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The Poet-Photographer

Notes on poetry


The Poet-Photographer

Notes on poetry


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“Fog”- A poem by Carl Sandburg(1878-1967)


“Defunct”- A poem by e.e.cummings


“When lovely woman stoops to folly” -By Oliver Goldsmith


“To the historians” By Walt Whitman


Leaving not a rack behind


“Man Was Made To Mourn” By Robert Burns


“There is no frigate like a book” By Emily Dickinson


“A valediction forbidding mourning” by John Donne


“A narrow fellow in the grass “-A poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


“Batter my heart “By John Donne


The jungle husband By Stevie Smith


An Idiot’s Tale


“Futility”- A poem By Wilfrid Owen


“This Living Hand” by John Keats


“When I have seen the sun emerge”-Emily Dickinson


“Failure” By Philip Schultz


Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman


“Specimen”- A poem by Philip Schultz


“He wishes for the clothes of heaven” by W.B.Yeats


“My heart leaps up when I behold “-William Wordsworth


“Ironic poem about prostitution” By George Orwell


A Song for St Cecilia’s Day By John Dryden


Shakespeare’s sonnet 18


Circles of light


Toru Dutt ‘s poem “Our Casuarina Tree


The road not taken


“April”- A short poem by Sara Teasdale


(excerpts) Verses upon the burning of our house by Anne Bradstreet(1612-1672)


“A girl” – a poem by Ezra Pound


“The eagle” by Alfred Tennyson


John Donne’s “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls /It tolls for thee”


An excerpt from”My father adjusts his hearing aid” by David Bottoms


“The last house” by Rilke


Patting the drum-hide of the night


“The burnt out ends of smoky days” (T.S.Eliot’s Preludes)


There are thieves who steal the world the moment I turn my back


Faust’s famous clock quote


Tread softly because you tread on my dreams


“Landscapes”- a poem by John Burnside


Rubaiyat and the nubile girls


“The wind still blows over the Savanna”-by Charles Bukowski


Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73


Three out of Nine Poems on Arrival by Adil Jussawalla


“Return”-A prose poem by Udayan Vajpeyi


“You, you only, exist” -BY Rainier Maria Rilke


“To Be Saved You Must Be Spent” by Michael Chitwood


“Between going and coming”- A poem by Octavio Paz


“THE POET”- by P.Lal


“The sparks from your firesmoky eyes” by Doris Kareva


“An Old Woman”-By Arun Kolatkar


“Touch” by Octavio Paz


Loneliness” by Rainer Maria Rilke


“The Empty House” by Marjorie Agosin


“Words” by Anne Sexton


“Your Worship” by Val Vinokur


“And as in Alice” by Mary Jo Bang


“The Little Spring” by Ko Un


“The Wheel” by Vinda Karandikar


“Women” by Bejan Matur


“The Future” by Rilke


“KEY” by Dom Moraes


“Sea Breeze, Bombay” by Adil Jussawalla


“STILL LIFE” by A.K.Ramanujan


“If This Is All…” by Luciano Erba


“Evidence” by Mary Jo Bang


“We Are Not Dead” by Kadhim Kaitan


“THE HILL” by Nissim Ezekiel


“SONG” by John Donne


Poetry by Du Mu (9th century Chinese Poet)


“The Prelude” – by Tomas Transtromer


“Old Woman With a Goiter”- By Erica Levy MacAlpine


“POEM” By Gieve Patel


“For Hans Caroussa” by Rilke


“LOW TEMPLE ” -A poem by Arun Kolatkar


“A dog has died”– A stanza from Pablo Neruda’s poem


W.H.Auden’s poem “Musee des arts “(The Fall of Icarus-A painting by Broueghel)


“may my heart be open to little birds” by e.e.cummings


“Lady on a balcony” by Rilke


“Civil twilight” By Terri Witek


Moving sleep


“Love” – a poem by Hrishikesan B


“Ode to Autumn” by John Keats


Minimalism in poetry


“Let Evening Come”-by Jane Kenyon


“Entrance”- A poem by Rilke


“Sailing to Byzantium” by W.B.Yeats


Visual imagery in Shakespeare’s plays


“With These Rings” by Janet Paisley


“While she slept like Vishnu” by Neha Viswanathan


“8 Count”- A poem by Charles Bukowvski


“The Moment” by Margaret Athwood


“The Waste Land.” by T.S.Eliot


“The second coming” by W.B.Yeats


“The cord” by Leanne O’Sullivan


“The Sight”by Mahim Bora


“To his coy mistress” by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)


One must feel how the birds fly


“Mirror” by Sylvia Plath


“There’s a certain slant of light ” by Emily Dickinson


Rilke’s letters to a young poet


“Fog”- A poem by Carl Sandburg(1878-1967)

December 23, 2010

THE fog comes on little cat feet.

It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.

Love the single image of the cat in the poem. The fog comes in silent feline movements, sits on its silent haunches over the city and harbor and moves on ,as the morning grows to the day. Beautiful!


“Defunct”- A poem by e.e.cummings

December 20, 2010


Buffalo Bill’s defunct who used to ride a watersmooth-silver stallion and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat Jesus he was a handsome man and what i want to know is how do you like your blueeyed boy Mister Death.

by e.e.cummings

Buffalo Bill is defunct. Which means he is no longer in use or operation? Use? For whom? He was doing great things while alive. He rode a silver-white water-smooth stallion. He broke pigeons, onetwothreefourfive just like that. He was a handsome man. But at Mr. Death he turned blue in the eyes.

The only thing one can do now is to ask Mr. Death a report of what he is like now because he is defunct. He is no longer in use here, you see.


He is like the old gramophone which played such fine music then but is now no longer in use or operation. Presently it is in the attic. We want to know how it is faring there.

So, Mr. Death, will you tell us how you like him?


But old gramophones do not disappear from the attic. Mr. Buffalo Bill is no doubt defunct .But isn’t there an intermediate stage between existence and non-existence, when the object continues to exist but does not perform the functions expected of it or, in other words, becomes defunct?

( inner skepticism)

Cummings did not use the gramophone image. If Mr. Buffalo Bill went for good, what was that to me?


“When lovely woman stoops to folly” -By Oliver Goldsmith

December 09, 2010

WHEN lovely woman stoops to folly, And finds too late that men betray, What charm can soothe her melancholy? What art can wash her tears away?

The only art her guilt to cover, To hide her shame from ev’ry eye, To give repentance to her lover, And wring his bosom is—to die.

In the eighteenth century, when lovely woman stooped to folly, the only way for her to hide her shame and wring his bosom in repentance was to die. Death was the only solution when she had lost her chastity and the man betrayed her.

In the twentieth century , when lovely woman stoops to folly she merely paces up and down alone ,in her room ,smoothes her hair with automatic hand and puts a record on the gramophone. (T.S.Eliot : The Waste Land)

She turns and looks a moment in the glass, Hardly aware of her departed lover; Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:

‘Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.’ When lovely woman stoops to folly and Paces about her room again, alone,


She smoothes her hair with automatic hand, And puts a record on the gramophone.

The literary allusion made by Eliot serves the purpose of juxtaposing the social values prevailing at two different periods of time. But there is mockery of the society in both the poems, a biting sarcasm directed at the societies of both the times. In Goldsmith’s society an exaggerated importance is given to a woman’s chastity .In an act of promiscuity it is the woman who has to hide her shame whereas the man can walk away from the relationship without social disapproval. The woman “stoops” to folly, an act of bending from her moral uprightness. The only way she can wring repentance out of his bosom is for her to die.

In Eliot’s society chastity is no longer considered very important. But that does not mean the society has moved away from the retrograde sexual morality of Oliver Smith’s times. The exaggerated concern for female chastity is now replaced by a sexual more based upon unbridled lust and love without commitment. Here man-woman relationship is a purely mechanical one and there is nothing permanent about the relationship. The woman is hardly aware of her departed lover and does not care who he is because there is no intention of a permanent relationship behind the carnal act.


“To the historians” By Walt Whitman

December 09, 2010

You who celebrate bygones, Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the life that has exhibited itself, Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, rulers and priests, I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself in his own rights, Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself, (the great pride of man in himself,) Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be, I project the history of the future.

In the last line Whitman speaks about his mission in poetry ,which is not to narrate the history of mankind in terms of dead and gone events but to chant(sing) of what is yet to be-the future of man as projected over the graph of the past . Projecting the history of the future is equivalent to drawing upon the past for the behaviour and trend of collective human actions to arrive at the likely scenario of the future. Whitman the individualist will sing of the pride of man in himself and in his own rights. His chronicles are not a series of wars, calamities, nations and their upheavals , kings, queens, rulers and priests and their politics .Singing of these is mere singing of the surfaces of the races, exploring the mere outward.


Leaving not a rack behind

December 08, 2010

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on; and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.”

The Tempest. Act iv. Sc. 1.

Another famous stage metaphor of Shakespeare from The Tempest. The most remarkable visual image is the stage trapping of ‘the baseless fabric of this vision’. A cloth backdrop with pictures of cloud-capped towers, gorgeous palaces, solemn temples and the great globe itself .The pageant fades as soon as the revels are ended ,leaving “not a rack behind” .We are such stuff as dreams are made on. Our revels get ended too soon. Then our life is rounded with a sleep. Once the curtains are down we go into the oblivion of sleep.


(also included in the Shakespeare page)

“Man Was Made To Mourn” By Robert Burns

November 29, 2010

When chill November’s surly blast Made fields and forests bare, One ev’ning, as I wander’d forth Along the banks of Ayr, I spied a man, whose aged step Seem’d weary, worn with care; His face was furrow’d o’er with years, And hoary was his hair.

………… Look not alone on youthful prime, Or manhood’s active might; Man then is useful to his kind, Supported in his right:

But see him on the edge of life, With cares and sorrows worn; Then Age and Want – oh! ill-match’d pair - Shew man was made to mourn.

“Many and sharp the num’rous ills Inwoven with our frame! More pointed still we make ourselves, Regret, remorse, and shame! And man, whose heav’n-erected face The smiles of love adorn, -


Man’s inhumanity to man Makes countless thousands mourn.


What strikes one about these famous Burns lines is the sincerity of the apparently sentimental and moralistic tone of the poet reinforced by some of the finest original imagery that one would come across in the 19th century poetry. I love the originality and sheer brilliance of an image like “numerous ills in-woven with our frame” (man comes programmed with all those ills (DNA?)! And he is helpless to avoid them and can only mourn and make countless others mourn). Or more correctly if man is a fine fabric woven by the master weaver (God), his several ills lie inter-woven in the warp and weft of the fabric .

“on the edge of life” is delightfully original.

“man’s inhumanity to man” is now such a worn out expression but remember it was Burns who used it first. Just like the other famous Burns usage of auld lang syne (old long since). “man’s inhumanity to man” is an epigrammatic expression worn out by frequent use but its essential beauty remains in the way it evokes the bestiality ingrained in human nature, highly destructive and exploitative. Humanity presupposes a kin feeling for fellow-humans, a commonness of belonging to the race and inhumanity implies lack of such a feeling. In terms of the recent advances in neuro-sciences there is an ingrained


feeling of altruism in the human brain which makes a set of empathy-neurons fire up when confronted with suffering by fellow-humans. This is probably what humanity implies and man’s inhumanity to man is the lack of it.


“There is no frigate like a book” By Emily Dickinson

November 28, 2010

There is no frigate like a book To take us lands away, Nor any coursers like a page Of prancing poetry. This traverse may the poorest take Without oppress of toll; How frugal is the chariot That bears a human soul!

Within the travel metaphor of the frigate that takes us lands away, there is an interesting image of a page of (prancing ) poetry compared to coursers (birds of a certain species found in the desert regions of Asia and Africa) .In the days of exploration and the opening up of several new geographical regions one can imagine the fascination that a frigate has for a reclusive “old maid” poet.

All Dickinson’s poetry sounds like notes written in hurry without a second look. Hence the raw beauty of the lines.


“A valediction forbidding mourning” by John Donne

November 28, 2010

AS virtuous men pass mildly away, And whisper to their souls to go, Whilst some of their sad friends do say, “Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”

So let us melt, and make no noise, No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ; ‘Twere profanation of our joys To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears ; Men reckon what it did, and meant ; But trepidation of the spheres, Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love —Whose soul is sense—cannot admit Of absence, ’cause it doth remove The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined, That ourselves know not what it is, Inter-assurèd of the mind, Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.


Our two souls therefore, which are one, Though I must go, endure not yet

A breach, but an expansion,

Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so

As stiff twin compasses are two ; Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the centre sit,

Yet, when the other far doth roam,

It leans, and hearkens after it,

And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must, Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ; Thy firmness makes my circle just, And makes me end where I begun.

Truly metaphysical is this poem of Donne where he proposes complete abolition of the physical. So let us melt and make no noise.,he says, The melting goes on in the subsequent stanza where their souls expand together like gold “to airy thinness beat” .When virtuous souls pass mildly away ,they merely whisper to their souls to go away.No noise please. No tear-floods nor sigh-tempests.Remember the metaphysical souls are not leaving the bodies for good. Nobody is dying. It is just a separation of their bodies by physical distance.


Metaphysical poems have their images drawn from sciences. An earthquake is fearsome but the parting of their selves is like the music of the spheres which is ever so gentle and makes absolutely

hold.We are not going to tell you the laity of our love.

Suffice it to say that our souls are one.But if they are two they are like the feet of a compass.She is the fixed foot who remains at the center but leans towards which ever point he the second foot traces

on the circle

no noise



scientific image.

Doesn’t it strike one that the old man Donne is actually pulling our legs? A quiet debunking of the love poetry genre of the day seems to be going on all the time.When he uses hyperbole, I see a glint in his eyes as he adjusts his eye-glasses and pulls the folds of his heavy clerical cloak ! We are the laity and who are we to share his confidences about his love life?



Dickinson (1830-1886)




November 25, 2010



“Several of nature’s people

I know, and they know me;

I feel for them a transport Of cordiality;

But never met this fellow, Attended or alone, Without a tighter breathing, And zero at the bone.”






I find it interesting to come across this language of modern conviviality and simple colloquialism in a poem written around 150 years ago. That is how it is about Dickinson. The snake in the grass is here no snake in the grass but a narrow fellow, one of nature’s own people whom the poet knew (and who knew her).She has never met this fellow without tighter breathing and zero at the bone. A narrow fellow who slithers in the grass that parts as though he is a comb parting hair.


Cut out all that talk about sexual fancies and Freudian references .Look at the thought beneath the poem as plain anthropomorphism, if you please.


“Batter my heart “By John Donne

November 24, 2010

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new. I, like an usurp’d town to’another due, Labor to’admit you, but oh, to no end; Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue. Yet dearly’I love you, and would be lov’d fain, But am betroth’d unto your enemy; Divorce me,’untie or break that knot again, Take me to you, imprison me, for I, Except you’enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

The poet is asking the Holy Trinity to save him from the clutches of Satan. The evil influence of Satan is so much that violence has to be exercised by God to get his heart out of it. Hence the use of the harsh words like “batter”, “knock”,“overthrow”, ”bend your force” ,”break” ,”burn”, ”imprison” ,”ravish” etc.

The image I like is the poet’s comparing himself to a “usurped town” and while reason, God’s vice- roy should defend him it is unable to do so because it is captived.


