even places. But I feel uncomfortable doing it. Voyeuristic. Violative, like Sontag said. Especially since I usually like faces with something unusual about them — some sadness, quirk or peculiarity. And this is natural for someone who considers herself sad, quirky and peculiar, I suppose. But am I responding to the person or to some hidden quality in the person that I am trying to unearth? And how separate are the two things? And how much of it is about recognition of something familiar, emotional kindred?

So I’m one of those people who love taking pictures of people but will never ask. Unless I’m really drunk or really sure that they don’t mind. Which makes me a lousy, cowardly sort of photographer. I intend to get over this hangup soon but tonight, I was in no mood to make a big effort towards “springing from the platonic conception” of myself so I photographed Dobby, and lamps and things.

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Two Things

Upcoming writers, photographers and musicians, the annual Toto Funds the Arts awards are here again and anyone below the age of 30 can apply in these categories. Here are the details on the writing awards. If you want details on the other awards, write to me and I’ll forward them you can just click here.

TOTO FUNDS THE ARTS (TFA) invites entries for its fourth annual TOTO awards for Indian creative writers in English. Two cash awards of Rs. 25,000 each will be given in January, 2009. Entries are only invited from young people — over the age of 18, and who have not celebrated their 30th birthday before 1 January 2009. The spirit of the Toto Awards is to identify promise and encourage young talent. Therefore, do not submit an entry if you are already an established writer.TFA is looking for entries in three genres –– short plays, short stories and poetry.

The submissions should not exceed 7,500 words. You can submit any combination of your writing in the above genres, as long as the entire submission is within the stipulated word limit. Entries should reach TOTO FUNDS THE ARTS (TFA) by 4 October 2008 at the latest. There will be no extension of the submission date. Address:TOTO FUNDS THE ARTS (TFA), H 301 Adarsh Gardens, 8th Block, 47th Cross, Jayanagar, Bangalore 560 082, Phone: 080-26990549

Entries should be sent in soft e-mail copy to totofundsthearts@yahoo.com as well in hard copy form to the above address. Please address queries to the same e-mail ID.

THE FINE PRINT:

Entries must be accompanied by a signed statement confirming the applicant’s date of birth, whether the applicant’s work has been published in print (give details), and also affirming that the submitted work is original. Please ensure that the hard copy does not carry your name on it. Submitted entries will be given code numbers to protect applicants’ identities from the jury during the judging process. Submitted material will not be returned. The decision of the TFA jury is final and cannot be contested in any forum.

Also, Caferati and LiveJournal are inviting entries for Quicktales, their flash fiction contest. Details here.

UPDATE: Toto Funds the Arts has just started their own blog. If you’re in Bangalore, it’s a great way of staying updated on readings, events etc. See here.

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You’re invited…

So, this Saturday, some of us will be reading / performing poetry. The event has been organised by Unisun to showcase the poems in their upcoming anthology. Jeet Thayil will be performing some of his poems. I will read one of Meena Kandasamy’s poems and two of my own. The Rajas will be performing some of the other poems featured in the anthology. Should be fun. Drop by if you can.

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Poetry and bombs

These are poetry days and I’m swimming in it. The Toto Funds the Arts (TFA) monthly poetry reading happened yesterday and Keki Daruwalla read. (For those who don’t know, TFA organises poetry readings once a month at Crossword book shop.) The other poet who was supposed to read with him, Trina Nileena Banerjee, couldn’t make the trip from Kolkata and had to cancel. So three of us, who are participating in Keki’s writing workshop, read some poetry instead. More about the workshop later but first, the reading.

Keki read a range of his poems — environmental, political, personal. What strikes me most about Keki’s poetry is his variety of subject matter. He has tackled such diverse themes and, while doing so, varied tone and style so comfortably. He also used some interesting techniques during the reading to make his poems more accessible to a listener. (And the key word here is ‘listener’ as opposed to reader.) He started with the shorter poems and then moved on to longer poems. It makes it easier for the listener to “digest the poems”, he said. He explained context often, sometimes even interrupting himself in the middle of poems to do so. He repeated lines that he felt he hadn’t read well the first time. During the discussion session, he was firm about his beliefs without being abrasive. And he quoted extensively. Entire poems. In this rhythmic, foot-tapping way with a beatific smile on his face.

You can read some of his poems online here and here.

My reading went off smoothly enough. I think. Which basically means that I’m getting more used to it. There is something to be said for the more immediate experience of reading out poetry and having people respond to it there and then, as opposed to just writing it and sending it out into the void.

The other readers were Parvati Sharma and Madhulika Desai. Parvati’s a friend and it was lovely to see her read her poetry. At her last reading, she read an extract from her short story and both times, she connected with the audience in an amazing way. Her writing is clear and honest and says unexpected things without being gimmicky about it. Madhulika was very confident considering it was her first reading.

Now, the workshop. It’s being conducted by Keki and Anjum Hasan (another poet I admire a lot). It’s over three whole days and there are about twelve of us. I’m exhausted after the first day but have written three poems in a day after a long time, which is the power of writing on tap. It’s commonly said that nobody can teach you how to write and I believe that but having a space to flex your writing muscles is a terrific thing. It clarifies. It concentrates. I wish I had the luxury of doing this more often.

But also, this was not an ordinary day of workshopping. You know what happened in Bangalore today so here’s another, slightly refractional view of it.

A little after lunch, one of the participants passed a note to Anjum and almost immediately, as if on cue, our phones started ringing. The note said there had been bomb blasts in the city. Of course, there was some fluttering — phone calls (which didn’t go anywhere much because all the lines were jammed) and some discussion on what we should do. We were stuck in Centre for Social and Cultural Studies in Jayanagar, which is a fairly quiet place, and there had been no bombs blasting nearby. But the sense of general panic could not be ignored. And everyone was worried about how they would get home.

Finally, unanimously, we decided to go on until 5, which is what we had scheduled. What surprised me is how we went back to the workshop almost seamlessly. I don’t know what this says — that writers are used to isolating themselves from what’s happening around them, that they thrive on stress and tragedy, or simply that when people have no other way to respond to a crisis, they will continue with life. Later, we discussed Yehudi Amichai’s Diameter of a Bomb

The Diameter of the Bomb

~ Yehudi Amichai

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making

a circle with no end and no God.

Outside, there was chaos for some time but by the time we came out at 5, things were calmer. At least, outwardly.

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A poem…

of mine in the latest issue of Quay Journal. Do read.

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High in the clean blue air

So I was reading Mary Oliver again today, after a long time, and thought I’d share. Not because you haven’t read this (you probably have) but because it’s one of those rare ‘happy’ poems. For various reasons, I’ve been on a quest to find these lately and it’s hard! Poets are a gloomy lot ranging from the philosophical-sad to the downright macabre.

It also poses a small difficulty that happy poems often end up sounding like something from a Hallmark card. I’m not sure I don’t feel a slight twinge of that even with this one towards the end. But the beauty of the earlier lines and the fact that you can’t fault the essential truth of the missive redeem it. It’s interesting how “the family of things” here is not neat, gift-wrapped, ribbon-tied. There is the “soft animal of the body” early on and the placidity of “mountains and the rivers” is broken by “wild geese, harsh and exciting”. Because family–of any kind (the universe or otherwise)–is hardly all warm apple pie by the fireside, is it? It is often “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”

Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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