Poem of the week: Week Thirty Nine.

It is very difficult to choose just four poems from Amrita Pritam’s प्रतिनिधि कविताएँ. The lines, the images are so many and so removed from clichés that one can’t help but feel amazed at Amrita’s immense talent and hard work.
The last two poems of October are about a theme that fascinates me no end: cities.

– अमृता प्रीतम 

मेरा शहर -
एक लम्बी बहस की तरह है…
सड़कें – बेतुकी दलीलों-सी
और गलियां इस तरह -
जैसे एक बात को
कोई इधर घसीटे कोई उधर

एक मकान
एक मुट्ठी-सा भिंचा हुआदीवरें -
और नालियाँ
ज्यों मुंह से झाग बहती है…

यह बहस जाने
सूरज से शुरू हुई थी
जो उसे देखकर
यह और गरमाती
और हर द्वार के मुंह से
फिर साइकिलों
और स्कूटेरों के पहिये
गालियों की तरह निकलते
और घण्टिया हॉर्न
एक-दूसरे पर झपटते…

जो भी बच्चा
इस शहर में जनमता
पूछता कि किस बात पर
यह बहस हो राही है
फिर उसका प्रश्न भी
एक बहस बनता
बहस में निकलता
बहस में मिलता…

शंख घण्टो के श्वास सुखे
रात आती, सिर पटकती
और चली जाती
पर नींद में भी
बहस खत्म न होती
मेरा शहर
एक लम्बी बहस की तरह है…



Poem of the week: Week Thirty Eight.

Time for the second poem from Amrita Pritam’s poetry collection प्रतिनिधि कविताएँ. 

– अमृता प्रीतम 

आज हमने एक दुनिया बेची
और एक दीन ख़रीद लिया
हमने कुफ्र की बात की 

सपनों का एक थान बुना था
एक गज़ कपड़ा फाड़ लिया 
और उम्र की चोली सी ली 

आज हमने आसमान के घड़े से
बादल का ढकना उतारा
और एक घूँट चाँदनी पी ली

यह जो एक घड़ी हमने 
मौत से उधार ली है
गीतों से इसका दाम चुका देंगे 



Poem of the week: Week Thirty Seven.

This month’s poet is Amrita Pritam. Poems are from a collection of her poetry called प्रतिनिधि कविताएँ, published by Rajkamal Prakashan.
I’m really excited since this is the first ever poem in Hindi on this blog!

I picked up this one (too) from Kitab Khana. So, every time I go there, I spend some (quite a lot of) time looking at the poetry section, and I usually end up buying at least one book – depending on my budget. This time, since my card is blocked, I had left home with just 200₹ my mother had handed to me. So, a very important reason why I picked प्रतिनिधि कविताएँ  is that it is priced only at 50₹.

I don’t know if this is good or bad. I’m happy since I’m reading some amazing poems at minimal cost, but would I feel the same if my work fetched me so little? It is strange that novels, comics, or even books of photographs are priced up to 1,000₹ or more but when it comes to poetry, publishers feel it’s best to price it low. Even more so when it is regional literature. 

There is an audience for poetry in the city. What proves this is the number of poetry events that happen around here. And I’m sure many of you buy poetry books but if you don’t, please do. Visit Kitab Khana (the poetry section is just next to the staircase), go through the list of books on Writers Workshop. Support the work of poets.

Now, some classic Amrita Pritam:

- अमृता प्रीतम 

कमीना… बेवफ़ा… बदज़ात… ज़ालिम
कम्बख्त तुम याद आते हो
तो कितने ही लफ़्ज -
मेरी छाती की आग चाटते
आग थूकते
मेरे मुँह से निकलते…
बदन हा मांस
जब गीली मिट्टी की तरह होता
तो सारे लफ़्ज -
मेरे सूखे हुए होंटों से झरते
और मिट्टी मे
बीजों की तरह गिरते…
में थकी हुई धरती की तरह
खामोश होती
तो निगोड़े
मेरे अंगों मे से उग पड़ते
फूलों की तरह हँसते
और में -
एक काले कोस जैसी
महक महक जाती…


Poem of the week: Week Thirty Six.

The last poem from and in Gabriel Preil’s poetry collection Autumn Music

A Summing Up
Gabriel Preil

I spoke with a tangle-haired forester from Saskatchewan –
and in his words I detected a chorus of trees singing
under the stretched parchment dotted with stars;
I accompanied an artist ablaze with color,
probing mountain and river at sunset –
and on my private horizon burst forth a fire
primeval and untamed, plunging finally into
dormant marble, abundant with sadness;
I saw a monk from Siam, thin and ascetic as a reed,
perched on the spring of oblivion –
like him I was punished by scorpions of memory
and in the pale waters I purified myself;
and when I chanced upon the Greek cook, sober and round,
I learned from his mouth a lesson
of the spoon that stirs without pause
a broth of passion and boredom of the world.