The poet goes on to another image, this time he calls himself wrongfully bethrothed to Satan, God’s enemy and it is for God to forcefully extricate him by “imprisoning” him, ravishing him and making him “chaste”. It is God’s ravishing that makes him chaste and God’s imprisoning that makes him free.


The jungle husband By Stevie Smith

November 10, 2010

Dearest Evelyn, I often think of you Out with the guns in the jungle stew Yesterday I hittapotamus I put the measurements down for you but they got lost in the fuss It’s not a good thing to drink out here You know, I’ve practically given it up dear. Tomorrow I am going alone a long way Into the jungle. It is all grey But green on top Only sometimes when a tree has fallen The sun comes down plop, it is quite appalling. You never want to go in a jungle pool In the hot sun, it would be the act of a fool Because it’s always full of anacondas, Evelyn, not looking ill-fed I’ll say. So no more now, from your loving husband Wilfred.

I love the line “Only sometimes when a tree has fallen/The sun comes down plop, it is quite appalling” .

Of course the whole poem has to be looked at as something written in a lighter vein. A husband who is into the jungle exploring the forest with his gun in tow. He hit a potamus , in a truly Ogden Nash way but could not put the measurements down for her. Why for her, one would ask. So that she is impressed by the largeness of the hippo and his shooting abilities, his fearlessness .She, in turn, could


impress the society ladies in her kittie parties. A jungle husband is so romantic!

It is not a good thing to drink out here/But I have practically given it up dear. Practically , of course.

It is all grey but green on top. A confusing landscape where anything can happen but luckily at the top it is green!

“only sometimes when a tree has fallen/The sun comes down plop, it is quite appalling”

A beautiful line written in humour but appealing in its richness of image. Imagine the tree falling in the grey landscape of the jungle and a big hole in space suddenly appears with the sun seeming to drop down from the sky. Plop ! It is quite appalling !

Of course you would never want to venture into the jungle pool. The anacondas there are not looking ill-fed!


An Idiot’s Tale

November 03, 2010

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

The famous lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth are great poetry .The multiplicity of images in the lines confuses a reader a little but in the end it all seems to add up to a beautiful meaning. The book image in which time moves in pages of tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow is followed by the candle image, the brief candle of man’s life ,its light only illumining the way to dusty death .In the brief candle’s light ,man becomes a shadow ,an insubstantial figure depending upon a real figure for its existence. Life is but a walking shadow, which moves as a mere reflection of the real thing. And then suddenly the actor’s image comes –a favorite Shakespearean image which recurs in many of his plays. Life is but a poor bit player on the stage that comes and goes .He stays for a while and while he stays he makes a fool of himself by “showing off” as though the show will go on for ever.


The best image is of the idiot’s tale that comes with a lot of sound and fury .An idiot’s tale is full of sound and fury but in the end it means nothing.

As an undergraduate, what puzzled me was this “idiot “whose tale was supposed to be our life. In the traditional Indian theatre tradition a play is first introduced by a sutradhari . During the introduction and several times during the enactment of the play the sutradhari speaks out as though the action on the stage is his tale which unfolds as he speaks. The sutradhari no doubt does a lot of sound and fury but his tale does not “signify nothing”. It is more plausible that man’s life is merely compared here to a story narrated by an idiot who cannot make a coherent whole out of it to bring forth meaning .Life is not an idiot’s tale( a tale of an idiot), but a tale told by an idiot. May be, there is a grand design behind it all but one does not expect an idiot to make meaning out of it. The sutradhari is making a big mess of his presentation.


“Futility”- A poem By Wilfrid Owen

October 24, 2010

Move him into the sun– Gently its touch awoke him once, At home, whispering of fields unsown. Always it woke him, even in France, Until this morning and this snow. If anything might rouse him now The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds,– Woke, once, the clays of a cold star. Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides, Full-nerved– still warm,– too hard to stir? Was it for this the clay grew tall? – O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earth’s sleep at all?

I love the crisp last line- “What made fatuous sunbeams toil/To break earth’s sleep at all?” If the sun had taken so much effort to bring to life the seeds in his home and wake the earth and now the young soldier again and again, why does he not wake him now from his sleep? The questions are asked with the full knowledge of their futility. Because the sunbeams are “fatuous”,silly and dense enough to work without purpose. Nature makes its beautiful works and when they are destroyed, hardly cares to restore them to their life.


The futility of human existence is brought home beautifully in the way the sun has dealt with the soldier at different points of time. Its touch awoke him once, at home It always woke him , even in France. Until this morning and this snow. The limbs of the soldier are so dear-achieved. Why has nature now abandoned this exquisite piece of its work?


“This Living Hand” by John Keats

October 18, 2010

This living hand, now warm and capable Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold And in the icy silence of the tomb, So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood So in my veins red life might stream again, And thou be conscience-calmed–see here it is– I hold it towards you.

The living hand I am extending towards you, now capable of earnest grasping. When death occurs the same hand drained of its red life will haunt your days and chill your nights. And it will make you wish that the blood coursing in your living veins be drained and instead flow in the dead poet’s veins. That will set at rest your conscience.

Whether or not it was meant for Fanny Brawne , the poem does indeed raise gloomy thoughts . A poem written in the last years of the young poet who knew he was dying would speak of a state of existence in death- a hand ,now living and capable of grasping would lie in the tomb ,cold and drained of blood. The thoughts are of a living man projecting his existence on to an existence devoid of life. The process of the living hand transforming to lifelessness can only be imagined by a living man about to die. The poem makes the reader project his own conscious life on to such an existence as though the poet is holding his hand towards him.


“When I have seen the sun emerge”-Emily Dickinson

October 13, 2010

When I have seen the Sun emerge From His amazing House - And leave a Day at every Door A Deed, in every place -

Without the incident of Fame Or accident of Noise - The Earth has seemed to me a Drum Pursued of little boys.

The sun emerges from his amazing house and ,like a postman,leaves a day at every house. And a deed in every place (when the day comes,the deed takes place!).The deed takes place without the incident of fame because the deed is the incident,not the fame that may or may not be associated with it. Without the accident of noise because noise is an after-effect ,which is a mere accident .The Deed left by the sun in every place is a mere incident which may or may not be followed by noise.

The sun has such a large role in our lives.The earth is a mere drum rolled by little kids for fun .A beautiful image of a rolling drum pursued by little boys in the street.


“Failure” By Philip Schultz

October 12, 2010

To pay for my father’s funeral I borrowed money from people he already owed money to. One called him a nobody. No, I said, he was a failure. You can’t remember

a nobody’s name, that’s why

they’re called nobodies. Failures are unforgettable. The rabbi who read a stock eulogy about a man who didn’t belong to or believe in anything was both a failure and a nobody. He failed to imagine the son and wife of the dead man being shamed by each word. To understand that not believing in or belonging to anything demanded a kind of faith and buoyancy. An uncle, counting on his fingers my father’s business failures—

a parking lot that raised geese,

a motel that raffled honeymoons,

a bowling alley with roving mariachis—

failed to love and honor his brother,

who showed him how to whistle under covers, steal apples with his right or left hand. Indeed, my father was comical. His watches pinched, he tripped on his pant cuffs and snored loudly in movies, where his weariness overcame him finally. He didn’t believe in:

savings insurance newspapers vegetables good or evil human frailty history or God. Our family avoided us, fearing boils. I left town but failed to get away.

I love the poem not because it is such a great work of art.But because it makes me feel human. The anatomy of failure. Failure is not forgettable whereas the poet’s uncle and the rabbi who read out the stock eulogy are forgettable nobodys. The poet’s father was somebody, a failure not easily forgettable.


Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman

October 11, 2010

“Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud. When you see me passing

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels, The bend of my hair, the palm of my hand, The need of my care, ‘Cause I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me.”


Because I am a woman/Phenomenally. I like the line. She talks not merely about what is special about her as a woman which marks her out from other women but what is quintessence of a woman which makes her a phenomenon , an event extraordinary or



“It is in the click of my heels The bend of my hair The palm of my hand The need of my care”

The first three- “click”, ”bend” ‘palm” are physical attributes of the phenomenal woman but the last- “the need of my care” -is the intangible quality about her which makes her the phenomenal woman. The quiet reassurance that other people feel about her and the natural dependence that flows from her are what makes her the phenomenon she is.


“Specimen”- A poem by Philip Schultz

September 29, 2010

I love these lines :

When I was last in Paris

I was dirt poor,hiding

From the Vietnam war One night,in an old church

I considered taking my life

I didn’t know how to be so young

and not belong anywhere,stuck among so many perplexing melodies.

The awkwardness of not belonging anywhere,of not being a specimen-that is what the poet is talking about.He was hiding from Vietnam war not because he was anti-war .He was merely hiding. One night,in an old church he considered taking own life.He did not belong to the religious faith. He was young and it was impossible not to belong anywhere.

There were so many perplexing melodies.How does one not belong to one?

Driving home, my father said, “Let anyone steal from you and you’re not fit to live.”

I sat there, sliced by traffic lights, not belonging to what he said.


belonged to a scintillating and perplexing music


I didn’t expect to hear

This is the music he belongs to,not to what his father said. Finally one belongs somewhere.


“He wishes for the clothes of heaven” by W.B.Yeats

September 28, 2010

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Don’t we all love this poem? “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams” :the lines are pure magic. The the long syllables in the first two lines followed by the clipped sounds of the third and the fourth lines(the blue and the dim and the dark cloths/of night and light and half light) make for fine music.

The visual-static images of “heaven’s embroidered cloths”,”golden and silver light”,the blue and the dim and the dark cloths” are followed by this most exquisite visual-dynamic image: I have spread my dreams under your feet/Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”


“My heart leaps up when I behold “-William Wordsworth

September 23, 2010

My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began, So is it now I am a man, So be it when I shall grow old Or let me die! The Child is father of the Man:

And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety.

Apart from the music of the lines in iambic pentameter ,I love the poem for the child-like simplicity of thought and its lyrical beauty.The image I liked when I had first read the poem in school was “natural piety” .I still dig the image. The poet is looking at Nature as a worshiper. For him Nature herself is God. Hence the word “piety”. The poet desires that his days are bound ‘each to each” by love for nature.


“Ironic poem about prostitution” By George Orwell

September 23, 2010

WHEN I was young and had no sense In far-off Mandalay

I lost my heart to a Burmese girl As lovely as the day.

Her skin was gold, her hair was jet, Her teeth were ivory;

I said, “for twenty silver pieces, Maiden, sleep with me”.

She looked at me, so pure, so sad, The loveliest thing alive, And in her lisping, virgin voice, Stood out for twenty-five.

Where is the irony when the poet himself speaks about it , one begins to wonder. Irony is what emerges in a dramatic situation, not one which is stated to emerge! But that precisely is the irony here, a nasty sting aimed at a system where the prostitute is not in the business for people of libertarian values to come and sympathize with. Her purity and sadness are very inviting to our zealous reformers no doubt but she is not the one to oblige him and fall for his youthful passion for reform. Her helplessness is merely in the poet’s mind because he needs her more and needs her to be helpless. He had no sense and had to lose his heart to young helpless prostitutes in distant Mandalay .How he wished she


sobbed out her sad story instead of merely upping her price for sleeping with him from twenty to twenty five!


A Song for St Cecilia’s Day By John Dryden

September 20, 2010

The trumpet’s loud clangor Excites us to arms, With shrill notes of anger And mortal alarms. The double double double beat Of the thundering drum Cries, “Hark, the foes come! Charge, charge, ‘t is too late to retreat!

The soft complaining flute In dying notes discovers The woes of hopeless lovers, Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.

Sharp violins proclaim Their jealous pangs and desperation, Fury, frantic indignation, Depth of pains and height of passion, For the fair disdainful dame.

But oh! what art can teach, What human voice can reach The sacred organ’s praise? Notes inspiring holy love, Notes that wing their heavenly ways To mend the choirs above.


These are the four highly musical stanzas from John Dryden’s A Song for St.Celcilia’s Day. Read them aloud to feel the music of the different instruments and their impact on human behavior. In the first stanza the poet talks about the battle field where the soldiers get inspired by the sounds of the trumpet and the drum.(‘double double double beat’).In the second stanza the lovers desperation in unrequited love is aided by the soft notes of the flute and when the lover dies his dirge is whispered by the warbling lute. But the softness no longer continues in the next stanza when the violins sharply proclaim the lover’s jealous pangs .In the last one the Church Organ plays out its inspiring Holy Love in notes that “wing’ their heavenly ways. Note how Man rises from all his baser passions of anger and hatred in war , jealousy in love and mundane concerns to become an angel taking on wings of music and devote himself to the love of God.


Shakespeare’s sonnet 18

August 07, 2010

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:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimmed, And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade, Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st, Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st, So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

In my college days I did not think much of this sonnet and even began to doubt whether it was Shakespeare’s. The imagery appeared to be quite ordinary and looked like little more than use of the typical Elizabethan hyperbole. Later I thought the poet was merely being sarcastic about the charms of the beloved. Much later, in life, I thought Shakespeare was merely debunking the genre of love poetry of the time. I still see a trace of irony in the way he tells the object of his love that for all the beauty that she possesses there is only one way in which she could be immortalized i.e. through his own poetry!


Circles of light

August 01, 2010

Bangle sellers are we who bear Our shining loads to the temple fair… Who will buy these delicate, bright Rainbow-tinted circles of light? Lustrous tokens of radiant lives, For happy daughters and happy wives.

Some are meet for a maiden’s wrist, Silver and blue as the mountain mist, Some are flushed like the buds that dream On the tranquil brow of a woodland stream, Some are aglow wth the bloom that cleaves To the limpid glory of new born leaves

Some are like fields of sunlit corn, Meet for a bride on her bridal morn, Some, like the flame of her marriage fire, Or, rich with the hue of her heart’s desire, Tinkling, luminous, tender, and clear, Like her bridal laughter and bridal tear.

Some are purple and gold flecked grey For she who has journeyed through life midway, Whose hands have cherished, whose love has blest, And cradled fair sons on her faithful breast, And serves her household in fruitful pride,


And worships the gods at her husband’s side.

A poem by Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949)

I love the images used here for describing the colors and textures of the glass bangles being on sale in the temple fair.

“shining loads” ,“circles of light” ,”silver and blue as the mountain mist”, ”flushed like the buds that dream”, “Like fields of sunlit corn”, “like the flame of her marriage fire” , “Purple and gold-flecked”

Most of the imagery is visual. The only auditory image used is “tinkling” which comes into use only when the bangles are worn. Mountains and meadows and streams are invoked here because the glass sellers in a temple fair especially in Hyderabad (the home of Sarojini Naidu) are usually banjarins ,women from a nomadic tribe called “banjaras”.


Toru Dutt ‘s poem “Our Casuarina Tree

July 30, 2010

What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach? It is the tree’s lament, an eerie speech, That haply to the unknown land may reach. Unknown, yet well-known to the eye of faith! Ah, I have heard that wail far, far away In distant lands, by many a sheltered bay, When slumbered in his cave the water-wraith And the waves gently kissed the classic shore Of France or Italy, beneath the moon, When earth lay trancèd in a dreamless swoon:

And every time the music rose — before Mine inner vision rose a form sublime, Thy form, O Tree, as in my happy prime I saw thee, in my own loved native clime.

