Poem of the week: Week Twelve.

The last one among the random poems is from the anthology Early Indian Poetry in English (1829-1947). It has been edited by Eunice de Souza, and I picked up this book from the NCPA store during the Mumbai LitFest.

In Bedlam
- Dhan Gopal Mukherji

They call me crazed, for I console the moon,
I know the hour when she began to weep -
It was when the poets were slain that night.
Lo, how they lie:
Those who were more restless than the sea
And more serene than the height-humbling eagle in his flight -
They are gone, gods and singers;
Only the moon remains,
Vainly carrying her silver lyre;
They call me crazed, for I console the moon.


Because poets still get slain and the moon still needs to be consoled time and again.


Poem of the week: Week Eleven.

The second last to fill the random poetry week that’s lost, is from Vikram Seth’s poetry book Mappings. This copy, too, came from Writers Workshop.

Vikram Seth

I willed my love to dream of me last night
             That we might lie
At peace, if not beneath, a single sheet,
             Under one sky.

I dreamed of her but she could not alas
             Humour my will;
It struck me suddenly that where she was
              Was daylight still.


Alas, too, that modern-day relationships are exactly like this!




Poem of the week: Week Ten.

The month of March 2014 was a random month and therefore gets random poems. They’re beautiful, nevertheless!

This poem is from Hoshang Merchant’s poetry book Love’s Permission, a beautiful copy I ordered from Writers Workshop.

Small Poet
- Hoshang Merchant

Wearing my clothes
He got lost in the city

It was as if I lost myself
And kept looking                    for myself.


Stark, and it reminds me of Agha Shahid Ali.



Poem of the week: Week Nine.

So, March came and went and I couldn’t decide on a theme to go along with. Time is the best way to come to a decision, but it didn’t work for me! So, I’m going to post four random poems that I like for each week of March that is gone and will never come back.

The following poem is from The Little Magazine’s anthology titled India in Verse. It is one of my favourites:

- K. Satchidanandan

Stammer is no handicap.
It is a mode of speech.

Stammer is the silence that falls
between the world and its meaning,
just as lameness is the
silence that falls between
the word and the deed.

Did stammer precede language
or succeed it?
Is it only a dialect or a language itself?
These questions make
the linguists stammer.

Each time we stammer
we are offering a sacrifice
to the God of meanings.

When a whole people stammer
stammer becomes their mother-tongue:
just as it is with us now.

God too must have stammered
when He created man.
That is why each of man’s words
carries several meanings.
That is why everything he utters,
from his prayers to his commands,

like poetry.

Translated from the Malayalam ‘Vikku’ by the poet.


Poem of the week: Week Eight.

The last one in the theme ‘Love and Marriage’. There is a dearth of good poems on the subject of marriage while tons on love, I have found. One of my favourite love poet is Pablo Neruda. And this one is from a collection titled Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, which I picked up from Kitab Khana.

Every Day You Play
Pablo Neruda

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among
the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last
to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through
your eyes.

Now, now too, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you  must have suffered getting accustomed to
My savage soul, my name that sends them
all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn,
kissing your eyes,
and over our heads the grey light unwind in turning
My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl
of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.

I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry

Trust Neruda to make even the most unromantic person blush!


Poem of the week: Week Seven.

A poetry theme to do with love would be incomplete without a poem from Tagore. My only problem was finding a happy love poem from the bilingual collection Songs of Tagore, which was a gift too. If not happy-happy, the following poem best describes the feeling of love. It’s week three of the theme ‘Love and Marriage’.

Baajilo kaahaar beenaa modhur shworey
Aamaar nibhrito nobo jeebon- ‘porey.
Prabhat komolo shomo phutilo hriday momo
Kaar duti nirupom choron-torey.
Jegey uthey shob shobhaa, shob maadhuri,
Polokey polokey hiyaa pulokey poori.
Kothaa hotey shomeeron aaney nobo jaagoron,
poraaner aaboron mochon korey.
Laagey bukey shukhey dukhey koto jey byaathaa,
Kamoney bujhaaye kobo naa jaani kothaa.
Aamaaro baashonaa aaji tribhuboney uthey baaji,
kaanpey nodi bonoraaji bedonaabhorey.

I Know not whose lyre
plays a sweet symphony
in this secret dawn of my life;
my heart like a lotus in the morn
pens its thousand petals
beneath those peerless feet.

To the strains of that music,
beauty awakes;
her heart filling with bliss
from moment to moment.

From where do the winds of spring
bring this awakening,
rendering the veils of the soul?

I find no words to describe
this painful strife
of agony and joy in my breast!

My desire rings echoing
through the three worlds,
and the river and the woodlands
tremble with the poignancy of my pain.


I don’t speak Bangla but reading the poem in the original is always a delight!