Poem of the week: Week Thirty Five.

Here’s the third poem of September from Gabriel Preil’s poetry collection Autumn Music.

The First Time
Gabriel Preil

The gravedigger’s shirt
turned red in the sun,
his boots turned black
with the white of snow:
as if this day
became night
for the first time,
as if the earth had never
opened its mouth –
and the mourners stood
like surprised children
at the sight
of the gravedigger’s shirt 
turned red,
and their blood turned
to snow.



Poem of the week: Week Thirty Four.

The second poem of the month from Gabriel Preil’s amazing poetry collection Autumn Music.
The following poem is my absolute favourite from the book.

Letter out of the Gray
Gabriel Preil

No one writes to me.
The books are as tired as I.
The pen still shakes on the paper
its dubious warmth
and it seems I’m not holding it.
It is a reed stuck in a faraway sea
or seized by a stranger
directing a line from right to left
as if by accident.
But sometimes, out of the gray,
a square letter smiles.
Blue and innocent,
it whispers:
I am the only one who loves.



Poem of the week: Week Thirty Three.

This month’s poet is the modern Hebrew poet Gabriel Preil. I found his book Autumn Music in my cousin’s collection.

An Island and its Retreating Sea
Gabriel Preil

The poem arrives in any weather
and then carves out a climate
of its own,
planting gardens
that had never brought forth gold
or yielding a new desert
of sand.

After the poem,
with its sun and its snow
and all that passes between them
has been sung,
it breathes
like a landscape of its own
that can be located
on any map.

Only the one
who brought forth the poem
remains apart:
an island
whose sea retreats
at his approach.




Poem of the week: Week Thirty Two.

The last and my favourite poem from Mustansir Dalvi’s Brouhahas of Cocks.

a saint prays for rain
Mustansir Dalvi

You are gone these many seasons,
anamnesis shed like miniatures
lost in the dunes west of Sam,
and I am left white, anaemic.

I paint my breasts saffron
with pastes of sandalwood
for to anoint You, my Lord,
but they dry and cake.
I scratch myself, scrape
Your names on my skin,
bring blood simmering
to the surface to keep
Your tongue interested.

This world is anathema,
conjoint of meat and material,
a malediction of the mind
keeping You from me
and my heart, a four-chambered
reef knot, another piece of flesh.

Answer my prayers, Lord,
but get Your aim right.
The archers of Your approbation
are way off mark. The leaden barbs
from your forge should pitch
their sights to a lower eye
for my faith is my clitoris
between the teeth of my Lord.
You bite down with felicity
midsummer showers
redden the earth, and the musk
of my fertile mud is released.



Poem of the week: Week Thirty One.

The third poem from Mustansir Dalvi’s poetry collection Brouhahas of Cocks. Also, the second last poem for this month.

choosing trains
- Mustansir Dalvi

It’s those bloody slumwallahs again
my father curses, wet from the rain;
they’re back, throwing rocks at trains
so,so heartless, so totally insane.

I peek out from behind exhaust shaft
at the mob that destroys, burns and laughs;
duck just in time as a spinning half-
bat crashes through our grimy pane. 

The old man rushes to take us in
two sons, one wife, no next of kin
into the backroom store, on its roof of tin
skeletons dance to staccato strains.

I turn the back handle, quick, scurry out
onto rain swept rails, heart thudding, father shouts.
I turn left, then right, and finally, head south
to pick my rocks, to choose my trains.



Poem of the week: Week Thirty.

Here’s the second poem of August from Mustansir Dalvi’s poetry book Brouhahas of Cocks. I find this one very relatable!

hardback awakening
Mustansir Dalvi

The air is thick, and has revived
my books, anticipating the first spell
of a Bombay monsoon.

Ambient moisture has slaked pages
that shuffle and twist, arise
to a wakefulness, unleaving.

Feeling the discomfort of nearness, they push
like Harbour Line commuters in rush hour,
to complain I have neglected them too long.

At night, I am shaken by a poltergeist
Thud! snapping me out of a dream state.
I pull on my glasses, feel my way to the bookshelves.

The hardbacks wait for me, annoyed.
They fall on their sides, open wide
and like Gabriel, call upon me: ‘Read!’
they cry, ‘Read!’



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