(An excerpt from Toru Dutt’s Our Casuarina Tree Toru Dutt (1856-1877) was one of the earliest Indo-Anglian poets )

(For the full poem go here)

I love these lines for the beauty of the poet’s imagination-the dirge-like wail of the casuarina tree is heard by her across the continents, in France or England ,when she sits on these “classic shores” and “many a sheltered bay”


Casuarina trees are found everywhere on the Indian coastline .When the sea wind passes through the needle-like leaves of clusters of these trees they make a soft hum which is cloyingly beautiful. Here the poet sees the music as a dirge-like murmur,a lament , an eerie speech. The poet was then still in her twenties ,pursuing higher education in England and France .I do not know why she felt the pathos at the time.Perhaps she had the beginnings of consumption already ,of which she would die a few years later after her return to India.


The road not taken

July 29, 2010

“The road not taken” by Robert Frost is one of the better known poems of Frost. The best lines are in the last stanza.The poem is about a traveller who came to a fork and chose a path and later is thinking about the path not taken.The last lines are the best part of the poem:

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I– I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Apparently the poet is not worried about the road not taken.What matters to him is the fact that an event had happened in time in which he arrived at the fork and took a decisive step towards taking the less travelled road and this fact made all the difference to him. Looked at this way ,the road not taken by him has become as much a part of history as the road travelled by .Had the poet not arrived here and confronted the possibility of taking the road which he would not take ,the event would not have happened in time.


“April”- A short poem by Sara Teasdale

July 15, 2010

The roofs are shining from the rain. The sparrows tritter as they fly, And with a windy April grace The little clouds go by.

Yet the back-yards are bare and brown With only one unchanging tree– I could not be so sure of Spring Save that it sings in me.

Love this simple poem for the music of the lines:

Yet the backyards are bare and brown

The sparrows twitter as they fly …………………………………… The little clouds go by

Wonder if it is April and spring is around,why is there only one unchanging tree?


(excerpts) Verses upon the burning of our house by Anne


July 10, 2010

When by the Ruins oft I past My sorrowing eyes aside did cast And here and there the places spy Where oft I sate and long did lie. Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest, There lay that store I counted best, My pleasant things in ashes lie And them behold no more shall I. Under the roof no guest shall sit, Nor at thy Table eat a bit. No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told Nor things recounted done of old. No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee, Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee. In silence ever shalt thou lie.

The poem written by Anne Bradstreet ,the first American published poet feels like any typical English poem of the times with none of the unique flavor of the American poetry of the later times. What strikes me ,however, is the directness and immediacy of the expression borne out of the horrendous experience of the burning of her house reducing all her earthly possessions to ashes. I like the expression “my sorrowing eyes“.


“A girl” – a poem by Ezra Pound

June 25, 2010

The tree has entered my hands, The sap has ascended my arms, The tree has grown in my breast - Downward, The branches grow out of me, like arms.

Tree you are, Moss you are, You are violets with wind above them. A child – so high – you are, All this is folly to the world.

The poem is based upon the theme of the myth of Daphne and Apollo .Apollo the sun-god pursues the beautiful Daphne,the daughter of the river-god and Daphne is transformed into a tree in order for her to escape Apollo’s advances.

The first part is what Daphne speaks as she watches the process of her own transformation .The second part is Apollo witnessing the process.














TREE YOU ARE/MOSS YOU ARE Here the sun is merely identifying her as a tree and is recognizing


her new identity as a tree with whom the sun god has a direct and intimate relationship with a role in its activities of photo-synthesis.


A continuation of the perspective of the sun-god when he looks down benignly upon all the flowers being instrumental in their blooming , a view from the top at the smiling flowers with the wind gently playing with them.


Here Apollo the sun-god has viewed the transformation of Daphne from a mere human child to a tree which has grown so high


My guess is that Apollo is saying that this whole thing -the sun-god pursuing a girl may look like a folly to the world. The world is apparently not aware of the transformation that such a pursuit has brought about.


“The eagle” by Alfred Tennyson

May 21, 2010

He clasps the crag with crooked hands; Close to the sun in lonely lands, Ring’d with the azure world, he stands. The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; He watches from his mountain walls, And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Alfred Tennyson


The short poem has visual beauty and harmony of words, apart from the effective use of alliteration ‘c,-‘c’-‘c’ .Crisp mono-syllabic words convey the swift efficiency of the eagle. The eagle‘s talons are crooked hands and the eagle’s perch is close to the sun, ringed with the azure world. Below is the sea with its wrinkled waves and it will appear from the top of the crag as if the sea is crawling .The eagle watches from the mountain’s “walls” and as soon as it spots a prey it swoops on it with the speed of a thunder-bolt.


John Donne’s “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls /It tolls for thee”

May 19, 2010

No man is an island, Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,


part of the main.


a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manner of thine own Or of thine friend’s were. Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

These famous words by John Donne were not originally written as a poem – the passage is taken from the 1624 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is prose.

“If a clod be washed away by the sea,Europe is the less”-a beautiful image .A clod is an unimportant thing,usually meaning a stupid person,an unworthy man.Even if a man who has not made any mark on the world dies ,Europe,the whole continent is the less as much as it would be the less if a promontory is lost . As if the manner of your own or your friends is lost. Each man’s death


diminishes me because I am not an island but part of the continent and if a part of the continent is lost a part of me is lost.

In a village if the church bell rings to announce the death of a person the usual question asked is “who is the person ” and the poet says do not ask the question because it does not really matter for whom the bell tolls. When anybody dies a part of you dies and the bell is tolling for you.


An excerpt from”My father adjusts his hearing aid” by David Bottoms

May 18, 2010


Now in the dark kitchen he faces the window

where the first stars tremble in the branches of his oaks. The house is as quiet as a broken watch.

He knows the score—nothing will ever be repaired again, nothing will ever work as it did. The dumb wind

says as much, and the needles raining in the yard. The silence around his shoulder is my mother’s arm

The most telling image is in the last line “The silence around his shoulders is my mother’s arm”. Very beautiful.Does not need any interpretation.In fact we would rather not impose any meaning on it.


“The last house” by Rilke

May 13, 2010

From the Book of Hours

The last house of this village stands as alone as if it were the last house in the world.

The road, that the little village cannot hold, moves on slowly out into the night.

The little village is but a place of transition,

expectant and afraid, between two vast distances,

a passageway along houses instead of a bridge.

And those who leave the village may wander

a long time, and many may die perhaps along the way.

Rainer Maria Rilke from The Book of Hours

(tr. Cliff Crego)

One of the most “visual” of Rilke’s poems.The imagery is almost photographic. Just imagine a village,a path that goes through a village ,a road that the village cannot “hold” but only eject it into the night,the last house standing on the edge of the village as if it were the last house in the world. The little village continues to function as the transition point between two vast distances ,just like any other


village,a passageway along houses.The village is expectant because it is expecting visitors but at the some time afraid that the people who leave the village may wander and may not return.


Patting the drum-hide of the night

May 03, 2010

“In the village in the village in the village life repeats itself, life repeats itself. There is sunlight; there is darkness. The dark repeats itself, the light repeats itself; planting repeats itself, harvest repeats itself. Yet life is never dull. It pats the drum-hide of the night and is satisfied. It listens for footfalls when the dogs bark in the village in the village in the village”

- Andrew Oerke

(excerpt from the original poem)

Apart from the music of the repeated words “in the village” suggesting how life repeats itself in the village, I like the simple beauty of the image :

it pats the drum-hide of the night and is satisfied/ It listens for the footfalls when the dogs bark

It is these unique sounds which define the character of life in a village where everything gets iterated and re-iterated.The days and the nights ,births and deaths,the planting and the harvest-in all of which there is a rhythm just like the drum-beats one hears at midnight in the stillness of the village night.


“The burnt out ends of smoky days” (T.S.Eliot’s Preludes)

April 28, 2010

The winter evening settles down With smell of steaks in passageways. Six o’clock. The burnt-out ends of smoky days. And now a gusty shower wraps The grimy scraps Of withered leaves about your feet And newspapers from vacant lots; The showers beat On broken blinds and chimneypots, And at the corner of the street A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps. And then the lighting of the lamps.

Apart from the “atmosphere” created here,what I have liked about this poem is the exquisite imagery used to create the atmosphere. especially ,the image of “the burnt out ends of smoky days” .The day is unending and one long uneventful dreary passage of smoke-filled time .There is nothing much to do all the time.Nothing really happens,nothing ever happens. The cigarette butts are slowly burning out leaving the ashes smoldering in the ash-tray .The day ,like the cigarette,burns out leaving only the smoky end. Another day,another empty passage of time-a prelude to nothing .


There are thieves who steal the world the moment I turn my back

April 20, 2010

“Some people say we should not trust our eyes, That there is nothing, just a seeming, These are the ones who have no hope. They think that the moment we turn away, The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist, As if snatched up by the hands of thieves.”

~ Czeslaw Milosz Excerpted from the poem Hope (Rescue)


l o

Just the thing I had always felt in my childhood and till I grew up to be an adult.I have ,even now, a sneaking suspicion that the world just fizzles down the moment I turn away as though it has been stolen by some thieves. This thief thing I had not thought of but my own fear was of the Second Man who had always accompanied me and created everything of this world just to spite me or in order to teach me a lesson .Sometimes I think I exist in his dream and if he wakes up I disappear or cease to exist.


Faust’s famous clock quote

April 14, 2010

“Ah, Faustus, now hast thou but one bare hour to live And then thou must be damn’d perpetually! Stand still, you ever moving spheres of heaven. That time may cease, and midnight never come; Fair nature’s eye, rise, rise again and make Perpetual day; or let this hour be but A year, a month, a week, a natural day, That Faustus may repent and save his soul! ‘O lente, lente currite, noctis equi!’ The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike, The devil will come and Faustus must be damn’d'”


contemporary playwright





Faustus who has entered into an irrevocable pact with the devil for exchange of his soul for all the black magic powers of the devil suddenly realizes he has just an hour to live, after which he will burn in hell for eternity.”The clock quote” here is a favorite quote of University Professors. The lines do not boast of rich imagery such as you will find in Shakespeare’s plays. But the lines are a powerful piece of dramatic speech such as one would expect in the Elizabethan drama and when spoken on the stage they truly touch your heart and strike a chord of sympathy for the chief protagonist who has by his vaulting ambition brought upon himself all this suffering .The doctor is asking that time be frozen and the sun not


rise and give him time to repent and save his soul. If a tragedy is expected to bring about catharsis in the viewer, Faust’s tragedy eminently qualifies to do this.


Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

April 12, 2010

Cloths of heaven By W.B.Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Pretty sentimental and syrupy and full of hyperbole,isn’t it ? But I love the last line :

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

The line is worth its weight in gold.


“Landscapes”- a poem by John Burnside

April 12, 2010

“I speak Of men’s passing So rare in this arid land That it is cherished like a refrain Until the return Of the jealous wind And of the bird, so rare, Whose fleeting shadow Soothes the wounds made by the sun”

Excerpt from“Landscapes” – A poem by John Burnside

The desert is a throwback to the gloom of the post-war much like the poetry of Eliot .The passing of men is so rare that it is cherished like a refrain-I love this image.The second one in the quote is equally beautiful-”of the bird,so rare/Whose fleeting shadow/Soothes the wounds made by the sun”.The bird’s fleeting shadow smooths the wounds made by the sun-a graphic image just like Eliot’s imagery in The Waste Land:

What are the roots that clutch What branches grow in this stony rubbish? Son of Man ,you cannot say or know


For you know only a heap of broken images Where the sun beats or the dead tree gives no shelter…”

Rubaiyat and the nubile girls

April 04, 2010

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam trans.Edward Fitzgerald

In our college days we used to look upon the Rubaiyat as a mere

book of verse with fine illustrations ,especially containing figures of beautiful nubile girls intertwined with the branches of the tree .The poetry appeared exotic at the most but without much appeal to a young reader.Now, at this age the girls no longer interest me but the poetry now does.

The Rubaiyat is beautiful verse with outstanding imagery.Some of the finest imagery is to be found in these verses ,known for their haunting lyrical quality as well.

“….The hunter of the east has caught The Sultan’s turret in a noose of light “

A fascinating image referring to the hunting practice of throwing a

knotted rope around an animal to catch it while fleeing. A highly visual imagery.

“…in the fire of spring the winter garment of repentance fling”

Another amazing image-mark the words fire ,spring ,winter garment,fling -as the winter goes the spring arrives and into its fire


the winter garment of repentance is thrown and burnt to ashes.

This very famous verse

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness- Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

has rich lines which have always fascinated me. Even when we were merely looking for pictures of nubile girls .The music of the lines makes you recite them as though they were to be a song on your lips. They do not have pretty imagery like the other Rubaiyat but the simplicity of the lines together with the rich resonances is striking.






April 04, 2010






“with an Apple Macintosh you can’t run Radio Shack programs in its disc drive. nor can a Commodore 64 drive read a file you have created on an IBM Personal Computer. both Kaypro and Osborne computers use the CP/M operating system but can’t read each other’s handwriting for they format (write on) discs in different ways. the Tandy 2000 runs MS-DOS but can’t use most programs produced for the IBM Personal Computer unless certain bits and bytes are altered but the wind still blows over Savannah and in the Spring the turkey buzzard struts and


flounces before his hens.”

By Charles Bukowski

The discs format in different ways but the wind blows over the Savanna just like always and the buzzard struts before the hens just like always .The consistency in nature contrasts with the failure of technlogy and incompatibility of hardware and software.


Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73

December 13, 2007

That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou see’st the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west; Which by and by black night doth take away, Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire, That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by. This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

The most famous of Shakespeares sonnets,this one has some of the finest visual imagery one comes across in Shakespeares sonnets.when yellow leaves or none or few , do hang/Upon those boughs which shake against the cold-this is the ”“”metaphor of the year corresponds to the poets lifetime with its various stages and then slowly “”metaphor in which the poets life is compared to the different stages of the day( day ithat time of year). “”when the fire glows on the ashes of his youth on the death“”


The dominance of the visual elements can be felt in the the words :behold,yellow,seest,twilight,fadeth,black night,glowing,perceivst. The image of the autumn ’-the first one with a year of time,the second one with the day ,the third one with the moment.


Three out of Nine Poems on Arrival by Adil Jussawalla

December 11, 2007

Spiders infest the sky. They are palms, you say, hung in a web of light.

Garlands beheading the body and everybody dressed in white. Who are we ghosts of?

Upset like water I dive for my favourite tree which is no longer there though they’ve let its roots remain.

( © 1976, Adil Jussawalla From: Missing Person Publisher: Clearing House, Mumbai, 1976

1. In the first one is a beautiful image of the palm trees (which appear to you as soon as you land in the airport) ,their fronds against the setting sun looking like spiders hung in a web of light. 2. The second one has two lovely images :Garlands beheading the body meaning the heavy garlands have almost covered the head of the diseased .”Everybody dressed in white:who are we ghosts of ?” referring to the custom of the near and dear ones wearing white clothes in the funeral


3. The third one has a beautiful image “upset like water” the poet “dives” for my favourite tree. Apparently in the gloom of the funeral the poet is upset like “water”,like the stillness of the waters touched by a falling leaf. The favourite tree is no longer there,although its roots still exist. “the roots still exist” refers to the poet’s own roots in his own childhood days spent here before his exile .