Poem of the week: Week Six.

Second week of the theme ‘Love and Marriage’. This tiny poem is from a book called Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, which I picked up during a book sale.

On Marriage
Robert Burns

That hackney’d judge of human life,
The Preacher and the King,
Observes: — ‘The man that gets a wife
He gets a noble thing.’
But how capricious are mankind,
Now loathing, now desirous!
We married men, how oft we find
The best of things will tire us!


Interestingly, poems by men on the subject of marriage always say something like this, while the ones on love are completely different. Also, I can’t find any poems on the subject of marriage by women in the book collections I have. About time I bought new ones, I guess!


Poem of the week: Week Five.

February is here, and it started with my sister getting married. So, the poems of this month will be around the theme ‘Love and Marriage’. Typical, I know, what with Valentines Day just around the corner. But, I have found that the poets are as allergic to cheese I am!  

Here’s an example from Ranjit Hoskoté’s poetry book Vanishing Acts

The Grammarian’s Marriage Poem
 Ranjit Hoskoté

The most beautiful is the object
which does not exist

                                   - Zbigniew Herbert: ‘Study of the Object’


The most beautiful bride is she who does not exist,
she who bears no heroes, carries no firewood:

the classical absence pinned with jasper brooches,
she who is hope, the high-strung trope

of an extinct rhetoric, her limbs fragile as hieroglyphs
that I must collect with arms thrown wide

as metal detectors. She is a puzzle that I must assemble
into a body of coherent evidence.


The most beautiful bride is music, not sculpture:
she will wear flowers of water in her hair

and sew garlands at nightfall from fistfuls of corn,
gather splashes of stars at her wrists.

In the wilderness of speech, she wll be my farewell
to the sins of too much talk, too much prayer;

in a high-walled town on a plain flat as a palm,
she will absolve me from my crazied pieties

of hindsight. She will be the rain of grace
bursting from the pods of the wishing tree. 


She is a sphinx, the most beautiful bride.
Defying the logic of her own riddles,

She will relay me from cuneiform to runic,
cursive to blackletter. So copied from hand

to hand, version to version,
the words of my character are amended:

I will always be other than I am,
a translation of the original text of the tribe

burnt in sacked cities, buried with jewel-hoards,
torn apart by ravening wolves.


She crafts me on her parchment sheaves:
I am no territory but only borderlines

born of her artifice. She writes me even as I write 
this marriage poem for her

and I climb out of the dark night
of her beloved body, the most beautiful bride. 




Poem of the week: Week Four.

The last one under the theme ‘Beginnings and Ends’. This one is from Ruskin Bond’s Book of Verse, which was a gift. 

On Wings of Sleep
- Ruskin Bond

On wings of sleep
I dreamt I flew
Across the valley drenched in dew
Over the rooftops
Into the forest
Swooping low
Where the Sambhur belled
And the peacocks flew.
And the dawn broke
Rose-pink behind the mountains
And the river ran silver and gold
As I glided over the trees
Drifting with the dawn breeze 
Across the river,
over fields of corn.
And the world awoke
To a new day, a new dawn. 

Time to fly home,
As the sun rose, red and angry,
Ready to singe my wings,
I returned to my sleeping form,
Creaking bed and dusty window-pane,
To dream of flying with the wind again.

Bond wasn’t a morning person, maybe. I like to think that in any case because neither am  I. I’m someone who never wakes up or goes to bed according to the clock, which is why I can relate to this poem. Bond, like me, probably doesn’t like to face the beginning of the end of dreams in the morning – since reality is just a “dusty window-pane”. 


Poem of the week: Week Three.

Another one on the theme ‘Beginnings and Ends’. This one is from the Selected Poems of Fernando Pessoa, which I have borrowed from a friend.

It Begins to Be
- Fernando Pessoa

It begins to be going to be dawn -
The black sky is beginning,
In a still-dark slight
Unblackening of its night,
To have a chill tint,
There, where the black is thinning.

A black that is azure-ashen
Outwards, vaguely, drifts
From where the Orient sleeps
Its late sleep, shapeless,
And a windless chill keeps station,
Heard, scarcely perceived.  

And yet I, who have hardly
Slept, don’t feel night or chill
Or, coming in, dawntide
From the void solitude.
The indefinite of the heart,
Its void, is all I feel.

In vain the day is dawning
To one who can’t sleep, never
Was made o get things straight
Here inside the heart;
Who while he lives is denying
And, when he loves, does not have.

In vain, in vain, and the sky
Azures itself through green
Asheningly. What
Is it my soul feels? Not
That, no, nor even I,
In the night, which will soon be unseen.



Sometimes, one can only be thankful for the end of something inconceivable. Since the mind is not ready for the beginning yet.      


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