“Return”-A prose poem by Udayan Vajpeyi

December 05, 2007

(Translated from Hindi)

Father sits on other side of the table. Two moons shine in the courtyard — one red and the other yellow.

I run to reach there.

Brother sits on this side of the table. Father has returned to this ruined house twelve years after his death. I know that the place where we are doesn’t exist. He was not transparent before he died. For twelve years we searched for him in the hills. He never searched for us. He neither ate nor talked – nor was.

He has returned to his old house as if it had never been destroyed and he had never died.

I ran towards him. He towards me.

Brother vanished. Having felt father’s presence, he comes down the sky-path. Father has already returned by the same path. (

“Two moons shine in the courtyard-one red and the other yellow”. The moon of now and the moon of then- when father was not transparent. The place we are in does not exist and father has returned to this house as if it had never been destroyed and as if he had never died.Having felt father’s presence ,brother comes down the sky-path. But father has already returned by the same path.


The poem is all about return -return from the red moon of then to the yellow moon of now,from transparency to opacity ,from existence to non-existence and non-existence to existence.From the other side of the table to this side of the table.


“You, you only, exist” -BY Rainier Maria Rilke

November 29, 2007

You, you only, exist. We pass away, till at last, our passing is so immense that you arise: beautiful moment, in all your suddenness, arising in love, or enchanted in the contraction of work.

To you I belong, however time may wear me away. From you to you I go commanded. In between the garland is hanging in chance; but if you take it up and up and up: look:

all becomes festival!

Rainer Maria Rilke

“You only exist/We pass away,till at last/Our passing is so immense/that you arise :beautiful moment”- the contrast here is between our transient existence and the permanence of the beautiful moment. The paradox is amusing: while we pass away , the moment exists and our passing is so immense that a beautiful moment arises. Our semi-permanent(slightly longer) existence contrasts with the brevity of the beautiful moment ,which by its


definition is only a moment but exists for all time to come.

“To the beautiful moment” the poet belongs ,however much time wears him away.He moves between one beautiful moment and another. Then come the most beautiful lines of Rilke one has ever come across :

“…In between The garland is hanging in chance: but if you take it up and up:look:

all becomes festival!”

In between the beautiful moments,the garland is hanging in chance and it is up to you to take it up and up so that it becomes a festival. It is a matter of chance that you pick some precious moments filled with happiness and if you can do it , happiness is all yours. One of the most optimistic poems of Rilke .

There is a vertical progression between one beautiful moment and another (from you to you I go commanded).In between the garland is hanging in chance . You should take it up and up,then look (down) :all becomes festival .


“To Be Saved You Must Be Spent” by Michael Chitwood

November 26, 2007

The blast from the bees’ wings is enough to knock the blossoms from the wisteria, late spring and the sexual clouds of pollen are dissipating in the backyard. The blooms’ purple confetti litters the yard, the parade gone by, and the dogwood is dropping pieces of a letter it’s shredded, white scraps with just a dab of ink staining each one. The words might have proclaimed love or been an official notice of death. All that can be said for sure is that the blue torque of the sky has tightened.

A delightful nature poem ,which appears in Today’s Poems Daily. A highly “visual” description with several subsidiary elements which reinforce the picture makes the poem a visual treat. “The blast from the bees’ wing ” which knocks the blossoms from the wisteria is a visual-dynamic image suggesting both love and destruction,the tranquillity of love with the violence of a passion. The violence continues later with the dogwood dropping shredded pieces of a


love letter ,white scraps with a dab of ink staining each one. A delightful description of the words which may have been spoken proclaiming love or been an obituary statement. All that can be said for sure is that the torque of the sky has tightened .


“Between going and coming”- A poem by Octavio Paz

November 24, 2007

Between going and staying the day wavers, in love with its own transparency. The circular afternoon is now a bay where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive, all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass, rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye, watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,

I stay and go: I am a pause.

The moment wavers first between day and night .There is then stillness, a pause. Then the moment scatters- a visual -dynamic image.The visual elements in the poem warrant a close look


:”transparency” ,”circular afternoon”,”All is visible “, “shade”,”throbbing” “ghostly theatre of reflections”, “stare” ,”scatters”. A certain wistfulnes is in the air,a lightness of being.Still life with occasional dynamic images.”paper,book,pencil,glass/rest in the shades of their names” .Mark the light turns the indifferent wall into a theatre of reflections.


“THE POET”- by P.Lal

November 23, 2007

For all his wild hair like an aureole, Stammer at parties, slipping from a tram, Putting off the mending of a sole, And putting on a mock-heroic Damn!, He notices the spider’s intestines

Claim harlot, smuggler and blackmarketeer, And in the clicking grin his eye divines

A moody world of artifice and fear.

Above all, this: When a woman turns

Black clouds of hair, with a rhythmic hand Weaving their silk in the possessive sun, He sees her common eyes stretch to a land

O lost, lost; as when repentance yearns

For hope,and love, and finds that there is none.

Of course the the poet is talking about a poet. A clumsy poet who wears his hair like an aureole,stammers at parties,slips from a tram and puts off the mending of a sole. But he is agile and observant ,noticing all those things like the spider’s intestines claiming harlot,smuggler and black marketeer .In the “clicking” grin he divines a moody world of artifice and fear.


The most beautiful part of the poem is the image that comes in the second stanza .In this the poet “sees” an exaggerated poetry in the woman’s eyes when they were just common.When the woman turns black clouds of hair ,with a rhythmic hand weaving their silk in the possessive sun,he sees her eyes stretch to a land lost ,as when repentance yearns for hope and love and finds that there is none. Delicious.The poet ,rather too quickly,divines a moody world of artifice and fear.

One wonders if the poet is having a quiet dig at our poet friend who is spinning fancy tales about the woman who is standing in the sun to comb her hair.


“The sparks from your firesmoky eyes” by Doris Kareva

November 13, 2007

Translated from the Estonian by Tiina Aleman

The sparks from your firesmoky eyes kept the room warm for hours, days, weeks, and months.

I recognized that feeling: the glow.

I recognized that feeling.


it happened in another time, another film.

When you photographed the paradise trees and I talked with the birds.

Neither of us tasted anything there, did we?

Translation of “Need sädemed Su tulesuitsusilmis.” Copyright Doris Kareva. Translation copyright 2007 by Tiina Aleman. All rights reserved.

“Although it happened in another time,another film” ,the glow from her fire-smoky eyes kept the room warm for hours ,days ,months .The sparks had happened in another time and in another space. The photographic space of another film which contained the spatial


situation of that time. She had captured the paradise trees on her film while he talked with the birds. Today is another film , another time,another script but the glow of the sparks from her fire-smoky eyes continues to warm the room. Together they had participated in the joint existence of the then spatial situation but neither had actually tasted the experience,per se or may be, they did.

Another interpretation could be that the sparks form her fire-smoky eyes kept the room warm for long and he recognized the glow and that feeling. When she photographed the paradise trees and he talked with the birds ,neither of them actually experienced anything or did they ? The poet probably means that the experience of the sparks from her eyes ,although it happened in another photographic space ,continued much after . But in the situation when she photographed the paradise trees and he talked with the birds ,nothing much by way of a memorable experience has actually happened.

Any number of interpretations could be placed on the meaning. The translation could perhaps have caused some confusion too. But some lovely images come along as we try to understand the the poem. ‘fire-smoky eyes” is one such usage which suggests pretty eyes full of passion hidden under swirls of smoke.”when you photographed the paradise trees and I talked with the birds” is another pretty usage employing the technique of a juxtaposition indicative of two different activities being performed by the poet and the lover.


“An Old Woman”-By Arun Kolatkar

November 07, 2007

An old woman grabs hold of your sleeve and tags

She wants a fifty paise coin. She says she will take you to the horseshoe shrine.

You’ve seen it already. She hobbles along anyway and tightens her grip on your shirt

She won’t let you go. You know how old women are. They stick to you like a burr.

You turn around and face her with an air of finality. You want to end the farce.

When you hear her say, ‘What else can an old woman do on hills as wretched as these?’

You look right at the sky. Clear through the bullet holes she has for her eyes.

And as you look on, the cracks that begin around her eyes spread beyond her skin.

And the hills crack. And the temples crack. And the sky falls

With a plate-glass clatter Around the shatterproof crone who stands alone

And you are reduced to so much small change in her hand

You look right at the sky Clear through the bullet-holes She has for eyes.

The old woman’s eyes are just two gaping holes filled with empty air,with the hills and the sky.Then the cracks begin around her eyes ,spreading beyond her skin and then the hills crack, the temples


crack and the sky cracks and the the sky finally shatters and falls like plate-glass. The old woman herself is shatter-proof and nothing happens to her .Only you get instantly reduced to small change in her hand .It is you who shatter because her eyes are already bullet-holes which are formed with the cracks around the holes.


“Touch” by Octavio Paz

November 05, 2007

My hands open the curtains of your being clothe you in a further nudity uncover the bodies of your body My hands invent another body for your body

Translation by Eliot Weinberger

The magic of his touch is such that it transforms her being ,uncovering the bodies of her body. Her body is not a single entity but a multiple-layered existence containing several unexplored bodies within.Her physical being comes to light as his exploring hands remove the curtains thereby flooding her inner being with exquisite light. A new body is invented ,a new life comes into being.


Loneliness” by Rainer Maria Rilke

November 02, 2007

Being apart and lonely is like rain. It climbs toward evening from the ocean plains; from flat places, rolling and remote, it climbs to heaven, which is its old abode. And only when leaving heaven drops upon the city. It rains down on us in those twittering hours when the streets turn their faces to the dawn, and when two bodies who have found nothing, dissapointed and depressed, roll over; and when two people who despise eachother have to sleep together in one bed-

So typical of Rilke ,yet so different in the treatment of the subject.The comparison here is of the loneliness to the rain,not just loneliness but being apart and lonely while at the end of the poem the poet speaks about being together in the bed and experiencing loneliness.At first the temptation is to trace the comparison through the process of rain making but it does not work out exactly.First the vapor from the oceans ,rivers and plains climbs up to the heaven which was its former home and only when leaving the former home,it rains down on us in those “twittering hours when the streets turn their faces to the dawn” .This is an exquisitely crafted image – fitting beautifully into the It rains down on us in those twittering hours when the streets…The streets which have woken up from


their sleep as the birds started twittering and have turned their faces to the dawn .The bodies ,which have tried to fuse together have found nothing and in disappointment ,roll over.

When two bodies have to sleep together and find nothing except despising each other at the end,that is when loneliness is no longer silver slanting rain in the twittering hours but quick flowing rivers . A beautiful poem.


“The Empty House” by Marjorie Agosin

October 28, 2007

you return to the empty house you recognize yourself diminished between its thresholds you remember that dawn and the flight the captive gaze of the neighbors in the perfidious ceremonies of an unwelcome goodbye

now you return in vain, you do not succeed in finding yourself the bushes in the garden are like a love in ruins bodies abandoned after useless quarrels or perhaps bodies of the disappeared that you seek in vain in your night in your language in your memory

you visit your parents’ room where your mischievous childhood entered and surprised them in the darkness of their siestas


you are the child who watched over the exigencies of love

now, the empty bed, on the walls, stains, cracks, the ugliness of abandonment

you return to the empty house to a country at war without sub machine guns but still a war caused by forgetting by the silence of the dead by the dead hours by gagged voices

you return in order to still believe in tenderness or to feel that something in the wind reminds you of what was once yours perhaps the birch tree swaying in front of the picture windows on those rainy nights when you believed in ghosts their footprints, their laughter and you let yourself be wrapped in the warmth of sleep that sheltered your faith

that is why you return today


A nice poem .The poets family had left the country when the

war was raging and now he returns to the empty house after all the devastation caused by the war. Two poignant thoughts of

the poet have touched me deeply.

…perhaps bodies of the disappeared

That you seek in vain in your night

In your language

and in your memory

The usage "that you seek in vain in your night/ in your language /and in your memory" conveys effectively the freshness of a gut-wrenching sorrow that the poet experiences again and again as he takes a tour of the empty house .The second one which touches me deeply is the memory of his childhood when as a mischievous child he surprised his

parents in the darkness of their siestas in this very room which

is now an empty room.

The poem has been translated from the Spanish by Roberta Gordenstein h t t p : / / w w w . p o e m s . c o m / t o d a y . p h p


“Words” by Anne Sexton

October 24, 2007 Words

Be careful of words, even the miraculous ones. For the miraculous we do our best, sometimes they swarm like insects and leave not a sting but a kiss. They can be as good as fingers. They can be as trusty as the rock you stick your bottom on. But they can be both daisies and bruises. Yet I am in love with words. They are doves falling out of the ceiling. They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap. They are the trees, the legs of summer, and the sun, its passionate face. Yet often they fail me. I have so much I want to say, so many stories, images, proverbs, etc. But the words aren’t good enough, the wrong ones kiss me. Sometimes I fly like an eagle but with the wings of a wren. But I try to take care and be gentle to them. Words and eggs must be handled with care. Once broken they are impossible

things to repair.

- Anne Sexton

It is worth taking a closer look at some very nice imagery. What I have particularly liked is the image of the doves falling out of the ceiling,an extremely original image. "Doves falling out of the ceiling" is spectacularly beautiful. The other equally pretty image is "they are the trees , the legs of summer/ And the sun ,its passionate face"


“Your Worship” by Val Vinokur

October 20, 2007

Some times one wonders if the use of imagery alone is what makes for poetry.What about a good turn of phrase which upsets the scheme of things ,makes you think of something other than what comes out as the plain meaning.I don’t mean cleverness in phrasing which apparently does not appeal to you as poetry but as mere skill with words.Come to think of it,what is imagery but a purely representational device used to convey the poet’s private vision.A mere figure of speech is not poetic imagery.

I have come to like the use of the paradox in the following poem :

(Poetry Daily)

Your Worship

I am your pilgrim, who wanders to stay home; your monk, who keeps silent when you demand confessions and theology.

You are too difficult to love directly; you have no roof or floor, and I am too pious for your rain and mud.

So I keep your shrine, the best of you, the clean, the smiling rest of you.


I am a stubborn priest, who knows himself only in the dwindling oil of you, the weeping and rebellious flame about to die.

“I am a pilgrim ,who wanders/To stay home” is a pleasant expression ,a paradox which is not forced on us trying out our intellectual prowess. A soft gentle expression such as what an address to the Supreme Being would warrant. “I am too pious for rain and mud” is a paradox which does not unduly challenge your understanding.

“I am a stubborn priest,who knows himself only in the dwindling oil of you ” is another wonderful image which conveys so much to a Hindu believer.”Stubborn” is unwavering in faith ,a faith which allows the priest to see himself” only in the dwindling oil of you” .As the oil lamp flickers with the dwindling of the oil ,it weeps and at the same time rebels before it finally dies out. The poet is referring to the last burst of the flame before it dies out. It rebels because it refuses to be extinguished with the last drop of the oil fighting a hopeless battle to continue to live.


“And as in Alice” by Mary Jo Bang

October 12, 2007

Alice cannot be in the poem, she says, because She’s only a metaphor for childhood And a poem is a metaphor already So we’d only have a metaphor

Inside a metaphor. Do you see? They all nod. They see. Except for the girl With her head in the rabbit hole. From this vantage, Her bum looks like the flattened backside

Of a black and white panda. She actually has one In the crook of her arm. Of course it’s stuffed and not living. Who would dare hold a real bear so near the outer ear?

She’s wondering what possible harm might come to her If she fell all the way down the dark she’s looking through. Would strange creatures sing songs Where odd syllables came to a sibilant end at the end.

Perhaps the sounds would be a form of light hissing. Like when a walrus blows air Through two fractured front teeth. Perhaps it would Take the form of a snake. But if a snake, it would need a tree.


Could she grow one from seed? Could one make a cat? Make it sit on a branch and fade away again The moment you told it that the rude noise it was hearing was rational thought With an axe beating on the forest door

Alice cannot be in the poem because she is not Alice but a mere metaphor.A metaphor for childhood. The problem is that the poem is itself a metaphor.So we have a metaphor within a metaphor.The problem is that a childhood is a metaphor for the beginning of life. So we have a metaphor within a metaphor within a metaphor etc., etc,.They all nod in agreement.They see but not the girl who has her head in the rabbit hole from whose vantage she sees her bum as a flattened backside of a black and white panda.The girl has a stuffed panda in the crook of her arm.If she falls in the abyss of the dark ,how would it feel like? She will hear strange creatures singing songs where odd syllables come to a sibilant end at the end.

Everything is like it was in that Alice.In that song .Odd syllables come to a sibilant end at the end.The sounds would be in the form of light hissing. Again a metaphor ? Another one within the Big Metaphor. The sounds would be a form of light hissing. Like a walrus blows air through two broken teeth. Or may be it would take the form of a snake , in which case it would need a tree. My God ,when will metaphors end and life begin?

There is confusion about what is it that all these are metaphors of . Let us therefore stop with that Alice and not unduly worry about this


one,which is a metaphor.

“The Little Spring” by Ko Un

October 09, 2007

Without its little spring, what would make Yongtun Village a village? Endlessly, snowflakes fall into the spring’s dark waters and dissolve. What still still stillness, as Yang-sul’s wife, covered in snow, goes out to draw water, puts down her tiny little water jar and picks up the gourd dipper but forgets to draw water, watching snowflakes die:

that still still stillness. (Taken from Wordwithoutborders)

A simple vignette from the life of a Korian villager,Yang-sul’s wife .The act of her drawing water in the morning from the spring covered by snow-flakes is exquisitely described in unpretentious

poetry. The description is almost a painterly one ."

gourd dipper but forgets to draw water/watching slow-flakes die :" is delicious. "That still still stillness" is a beautiful description of still life.


up the


“The Wheel” by Vinda Karandikar

September 28, 2007

Someone is about to come but doesn’t. Is about

to turn on the stairs but doesn’t.

I button my shirt

come from the laundry with all its dazzling blots, like one’s peculiar fate.

I shut the door, sit quietly. The fan begins to whirl

and turn the air into a whirlpool of fire, making a noise bigger than the house. Someone is about to come and doesn’t.

It doesn’t matter.

Calmly I lean against the wall, become a wall.

A wounded bird on my shoulder laughs raucously,

laughs at the shoulder it perches on!

My soul of flesh and blood puts a long thread in the needle’s eye.

I stitch a patch on my son’s umbrella.

I pick his nose and name the pickings:

I call one “Elephant” and another “Lion.”

Someone is about to come and doesn’t. Is about


to turn on the stairs and doesn’t.

I tickle my children,

they tickle me in turn; I laugh,

with a will; for I do not feel tickled. It doesn’t matter.

I scan their fingers for signs:

Nine conches and one wheel. Note: “Nine conches and one wheel” are formations of lines on the tips of fingers which, in Indian palmistry, foretell a happy life.

Translated from the Marathi by the author

“Some one is about to come but doesn’t/Is about to turn on the stairs but doesn’t.” A possibility with a certainty of the event not happening,ab initio. This is how despair reveals itself.”I button my shirt come from the laundry with all its dazzling blots” I am leaving the room but do not. Like those blots on the shirt I have my peculiar fate to enact.I shut the door and sit quietly as the fan whirs and makes a noise bigger than the house.

“makes the noise bigger than the house” is a pretty image. The meaning works both ways.The whirring noise is higher in volume than what the house contain.At another level the noise of the house


rises above the noise level of the house itself.The house creaks in decrepitude and its doors rattle. The whirring fan makes the air into a whirlpool of fire.In the blazing heat of mid-summer the concrete roof sends down shafts of heat through the air stirred by the whirring of the fan.Calmly I lean against the wall and become the wall.”become the wall” is to become immobile against the wall merging into its staticity. “A wounded bird on my shoulder laughs raucously/Laughs at the very shoulder it perches on”-the laughter of rejection,of apathy and of the hopelessness of unreturned love.

I stitch my son’s umbrella ,mending its patches ,like the patches which dazzled on my shirt like my fate.I pick my son’s nose and give funny names to the pickings.I get tickled by children but cannot laugh.Because no matter how much they try they cannot bring me back my happiness.It does not matter.My children have nine conches and one wheel on their fingers .Their future will be bright as the the presence of one conch on the fingers is predictive of a prosperous life.

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“Women” by Bejan Matur

September 25, 2007

(Translated from the Turkish by Suat Karantay)

With their blue tattoos And bruises from endless mournings They stand still looking at the fire They all shiver when the wind blows Their breasts bend to the earth

Carrying burning wood in their hands Old as black rusty cauldrons Women continue their wandering When the fire bursts in a rage Voices multiply The fire burns incessantly there Extinguishing it is such a hassle

Women with shrunken breasts Are thinking of the hardness of the wood They’ll hold with their uncommonly slender hands And keep silent It is hard to guess their age when they are silent They smell of the earth when they cry out

Unable to recollect where to direct their glances They let their eyes rest on the earth As clouds are not permanent in the sky


They relinquish themselves to the earth Cordially And occasionally exude a fragrance

It is difficult to arrive at a reasonable estimate of the poet’s thoughts -what are they ? Is he thinking about the atavistic woman ,the archetypal suffering woman who has lost her sons,her husbands ,her fathers , her brothers in the blazing fires kindled by man’s animal passions and inhumanity to man? With their blue tattoos/ and bruises from endless mournings/They all shiver when the wind blows/Their breasts bend to the earth.

The most interesting reference is to the earth ,which is made again and again in the poem.

“their breasts bend to the earth” “they smell of the earth when they cry out “ “They let their eyes rest on the earth” “They relinquish themselves to the earth”

The second interesting reference is to the smells of different things -use of the olfactory sense. “They smell of the earth when they cry out” “They relinquish themselves to the earth And occasionally exude a fragrance”


The third notable reference is to the breasts which happens twice-once when their breasts bend to the earth and the second time ,their breasts are referred to as “sunken”.Breasts are obviously used to denote motherhood and they bend to the earth because they are no longer full and have become shrunken due to the ravages of time.

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“The Future” by Rilke

September 20, 2007

The future: time’s excuse to frighten us; too vast

a project, too large a morsel for the heart’s mouth.

Future, who won’t wait for you? Everyone is going there.

It suffices you to deepen

the absence that we are.

Translated by A. Poulin

“Time’s excuse to frighten us ” – an image reminiscent of John Donne or Andrew Marvell. But the next image “Too vast a project” sounds more ‘modern’ ,conveying a conscious plan to mould future activities to the achievement of a pre-decided objective. The next image draws from the sensory experience of taste-”too large a morsel for the heart’s mouth”-a very graphic image.

But the most fascinating image is “it suffices you to deepen the absence that we are” .Just think about it : as future grows ,the past deepens and with it our absence.


“KEY” by Dom Moraes

September 14, 2007

Ground in the Victorian lock, stiff, With difficulty screwed open, To admit me to the seven mossed stairs And the badly kept garden.

Who runs to me in memory Through flowers destroyed by no love

But the child with brown hair and eyes, Smudged all over with toffee?

I lick his cheeks. I bounce him in air. Two bounces, he disappears.

Fifteen years later, he redescends, Not as a postponed child, but a letter Asking me for his father who now possesses No garden, no home, not even any key.

A memory of a child with brown hair and eyes and toffee spread all over . Re-lived briefly as the key to the Victorian lock is turned and the poet gains admittance to the seven mossed stairs and the badly kept garden. Fifteen years later ,the child re-appears ,not as a grown up kid or as a child frozen in time but merely as a letter asking for his father ,who now possesses no garden , no home,not even a key.


The lyricism of Dom Moraes’ poems is captivating. The images are intriguing : "postponed child","the key","two bounces,he disappears". The key is the metaphor,the key to the memories of the past, the key to childhood.

I have just noticed the use of visual-dynamic images effectively to convey the back-and -forth movements of the poet’s mind in time. The child is bounced "up" in the air :later he re-"descends". "The child "runs" to me in memory"; "two bounces/he disappears".


“Sea Breeze, Bombay” by Adil Jussawalla

September 13, 2007

Partition’s people stitched Shrouds from a flag, gentlemen scissored Sind. An opened people, fraying across the cut country reknotted themselves on this island.

Surrogate city of banks, Brokering and bays, refugees’ harbour and port, Gatherer of ends whose brick beginnings work Loose like a skin, spotting the coast,

Restore us to fire. New refugees, Wearing blood-red wool in the worst heat, come from Tibet, scanning the sea from the north, Dazed, holes in their cracked feet.

Restore us to fire. Still, Communities tear and re-form; and still, a breeze, Cooling our garrulous evenings, investigates nothing, Ruffles no tempers, uncovers no root,

And settles no one adrift of the mainland’s histories.

A partition poem which is also a Bombay poem. Partition’s people stitched shrouds from a flag ,a reference to the gruesome killings in the wake of the India partition in the name of nationalism and religion.Bombay turned out to be a migrants’ city and a commercial


capital ,where communities break and re-form.Still Bombay investigates nothing (We have the example of the several scams and bomb blasts, riots and underworld killings),ruffles no one’s tempers and uncovers no roots.Above all, Bombay settles no one adrift of the mainland’s histories.

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“STILL LIFE” by A.K.Ramanujan

August 16, 2007

When she left me after lunch,I read for a while. But I suddenly wanted to look again and I saw the half-eaten sandwich, bread, lettuce and salami, all carrying the shape of her bite.

“Still Life” is a simple poem written in a somewhat minimalistic style.The theme is neither the woman the poet has had lunch with nor love for her but the absence of the woman which lingers on after she leaves, in the form of her bite of the half-eaten sandwich.The situation is presented to you with no frills .Nor have any imagery been employed unless one tries to extrapolate the half-eaten sandwich to mean something deeper, in which case the beauty of the capture of the woman’s absence is lost.I would prefer to let the sandwich remain a sandwich.

A similar technique is employed in Andrew Wyeth’s painting entitled “The Master Bedroom”:


In the painting we only see the absence of the master as suggested by the dog sleeping on the bed.I like to imagine this scenario : the walls are bare and decrepit with the plaster coming off and no paint.There is a four poster bed and the sheet bears smudges of lack of washing.There is the window through which soft light falls on the bed .The bed has not been recently slept in.The master had got up and and gone out and not returned .Only the dog sleeps listening to his master’s voice which seems to be ringing in the room .The dog is patiently waiting for the return of the master. Outside there is the tree which stirs occasionally sending in gusts of wind.


“If This Is All…” by Luciano Erba

August 09, 2007

They disturb my limpid faith catholic apostolic and whatever else not so much the course of the times the new clerks’ treason, magnificent scandals other bits of the puzzle remain in my hand for example the poor fatted calf that will be the one to suffer when the prodigal decides to return. I have obviously understood nothing will have to think on it again some more.

(Text of the poem in the original Italian)

Luciano Erba translated from the Italian by Peter Robinson

In terms of imagery there is nothing much in this poem . I find it still has the exquisiteness of concentrated thought without the use of analogy. The poet’s limpid faith is disturbed by some irreconcilable things about his faith .For example ,how is it a right thing to make the fatted lamb suffer when the prodigal son returns .His thought is typical of the hundreds of the dilemmas we face in our daily lives and more particularly in our religious faith. Here ,like all of us ,he decides to postpone thinking about it as we all do when such inherent contradictions stare us in the face.


via Poetry daily

“Evidence” by Mary Jo Bang

August 06, 2007

This is the wilderness Of evidence: a tangled thought Becomes a book On a dresser unread,

Pages stacked in predictable sequence:

Numbers behaving as numbers do, Promising a future and Lining up at the door and waiting

Patiently to enter. You become the connection Thread to the cat that lost its tail And subsequently invented tragedy.

That man named Mac is right When he says a thousand voices say Live and forget The rest. Goodnight.

And goodbye. You With your archangel name. You with your teardrop beads

Lined up along the thread

Through the eye Of the needle in the blankstack. Every thread leads to the death Day. I lost you. I love you.

How changed we are. Otherwise no longer exists. There is only stasis, continually Granting ceremony to the moment.

The poem has some very rich lines .

This the wilderness of evidence:a tangled thought becomes a book On a dresser unread”

There is music in the lines.A natural rhythm with a clutter of images -wilderness of evidence,a tangled thought,becomes a book on a dresser unread .No point in trying to make the images work with each other; just enjoy the music in the lines. The book image is carried on further:

Pages stacked in predictable sequence:

Numbers behaving as numbers do,


Promising a future and Lining up at the door and waiting.

Pages stacked .Not bound together.In predictable sequence.Numbers going on in serial order.Each page promises a future as you leaf through the stacked pages.The second page promises the third , a page waiting at the door.

You become the connection

There is no connecting thread between pages because they are chronologically stacked and not bound. The hand that turns the pages is the connection .One of the pages is the cat that lost its tail and invented tragedy.

That man named Mac is right When he says a thousand voices say Live and forget The rest. Goodnight

Beautiful lines .A thousand voices say,live and forget the rest.

The other nice image is the thread about the priest :

You With your archangel name. You with your teardrop beads Lined up along the thread


Through the eye Of the needle in the blankstack.


“We Are Not Dead” by Kadhim Kaitan

August 04, 2007

To no avail the doves cooing— Our delights are cellars And our time is ash. We go, every sunset, to the river Carrying the coffins of our days’ Polishing our teardrops And shrouding our fears. We are not dead. We still have the tearful embrace Of sacrifice. We compose our features, Bandage our calendars, Our disappointments, And, Under a spider’s tent, We still have the right To conquer the city with kisses. We return to our hospitals Lighting lamps of regret And reciting our elegies. Our lifetimes are paper boats Pushed to the waves by the hand of a trifling child Where, fold after fold, The sea takes our dreams And wraps them in weeping. Our lifetimes are withered leaves


That launched an attack on the sun And fell in flames. The fire now licks at our names, Sewn together with splinters.

Munthir Abdul-Hur translated from the Arabic by Sadek Mohammed (Taken from Poets Daily)

A beautiful poem .There are of course some awkward phrases but

they do not detract from the poetic merit of the poem. Apparently the Iraqi poet is talking about the hopeless situation in his war-torn country where there is large scale bloodshed and mayhem.

Our delights are cellars Our time is ash.

Sounds neat and epigrammatic. Just like

We are not dead Here is an interesting image :

Our lifetimes are paper boats Pushed to the waves by the hand of a trifling child Where, fold after fold, The sea takes our dreams And wraps them in weeping.

A beautiful image . Our lifetimes are paper-boats/ pushed to the

waves by the hand of a trifling child is an exquisite image. The sea takes our dreams and wraps them in weeping is lovely except that I


have a quarrel with the word weeping which should perhaps be tears .Perhaps the translation did not work out properly. The image of the trifling child pushing the paper-boats of our lifetimes into the waves is of course a bit worn out but the fold after fold/the sea takes our dreams and wraps them in weeping is a pretty image. The last image our lifetimes are withered leaves /That launched an attack on the sun/And fell in flames is equally beautiful .One recalls Icarus whose waxen wings have melted in the sun or more closer home ,the figure of the monkey God Hanuman who as a child mistook the sun as a fruit and burnt his mouth red .Of course the contexts here are different .Here the poet is talking about the people’s resistance to a powerful invader’s might . Finally the poet says we are not dead. We are not dead yet .(may be )we shall rise again .


“THE HILL” by Nissim Ezekiel

July 27, 2007

This normative hill like all others is transparently accessible, out there and in the mind, not to be missed except in peril of one’s life. Do not muse on it from a distance:

it’s not remote for the view only, it’s for the sport of climbing. What the hill demands is a man with forces flowering as from the crevices of rocks and rough surfaces wild flowers force themselves towards the sun and burn for a moment. How often must I say to myself what I say to others:

trust your nerves–

in conversation or in bed the rhythm comes. And once you begin hang on for life. What is survival? What is existence?

I am not talking about poetry. I am talking about



and calling it activity.

I say: be done with it.

I say:

you’ve got to love that hill. Be wrathful, be impatient that you are not on the hill. Do not forgive yourself or other, though charity is all very well.


The poem has some very nice images. I particularly like the image of the wild flowers that burst out of the rock crevice to burn briefly. The metaphor of the hill runs throughout: the hill is normative ; the hill is for the sport of climbing , not for musing on from a distance and in the end ,you flow into another kind of time which is the hill you thought you always knew. The image of–flowing into another


kind of time does not seem to jell with the idea of flowing into the hill unless one imagines our consciousness entering the hill like a kind of stream flowing through the hills.

The last lines are very rich :

Do not rest in irony or acceptance. Man should not laugh when he is dying. In decent death you flow into another kind of time which is the hill you always thought you knew.


“SONG” by John Donne

July 26, 2007

GO and catch a falling star, Get with child a mandrake root, Tell me where all past years are, Or who cleft the devil’s foot, Teach me to hear mermaids singing, Or to keep off envy’s stinging, And find What wind Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be’st born to strange sights, Things invisible to see, Ride ten thousand days and nights, Till age snow white hairs on thee, Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me, All strange wonders that befell thee, And swear, No where Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find’st one, let me know, Such a pilgrimage were sweet; Yet do not, I would not go, Though at next door we might meet, Though she were true, when you met her,

And last, till you write your letter, Yet she Will be False, ere I come, to two, or three.

The poetry of John Donne is cleverly crafted ideas , argued out with a mocking tone .It is as though Donne is making fun of all the love poetry of the time. Here the mocking is not directed merely at the imaginary mistress who is supposed to be a difficult lady but the whole genre of love poetry which was mushy and sentimental.

The debunking goes on throughout the poem. “And find what wind/ Serves to advance an honest mind “is an obvious reference to the travels and sea-voyages one undertook to explore new territories but the way in which it is sung “And find what wind….”,you can almost see the mischief in the poet’s manner.

The patterns of the rhythms in each of the stanzas lend a flippant tone to the whole poem :

And find

What wind

And swear

No where

Yet she

Will be

Here poetry is not emotion recollected in tranquility or even the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions that the romantic poets


of the later years would practice. Instead it is clever juxtaposition of ideas and carefully wrought rhythms. The juxtaposition of ideas is a familiar occurrence in metaphysical poetry. In this poem the poet is talking about the inconstancy of a woman, which is a mere idea and chances are that the theme is not rooted in the poet’s own experiences. The juxtaposition is achieved by first talking about several impossible things one would try to achieve to obtain a woman’s love and then at the end say it emphatically that all this may happen but the woman’s love will not remain constant.


Poetry by Du Mu (9th century Chinese Poet)

July 18, 2007

Poems for Parting By Du Mu

(Translated from the Chinese by David Young and Jiann I. Lin)


So slender and so graceful not much more than thirteen

the tip of a cardamom branch in spring just about to bud

ten miles down the Yangzhou road and the spring winds were blowing

lots of women since, bead curtains lifting, but never like that again.


Too much love somehow became no love at all

over this farewell bottle we can’t manage


even a friendly smile

only the candle

seems to be able

to generate some feeling

all night it weeps little wax tears.

The poem by the renowned Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty (9th century)is a delightful love poem .”All night ,it weeps little wax tears”-a beautiful image.

Another delicately beautiful poem by Du Mu is :

Country Journey

A poem by Du Mu

(Translated from the Chinese by David Young and Jiann I. Lin)

Halfway through spring the sun sets as I pass Nanyang

under tender mulberry trees I enter a quiet village

weeping willows stir softly in the wind


under pelting raindrops the fishpond’s filled with circles

the cowherd boy wears a rain-cloak, singing

peeps through a bamboo fence to glimpse a girl’s red skirt

I peel away my damp

traveling cape and jacket

just as my host brings out

a bowl of chicken and millet.

The charm of these nature poems has not waned after 10

centuries.The simplicity and the freshness of the poems make them

a delight to read whenever you feel too much hemmed in by the

urban decay surrounding us .Especially the village poem which

conveys a sense of vast spaces punctuated by straggling villages .

I love the cowherd boy peeping through the bamboo fence to get a glimpse of the red skirt.


“The Prelude” – by Tomas Transtromer

July 18, 2007

Waking up is a jump, a skydive from the dream. Free of the smothering whirl the traveler sinks toward morning’s green zone. Things start to flare. He perceives–in the trembling lark’s position–the mighty tree-root systems’ underground swinging lamps. But standing above–in tropical profusion–is verdure, with upraised arms, listening to the rhythm of an invisible pumping station. And he sinks toward summer, is lowered into its blinding crater, down through shafts of ages green with damp quaking under the turbine of the sun. So ceases this vertical flight through the moment, and the wings spread out into the osprey’s repose over streaming water. The Bronze Age trumpet’s tone of exile hovers over bottomlessness.

In the first hours of day consciousness can embrace the world just as the hand grasps a sun-warm stone. The traveler stands under the tree. After the plunge through death’s whirling vortex, will a great light unfurl over his head?


(Translation of “Preludium.” First published in 17 Dikter (Stockholm, 1954). By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2007 by Rika Lesser. All rights reserved.)

As a nature poem this one ranks very high in my estimation. The way it begins -"waking up is a jump,a sky-dive from the dream" is simply delicious. "things start to flare" as the sun starts to climb the sky.You are not you ,but a lark,a trembling one,high up in the sky from where you perceive the swinging lamps of the tree-root systems. Standing above is verdure with the trees raising their arms. They are listening to the rythm of the invisible pumping station ,the solar power-house which supplies energy to the whole world.

I love this image of consciousness grappling with the world like the hand grasping a sun-warm stone.

The visual-dynamic images are important in this poem ."flare","trembling","perceives","green with damp","vertical flight","hovers","whirls". The beauty of the poem is essentially in the movement of things in nature conveyed through dynamic images. -


“Old Woman With a Goiter”- By Erica Levy MacAlpine

July 09, 2007

“Just as in a field a herd of cows will lean and clang their copper cauldrons like the rain, with dawn breaking pink upon their bangles, and stand there blotched, humbled and hindered by their own sound, and crumple their knees, dumbstruck, while every jerk of their backs and involuntary gesture registers the ringing of a bell, so this old woman stood behind a mountain spruce, struck by something in the field, a row of phlox or patch of bluebell, holding her spray of yellow gentians, while that great ball shifted on her neck, ripe as a stitch of loganberry.” (The poem is taken from the weekly poems of the Seed magazine-)

The simile of the herd of cows is visually effective use of imagery .The beauty of the poem is in the extendedness of the image used with a word-picture beautifully created as though it is from a painting in the living room.Imagine the placid countryside and a herd of cows leaning towards one another with the copper cauldrons clanging ( like rain ,another image within the image),with dawn breaking pink upon their bangles .The cows are standing there blotched,humbled ,and hindered by their own sound(the poet is perhaps referring to the blotches of shadows on the cows)and the involuntary jerks on their bodies caused by their reactions to the clang of the cauldrons


as they move their heads.

While the image of the cows is elaborate ,the old woman is described with the same amount of vividness .She stands behind a mountain and is struck by something in the field,a row of phlox or patch of bluebell ,holding a spray of gentians ,while the goiter on her neck shifts as a stitch of loganberry.

The vividness of the description of the cows and the old woman is almost painting-like.


“POEM” By Gieve Patel

July 05, 2007

What is it between

A woman’s legs draws destruction

To itself? Each war sees bayonets Struck like flags in

A flash of groin blood.

The vicious in-law Places spice or glowing cinder On that spot. Little bird-mouth Woman’s second, Secret lip, in-drawn Before danger, opened At night to her lover.

Women walk the earth fully clothed,

A planetary glow dispelling

The night of dress,

A star rising where

Thigh meets belly: target spot


With kisses, knives.

The poem talks about destruction inherent in the human condition,the inevitability of love and regeneration leading to death and destruction.Little bird-mouth,woman’s second,secret lip,indrawn before danger,opened to her lover . For a brief while,after wars and domestic violence, born of the power games of nations and homes, love prevails.The planetary glow of the archetypal woman dispels


her night of dress and a star rises where thigh meets belly but the target spot is showered with kisses and knives.

I like the poem for its tautness of construction and the amazing economy of words which make the poem sound almost classical.Some very rich lines like little bird-mouth…,bayonets struck like flags in a flash of groin blood ,a star rising where thigh meets belly,target spot showered with kisses and knives make the poem a memorable one.


“For Hans Caroussa” by Rilke

June 18, 2007

“Losing too is still ours; and even forgetting

still has a shape in the kindgdom of transformation.

When something’s let go of, it circles; and though

we are rarely the center of the circle,

it draws around us its unbroken, marvelous curve.”

First ,when I saw the poem I thought Rilke was being merely clever .With usages like “losing too is still ours” I thought Rilke was out of form.In the second line Rilke got back to his original form. So I think. Forgetting still has a shape in the kingdom of transformation sounded so much like an epigrammatic saying. But actually it comes out as a poetic image if you look at it closely.Reality is built by consciousness which works only by remembering .Things exist only if your mind perceives them. Forgetting things is consciousness not recognising reality which means that forgetting has no shape or feel but in the world of constant flux when matter remains the same but only transforms into other matter or energy forgetting does not mean things losing their shape or form .The forgetting of things continues to circle around us although we may not be the at the centre of the circle . We are not the centrifuges in which energy flows from the centre to the perimeter but the curve remains around


us impinging on our cconsciousnes.

An interesting use of imagery is the illustration of an abstract thought by the use of an abstract image ,concretising an abstract thought by use of an abstract image.In this case “forgetting” , (an abstract thing) is illustrated by the use of an abstract shape ‘the circle” .


“LOW TEMPLE ” -A poem by Arun Kolatkar

June 11, 2007

A low temple keeps its gods in the dark. You lend a matchbox to the priest.

One by one the gods come to light.

Amused bronze. Smiling stone. Unsurprised. For a moment the length of a matchstick gesture after gesture revives and dies. Stance after lost stance is found and lost again. Who was that, you ask. The eight arm goddess, the priest replies.

A sceptic match coughs.

You can count. But she has eighteen, you protest. All the same she is still an eight arm goddess to the priest. You come out in the sun and light a charminar. Children play on the back of the twenty foot tortoise.

A forgotten poet ? It looks like he has not received the recognition

due to him. The poem is a personal experience .Two images stand out.The temple is situated in a low level ,probably in a cave which is unlit and and devotees are shown the deity by the priest with the light of a matchstick.One by one the Gods come to light is a beautiful visual exploration of the inner space of the temple as the matchstick’s flame expands and widens the visibilty area. As the matchstick gets smaller and smaller the visibility will go on getting less and less until another stick is lighted up and takes over the



The second image is the twenty feet high tortoise on which children play .The significance of the image can be understood only if the religious importance of the tortoise is understood as a symbol of Lord Vishnu’s Kurma (tortoise) avatar and children are playing on the stone image as though it is another plaything .The poet’s attitude towards the religious experience is already evident from the flippancy of his disputing the number of arms of the Mother Goddess and the way the “sceptic match coughs” .Now when he lights the Charminar cigarette with the same matchstick which had dispelled the darkness of the temple earlier it is only natural that he will see children playing on the stone tortoise which is worshipped by people as Vishnu.A beautiful poem.


“A dog has died”– A stanza from Pablo Neruda’s poem

June 08, 2007


Ai, how many times have I envied his tail as we walked together on the shores of the sea in the lonely winter of Isla Negra where the wintering birds filled the sky and my hairy dog was jumping about full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:

my wandering dog, sniffing away with his golden tail held high, face to face with the ocean’s spray.

What I like about this stanza is the visual beauty of the lines with some interesting images. The poet envies "the dog’s tail" (not the dog).Imagine the frisky doggy tail against the sea’s waves and the dog jumping about "full of the voltage of the sea’s movement".The lines are more about the dog’s tail than the dog ,its "golden tail held high" and "’face to face with the ocean’s spray". The other pretty image is "the wintering birds filled the sky" ,the migratory birds which have come to roost from far away places filling the sky.

The poet and the dog walked together in the shores of the sea. Note that he did not walk the dog. The dog was a friend and a walking companion .


W.H.Auden’s poem “Musee des arts “(The Fall of Icarus-A painting by Broueghel)

June 05, 2007

Fall of Icarus-A painting by Broueghel) June 05, 2007 (h t t p : / /

(h t t p : / / s o u n d a r y a . f i l e s . w o r d p r e s s . c o m / 2 0 0 7 / 0 6 / i c a r u s b r e u g h e l . j p g)

About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters; how well, they understood Its human position; how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting For the miraculous birth, there always must be Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating On a pond at the edge of the wood:

They never forgot That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course


Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse Scratches its innocent behind on a tree. In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Auden is witnessing the painting “The fall of Icarus” by Broueghel and is reflecting on how the old masters have looked upon human

suffering as a subject theme for art. Auden is touched by the theme

of the young boy Icarus who flew to the sun with waxen wings and

after the wings melted in the sun’s heat crashed into the sea and died. The irony of Icarus’ unsung death has been brought out in the painting by the way how the world took his death.The farmer went on ploughing, the ship sailed calmly on;someone is eating or opening a window;children skating on the pond’s edge-everything seemed as though the world went on as usual and the martyrdom did not really matter.”The expensive delicate ship” had noticed the boy falling out of the sky but it had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Auden is touched by the tragedy of Icarus ,although the painting itself does not seem to pay any tributes to the boy .Icarus stands as

a symbol of the indomitable human spirit but the world does not

seem to care.The visual beauty of the painting acts as a powerful


image for the poem. The vivid picture of the fall of Icarus portrayed therein suggests a world untouched by the tragedy and the under-current of irony in the poem brings out this aspect beautifully.


“may my heart be open to little birds” by e.e.cummings

May 15, 2007

may my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living whatever they sing is better than to know and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry and fearless and thirsty and supple and even if it’s sunday may i be wrong for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully and love yourself so more than truly there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail pulling all the sky over him with one smile

–ee cummings

A very straightforward poem , so much like cummings. Two images are interesting. The first one is , of course “the little birds” , a startlingly simple use of a “direct” kind of imagery but very effective. Cummings is obviously talking about the thousand and one little things of life we tend to ignore in our lives which give us so much happiness .The birds bring to your mind the vigorous and fleeting nature of their movement and the way they enter their nests and fly out of them , their little bodies perpetually in movement. These are the real secrets of life and their singing is better to hear than


knowledge .If you do not hear them you have grown old The second ,not so important image is the poet’s mind strolling about hungry and fearless -even if it is sunday may I be wrong meaning the Sunday morals and religion should not blind you to the interesting things of life .Whenever men are right they are not young .Apparently it is the religious righteousness that takes away the youthfulness of life distracting you from the various little happinesses of life.

“may myself do nothing usefully” is an amusing thought . The poet feels the essential worldliness of living as a useful member in the

society and making a living robs you of the countless little pleasures

of life, the little birds singing in your heart

has “failed to pull all the sky over him with one

to resort to escapism(pulling all the sky over him) in his pursuit of the material successes and in the process failed to take notice of the little birds.

has been a fool who

.He has failed




“Lady on a balcony” by Rilke

May 09, 2007

Suddenly she steps, wrapped into the wind, brightly into brightness, as if singled out, while now the room as though cut to fit behind her fills the door

darkly like the ground of cameo, that lets a glimmer through at the edges; and you think the evening wasn’t there before she stepped out, and on the railing

set forth just a little of herself, just her hands, -to be completely light:

as if passed on by the rows of houses to the heavens, to be swayed by everything.

(Translated by Edward Snow)

This is another fine example of Rilke’s exquisite use of visual imagery . There is , to begin with, a suddenness in the way the lady steps onto the balcony and is “wrapped into the wind”. One can imagine her garments flowing as the wind has suddenly wrapped her . She has also stepped ‘brightly’ into the brightness as steps out from the darkness of the room into the daylight .Now comes a most beautiful image .The room as though cut to fit behind her fills the door. Wonderful visual imagination .Imagine we are looking at the lady from ,say, the balcony of another house and as she comes out


of the door ,which has so far remained closed, suddenly a dim view of the room would present itself before you through the door which slowly opens filling itself with a fragment of the room .As the door fully opens the fragment slowly expands to become a much larger view of the room as the door fully opens.

The second visual image is the “cameo”. The cameo means an object shown in relief; in this case the lady on the balcony, seen from the vantage of another balcony appears in relief against the darkness of the room . “you think the evening wasn’t there /before she stepped out “ is a wonderful expression. It suggests that suddenly the evening has come into focus because you are looking at the lady on the balcony in the evening and in the context of the evening , she appearing like a cameo against the background of the physical space of the room as well as against time.

Lastly she appears with her hands resting on the railing like a cameo appearing against the rows of houses below her balcony and on all sides as though the rows of houses are passing on “her hands “ resting on the balcony railing , in luminous outline, to the heavens!


“Civil twilight” By Terri Witek

April 28, 2007

… the limit at which … illumination is sufficient, under good weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished. —U.S. Naval Observatory

At 6° under speak only with kindness. At 12° trust buoys to gather the port. At 18° swing doubt through its usual cold orbit. Let a scratch in a song be love’s cough in the dark. Who arched the bridge to this island of flare-ups? Which is the key to the hotel of dismay? Nests blunt the junctions between river and ocean. I suppose we have done with our mutual heat. As horizons melt into more vivid disclaimers or choose from a shoreline’s stubbed-out streets, let go the gold ways you thought nothing then nothing. Think nothing forever when you get to my name.

“who arched the bridge to this island of flare-ups”- opens up myriad possibilities as all words do. Words are born and ripen only to fall .Their music rings like smoke rings ,each of the rings on top of the lower rings .”On this island of flare-ups “ ,the body is consciousness ,flaring up intermittently .The flare-ups do not matter to the sea of consciousness which laps on its shores but there is a bridge which arches over the vastness of the silence. The hotel of dismay is where I would like to stay but where is the key , marooned as I am


in this island .From here my eyes stretch to the distant horizon and nests blunt the junctions at the estuary where the twilight wipes out the distinctions between the sea and the river .As we have done with our mutual heat .Horizons are stubbed out streets as they melt into more vivid disclaimers, saying they do not belong to the island and they do not own responsibility for the little island of consciousness. In the end let go the gold ways you thought nothing and think nothing for ever as you enter the night.


Moving sleep

April 18, 2007

I have just come across a fascinating photo collection by G.M.B.Akash , of beautiful pictures, dealing with life in Bangladesh.In particular I have liked the train pictures .All of them are about people who travel on the train’s roof and on every conceivable space on the train including the precarious chain links between the coaches. Apart from the human interest of the picture below, what fascinates me is the counterpoising of inertness of sleep with the blurry speed of the train ,achieving a kind of death-like effect , the inevitability of the dark tunnel as though it was an intended return to the womb. The man is disintegrating in the vast space-time continuum and the walls of his consciousness have broken apart as he gets sucked into the vastness of empty space.

apart as he gets sucked into the vastness of empty space. (h t t p :

(h t t p : / / s o u n d a r y a . f i l e s . w o r d p r e s s . c o m / 2 0 0 7 / 0 4 / m a n - s l e e p i n g - o n - t h e - t r a i n s - r o o f . j p g)


“Love” – a poem by Hrishikesan B

April 18, 2007


My mother never told me Love is a bottle of mango pickles She used to put in my cotton bag Every time I leave my home town

One day Her season of mangoes ended And never returned”

A simple poem on a very simple theme ,very effectively used image

.Those of us who know what mother’s mango pickles signify for a son who is studying in a different city will understand this. Heart-rending is the “season of mangoes never returning” .

A Malayalam poem in English ! That is what he says in the other


Thinking somewhere …

The bus conductor Pushed me out As I was leaning on a foot board For support In an open public bus Going somewhere


In Mumbai city In the early Twenty first century Thinking about

A Malayalam poem

In English.

Indeed ! Here is my poem on the subject of a mother . A Telugu poem in English ?

My mother’s brocades

My mother’s moth-balled Brocades , a whole lot of them,

Are lying systematically stacked up

In her ancient wooden cupboard

They smell of her ,the smell That belonged to a slice of her life.

This yellow one which she wore

Just once in her life had wrapped

A coy twenty-year-old bride

Tentatively setting her dainty foot Into the hesitant bridal home .

Somewhere in the backwoods Several industrious silkworms Had spun miles of salivary yarn In the foliage of the mulberry tree To make this gorgeous five-yard saree .


The rustle of the silk drowned The wails of the boiling cocoons These worms died that beauty would live In their plaintive cries lay new bridal hopes .

My mother, the coy bride of yesteryears, Is now as non-existent as the worms That had ceased to exist spinning The smooth silk for her bridal finery .

Her bridal fragrance lives on among The delicate folds of these gossamer silks That the worms had died weaving Death is so fragrant and so memorable.

“Ode to Autumn” by John Keats

April 07, 2007

Ode To Autumn Poem lyrics of Ode To Autumn by John Keats.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cell.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep, Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers; And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep Steady thy laden head across a brook; Or by a cider-press, with patient look, Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.


Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,– While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn Among the river sallows, borne aloft Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft, And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

The poem “Ode to Autumn” is one of the more popular poems of Keats and is known for its undercurrents of death and dying being signified by autumn and mellow fruitfulness.The poem lacks the complexity of thought and classical allusions of the other poems of the poet but is full of exquisite sensory imagery ,more particularly visual imagery. The entire season has been described with “visual-dynamic” images suggesting growth ,decay and death .The images thus refer to the process rather than static objects thereby reinforcing the seasons being born,slowly growing and then maturing and ripening. Just look at the “growing” images-”load and bless”,”vines that round the thatch run”,”swell the gourd”,”budding”,”more and still more”,”over-brimmed”,”seen thee”,”sitting careless”,”soft-lifted”,”winnowing wind”,”twined flowers”,”last oozings”.

Now let us look at the “dying” images -”soft-dying day”,”touch the stubble fields -a tactile-visual image of harvested fields,”small gnats mourn”(death image),”light wind lives or dies”( a dying


image),”full-grown lambs loud bleat”(auditory-dynamic image suggestive of the imminent slaughter of the sheep)”gathering swallows “(readying for migration)


Minimalism in poetry

March 19, 2007

Minimalism has been used in poetry as in other forms of aesthetic expressions in order to treat a single motif or a describe a single moment which can be recalled later in moments of tranquillity.In photography , like in poetry, minimalism can be successfully employed to convey something with starkness and without frills . A lot of course depends upon how you compose the photograph .In the photograph below I tried to pit a man-made light-bulb against the sun by eliminating all the other surrounding details .

the sun by eliminating all the other surrounding details . (h t t p : /

(h t t p : / / s o u n d a r y a . f i l e s . w o r d p r e s s . c o m / 2 0 0 7 / 0 3 / b i g - a g a i n s t - t h e - s m a l l . j p g)

In the following poem I have used the same technique to describe a moment in the early morning in the Grand Hotel, Kolkata .I have


tried to create the moment without the usual ‘haze’ that a poet usually creates :


The morning crystallises Pure and silver. At seven The moment swells To an iridescent event Amid outcry of cutlery And bone-clatter of china Sparrow-love on the lawns And aromatic hotel smells.

The starkness of the effect is because a single moment is described with economy of words eliminating multiple strands of thought and their expression. The stillness of the moment is accentuated by the use of simple visual and auditory images. The morning is “pure and silver” suggesting white light reflected by the silver tea tray- a visually effective image. The visual elements fuse with the auditory elements to create a composite scene of stillness which progresses, as the time moves to seven , to become an iridescent event. Actually the moment is not one of stillness but of growing and moving forward to become an event as several things happen touching the senses -”the outcry of cutlery”(suggestive of the medley of the sounds emerging from the clanging of the metal) , “bone clatter of China” (suggestive of the clattering sounds of the crockery) .Thus sensory experiences define the moment statically and at the same time suggest a forward movement to an intense experience.


In the dynamics of the moment is an interesting tabblo-that of the sparrow love which represents a dynamic aspect of the beauty of the moment ,suggesting the ephemerality of the sensory experiences which make the moment.


“Let Evening Come”-by Jane Kenyon

March 14, 2007

Let the light of late afternoon shine through chinks in the barn, moving up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing as a woman takes up her needles and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned in long grass. Let the stars appear and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den. Let the wind die down. Let the shed go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop in the oats, to air in the lung let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t be afraid. God does not leave us comfortless, so let evening come.

The poem strikes you for the beauty of the visual imagery drawn from a rural scene .Heart-rendingly beautiful ,especially when you


know that the poem actually talks about the creeping inevitability of the tragic end of the poet’s friend who was slowly dying of cancer. Herself a Bipolar disorder victim the poet has drawn from her own experiences of her rural background to paint a beautiful picture of the day as it progresses towards the evening and then darkness of the night.

The light of the chinks in the barn moves slowly up the bales towards the evening. The cricket prepares to chafe for the evening and the woman readies to sew .Everything in nature is slowly moving towards the evening and the night when the shed will become “black”.The beauty of the imagery comes through in the way the visual element gets built up -”light shining through the chinks of the barn”, then “moving up the bales as the sun goes down”, “dew collcting on the hoe abandoned in the tall grass”,”the bottle in the ditch”,”scoop in the oats”- powerful word-pictures which enhance the visual beauty of the poem.


“Entrance”- A poem by Rilke

March 08, 2007

Whovever you are: step out in to the evening out of your living room, where everything is so known; your house stands as the last thing before great space:

Whoever you are. With your eyes, which in their fatigue can just barely free themselves from the worn-out thresholds, very slowly, lift a single black tree and place it against the sky, slender and alone. With this you have made the world. And it is large and like a word that is still ripening in silence. And, just as your will grasps their meaning, they in turn will let go, delicately, of your eyes

I love this simple poem of Rilke ,being “whoever you are” trying to step out of the living room.Like Rilke has told us I keep lifting a single black tree and placing it against the sky .Sometimes I do this with my camera which readily obliges :


(h t t p : / / s o u n d a r y

(h t t p : / / s o u n d a r y a . f i l e s . w o r d p r e s s . c o m / 2 0 0 7 / 0 3 / t r e e - a n d - c l o u d . j p


It is a large , large world ,like a word that is ripening in silence.I know that as the word ripens and then falls off , it lets go of my images ,freeing me from the bounds of my own consciousness.

The vastness of canvas available in a digital photograph adds a new dimension to appreciation of the beauty of nature in two ways :Firstly the photograph releases you from the limits of your own awareness of the environment . Secondly the digital photograph explores the interrelationship between the different components of the picture which play on one another in a most symbiotic fashion . It is as though the tree , the grass, the lake , the paddy fields , the sky and the clouds are singing in a chorus of joyful melody. The individual components add up to the totality of the beauty in a manner that does not happen in the real world . Thus there is no


rice field without the mountains, the sky, the bush, the mud track, the palm trees and the sunlight; there is no moon without the customary coconut tree. Many times we are unable to appreciate the beauty inherent in a natural scene because our senses cannot focus enough on the essential nature of things , the luminescence that emerges from the objects of nature acting on one another.

Digital photography expands our consciousness pushing the borders of visual awareness like nothing else does. More particularly vast spaces captured in panoramic views . Normally we have only a fleeting glimpse of expanded horizons when we are on the move , that is when we are traveling by a car and we stop by on the highway . The spaces release us from our own limits of visual awareness . We have seen such vast spaces only in paintings. For the first time , after the advent of digital photography, we are in a position to capture such vast spaces .


“Sailing to Byzantium” by W.B.Yeats

February 20, 2007


That is no country for old men. The young

In one another’s arms, birds in the trees

—Those dying generations—at their song, The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas, Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unaging intellect.


An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress, Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence; And therefore I have sailed the seas and come To the holy city of Byzantium.



sages standing in God’s holy fire

As in the gold mosaic of a wall, Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, And be the singing-masters of my soul. Consume my heart away; sick with desire


And fastened to a dying animal It knows not what it is; and gather me Into the artifice of eternity.


Once out of nature I shall never take My bodily form from any natural thing, But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make Of hammered gold and gold enamelling To keep a drowsy Emperor awake; Or set upon a golden bough to sing To lords and ladies of Byzantium Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

The poet uses powerful visual and auditory imagery to convey the timelessness of art in a natural world which is subject to decay.

Broadly the imagery used revolves around :

The birds image -Birds in the first stanza represent the dying generations viz.the natural world .They are also the “fowl” “caught in that sensuous music” of life.In the second stanza the image of the “perne in a gyre” is taken from falconry -an extension of the bird image.In the third stanza the bird becomes a golden bird set upon a golden bough singing to keep the drowsy emperor awake .The transformation is from the singing bird of the dying generations in the first stanza to the artifice of the golden bird which is timeless art against the dying bird of the natural world.


The music image- in the first stanza the music is of the natural world which sings of “whatever is begotten,born and dies” and “fish,flesh or fowl”are “caught” in that sensuous music .In the second stanza “An aged man is but a paltry thing/A tattered coat upon a stick unless/ Soul clap its hands and sing and louder sing “.Here music is soul-uplifting ,immortalising human existence through art .In the third stanza the music takes the form of the golden bird singing to the Lords and Ladies of Byzantium /Of what is past ,or passing or to come”

The old age or dying image- the most powerful metaphor used in the second stanza is that of a scarecrow.(A tattered coat upon a stick) .The comic absurdity of an old man’s existence is poignantly brought out in the image. The redeeming quality of art raises the human existence from its absudity to immortality. The scarecrow image has another connotation -the scarecow scares away the dying generations of the young world caught up in the sensuous music of the natural world.There is another minor image of the same connotation in the third stanza -that of the soul being “fastened to a dying animal”


Visual imagery in Shakespeare’s plays

February 09, 2007

I have always been fascinated by the stunning visual imagery in Shakespeare’s plays .While Shakespeare uses all the sensory effects in imagery very effectively the fact that the plays are essentially meant to be acted out on the stage and not to be read in the study makes the visual imagery a necessary ingredient of the plays .The sheer beauty of the imagery might have gone over the heads of the essentially plebeian audience of the Elizabethan era but to the discerning reader the beauty continues to captivate.

The following lines from “the Tempest” have some of the most enthralling visual imagery that one comes across n Shakespeare’s plays :

…of his bones are coral made Those are pearls that were his eyes Nothing of him that doth change But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange…”

The most fascinating aspect of the above lines comes from the “ethereal” quality of the lines as they are spoken by an essentially aerial creature “Ariel”. Here is what the poet conveys about the evanescence of human existence ,at the same time bringing out the superiority of art over an organic existence. The noble Prince is supposed to undergo a spiritual transformation from an essentially flesh-and-blood existence into an infinitely beauteous natural


existence,pure and pristine like a pearl to be found in the depths of the ocean.


“With These Rings” by Janet Paisley

January 30, 2007

(Taken from Words Without Borders)

You are fresh words on the old stone of time.

Here, silence honors you, here now, the earth turns, the sun beats, the rain sings.

You are not adrift among the wheeling constellations but held by the hoop of love.

Ancient as the ring of standing stones, prophetic as a snow-ring round the moon, marriage is.

Wear your vows well when laughter is the wine between you

or when night lies like a bolster down the middle of your bed.

May the cold shoulder of the hill always afford you shelter. May the sun always seek you however dark the place.

We who are wordless know thorns have roses.

And when you go from this day the burnished stars go with you.

When you go forward from this day, the love that grew you grows with you

and marriage is struck, iron on stone, hand in hand.

I like two images -”Wear your wows well /when laughter is the wine between you ” and “when night lies like a bolster down the middle of your bed.” Beautiful .Especially “the night lies like a bolster” ,which is visually very evocative.


“While she slept like Vishnu” by Neha Viswanathan

January 28, 2007

The Ganges is alien to those who eat rice of the Cauvery delta, he says. She says she doesn’t care. She just needs her starch. White cotton, snakes its form with the midnight wind. All is a deep shade of somnambulist blue.

The cats near the Ghat are dazed by the final flames. The milk in their stomach curdled, and their paws kicking dust into the winter regret. This man, and this woman, they have gone past the first ten days of lovemaking.

From tomorrow they will share their childhood. Their purest parts, the dirtiest clothes, the smelliest aunts. Superlatives traded for memories. He looks wistfully at his new lover, she sleeps on her palm that rises from the elbow, slanting.

He will tell her, on their eleventh day “My dear Kannamma, I will eat even


dirt with you. But rice is preferred. But you must know this, last night, I stole a little of you, while you were sleeping like Vishnu.“

1. Ghats: The term ghats refers to a series of steps leading down to

a body of water in many parts of South Asia [From Wikipedia] [back] 2. Kannamma (Tamil): Term of endearment, used for women/ children. [back]

3. From some vague link, an explanation of Vishnu’s reclining pose.

“Some Puranic literature refers to him as the eternal, all-pervading spirit and associates him with the primeval waters believed to have been omnipresent before the creation of the world. So regarded, Vishnu is depicted frequently in human form, sleeping on the great serpent Shesha and floating on the waters.” [back]

“White cotton snakes its form with the midnight wind” is a beautiful image.It refers to her long drawn out saree against “somnambulist blue” of the Ganga. “Cats near the ghat are dazed by the final flames” refers to the funeral fires of the dead on the river steps of the Ganga in Varanasi .The most beautiful image is the woman “sleeping like Vishnu”.Vishnu is the primal God responsible for the preservation of the Universe and he sleeps on the folds of the snake in the ocean of milk from where He controls the world. On the river ghat ,witnessing the cremation fires she sleeps like Vishnu,who controls life preservation ! He of the Cauvery belt ,a rice-eater comes here 2000 kms to this ancient city to experience its intense beauty and its spirituality .


“8 Count”- A poem by Charles Bukowvski

January 26, 2007

from my bed I watch 3 birds

on a telephone wire. one flies off. then another. one is left, then it too

is gone.

my typewriter is tombstone still. and I am reduced to bird watching. just thought I’d let you know, fucker.

A very matter-of-fact style. The irony is what stands out. The only

important image-”my typewriter is tombstone” brings out the


frustrating creative block that the poet is experiencing.The birds leaving the telephone wire one by one -a repetitive activity recalls the classical story that never ends-one sparrow picks up the grain,then another and so on and the story goes on till late into the night. The writer’s block is humorously turned into a subject for a poem : “just thought I would let you know,fucker”


“The Moment” by Margaret Athwood

January 16, 2007

The moment when, after many years of hard work and a long voyage you stand in the centre of your room, house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, knowing at last how you got there, and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose their soft arms from around you, the birds take back their language, the cliffs fissure and collapse, the air moves back from you like a wave and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing. You were a visitor, time after time climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. We never belonged to you. You never found us. It was always the other way round.

Margaret Atwood


“the moment when the trees unlose their soft arms from around you” is a nice image. The poet is talking about how we do not own nature and the moment we claim ownership of a house or a territory we lose touch with nature .Nature whispers that we do not own her ;rather she owns us. You were just a visitor,climbing the hill and planting a flag proclaiming ownership but the hill never belonged to you. “the air moves back from you like a wave” is another nice image ,immediately followed by “you cannot breathe”.That is because the trees have”unloosed their soft arms around you” ,depriving you of the precious oxygen which is essential for your life.


“The Waste Land.” by T.S.Eliot

January 15, 2007


April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding A little life with dried tubers. Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade, And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, And drank coffee, and talked for an hour. Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch. And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s, My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled, And I was frightened. He said, Marie, Marie, hold on tight. And down we went. In the mountains, there you feel free. I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.”

The beauty of the poem is the inter-woven rhythms drawn largely from different myths of oriental as well as occidental cultures.The lyrical beauty of the poem is not allowed to be distracted by the obscure-sounding classical references.”in the mountains there you


feel free” is hauntingly beautiful.”I read much of the night and go south in the winter”- the usage captivated us so much when we were College students.The juxtaposition of two situations in different time frames (I read ,much of the night-a shorter time frame :juxtaposed with “go South in the winter”-a longer time frame) is a clever use.

“Mary,Mary ,hold on tight” is almost onamatopaeic ,suggestive of the speed of the sled as it hurtles down. “April is the cruellest month/Breeding lilacs out of the dead land/Mixing memory and desire” is almost Shakespearean and anticipates the impossibility of regeneration out of death that comes much later in the poem:

“Stetson,you who were with me at Mylae/That corpse you planted last year/Has it sprouted?Will it bloom this year?


“The second coming” by W.B.Yeats

January 08, 2007

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert


shape with lion body and the head of a man,


gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,


moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again; but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at laSt, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

People have interpreted the poem in different ways ,trying to understand the basic theme .Despite the difficulty in putting together what Yeats would possibly have meant, the poem continues to be


popular among scholars as well as ordinary folk.That Yeats is talking about the Messiah coming out of the chaos in order to straighten it out is fairly clear but the confusion is why the Second Coming refers to the beast from the sandy desert and if it represents evil why it is moving towards Bethlehem .The lines are very epigrammatic: “The best lack all conviction; the worst are full of passionate intensity”. It is as though Yeats has predicted the wave of terrorism that has drowned the sanity of the present world. Yeats had a deep interest in Hinduism which is what seems to account for the belief that whenever there is chaos thee will emerge a Messiah out of the disorder. The Gita says that whenever the world is weighed down by the burden of mankind’s sins God will take a human form and appear to set the world in order.


“The cord” by Leanne O’Sullivan

January 05, 2007

I used to lie on the floor for hours after

school with the phone cradled between

my shoulder and my ear, a plate of cold

rice to my left, my school books to my right.

Twirling the cord between my fingers

I spoke to friends who recognized the

language of our realm. Throats and lungs

swollen, we talked into the heart of the night,

toying with the idea of hair dye and suicide,

about the boys who didn’t love us,

who we loved too much, the pang

of the nights. Each sentence was

new territory, like a door someone was

rushing into, the glass shattering

with delirium, with knowledge and fear.

My Mother never complained about the phone bill,

what it cost for her daughter to disappear

behind a door, watching the cord

stretching its muscle away from her.

Perhaps she thought it was the only way

she could reach me, sending me away

to speak in the underworld.

As long as I was speaking

she could put my ear to the tenuous earth

and allow me to listen, to decipher.

And these were the elements of my Mother,

the earthed wire, the burning cable,

as if she flowed into the room with

me to somehow say, Stay where I can reach you,

the dim room, the dark earth. Speak of this


and when you feel removed from it

I will pull the cord and take you

back towards me.

From Waiting for My Clothes, 2004

Bloodaxe Books(Copyright 2004 Leanne O’Sullivan.)

The poem has some extremely pretty visual images (I have italicized some of them for identification). So much has been built around a telephone cord. Throats and lungs swollen we talked into the heart of the night toying with the idea of hair-dye and suicide .A schoolgirl ‘s prattle goes out into the sea of darkness outside of her cozy home through the telephone cable reaching her friend some distance away, talking of hair-dye and suicide in the same breath. Each sentence was a new territory, opening up doors to newer realms of topics with knowledge and trepidation. Watching its cord stretching its muscle away from her is a highly visual-dynamic image of the coiled telephone cable and evokes the schoolgirl moving away from her mother’s influence trying to build her own world. As long as she was speaking, the mother could put her ear to the tenuous earth and allow her to decipher the world. These were the elements of my mother: the earthed wire, the burning cable, as if she flowed into the room with me to somehow say, stay where I can reach you, the dim room, the dark earth –beautiful visual images.


“The Sight”by Mahim Bora

January 04, 2007

The whole rainy evening The evening spread on the grass

I was stunned On the eyes, carrying the hunger of Durbasa In delight The ecstasy of the first wedding night

Many a beauty fare have I passed, many a Wearied by endless bargaining Today in my plinth

A beauty enraptured

A very comely darling

Beauty has shown itself

No eyes burnt this way …today in my plinth Silently sat a slimy toad

A toad is a toad, it has no other identity

Then we are friends! Let there be friendship

[ Translated by

“A toad is a toad,it has no other identity/Even if it has wonders in life”-beautiful.Feel the empathy the poet has for the toad and his


invitation to share dreams .”No eyes burnt this way/ In Kaziranga or Dabaka”,which ,though ugly or annoyed ,held beauty enraptured. The toad has come out of the cracks of the earth ,sitting on the plinth (of an unfinished building ,I suppose) as the evening spread on the grass of the plinth. The poet has pursued beauty all over the place,in the markets and on the streets ;beauty has eluded him everywhere till this rainy evening when the toad appears on the plinth.

As nature poetry the poem excels in the way in which it captures the sight of a toad on a rainy evening. The imagery has none of the complexity such as you would find in modern poetry but has a certain charming grace at once captivating and memorable. A part of the charm is on account of the “exoticism ” found in such translations from the Indian languages and can be better felt by an Indian reader familiar with the nuances of the Indian languages.


“To his coy mistress” by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

January 01, 2007

“Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime. We would sit down, and think which way To walk, and pass our long love’s day. Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide Of Humber would complain. I would Love you ten years before the flood, And you should, if you please, refuse Till the conversion of the Jews. My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires and more slow; An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast, But thirty thousand to the rest; An age at least to every part, And the last age should show your heart. For lady, you deserve this state, Nor would I love at lower rate. But at my back I always hear Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near; And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity. Thy beauty shall no more be found, Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound


My echoing song; then worms shall try That long-preserved virginity, And your quaint honor turn to dust, And into ashes all my lust:

The grave’s a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace. Now therefore, while the youthful hue Sits on the skin like morning dew, And while thy willing soul transpires At every pore with instant fires, Now let us sport us while we may, And now, like amorous birds of prey, Rather at once our time devour Than languish in his slow-chapped power. Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball, And tear our pleasures with rough strife Thorough the iron gates of life:

Thus, though we cannot make our sun Stand still, yet we will make him run. “

This poem by Andrew Marvell is a standard text book poem.The tone of the poem sounds affected but that is because of the times.Not every one could be Shakespeare in an age of affectation.The words sound laboured ,devoid of sincerity.Everything seems to have been thought up,not emotions recollected in tranquillity.

We cannot of course not take cognisance of a single image whose beauty has haunted us all in academic discussions and poetry



But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged charriot hurrying near/Yonder all before us lie/Deserts of vast eternity.

The rest of the imagery does not match upto the beauty of this

single image. One gets the impression that the poet’s use of irony

does not leave enough scope for exploring beauty.

images for their innate


One must feel how the birds fly

December 30, 2006

Here is a beautiful quote from Rainier Maria Rilke :

“For verses are not, as people imagine, simply feelings (those one has early enough), -they are experiences. For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities, men and things, one must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning.” -Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

I see photography as a means to gaining the experiences required

to write poetry. Some times photography acts an experience in itself

, opening up vistas hitherto unknown . In the process of gathering

material for photography one ends up collecting experiences which are later converted into poetry.

” For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities,men and

things,one must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly

and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning “

Just check how the poet has captured the crows flying in the following lines:

Kintyre by Alexandra Ekkelenkam in these days I rise rise


with crows dawn on their feathers screeching copper on metal throats cutting through clouds awakening awakening the grey sun whilst I rise rise painted wrists flapping catching air between fingers dropping Memory into an ornate lake

“Mirror” by Sylvia Plath

December 29, 2006

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

Whatever I see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful-

The eye of the little god, four cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.



am important to her. She comes and goes.

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

The words are beautiful and crisp :

I am silver and exact.


Now I am a lake.

”I am silver and exact” is an extremely pretty usage .And very crisp .

A similar usage comes later in the poem:

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

A concrete noun(faces) combined with an abstract noun (darkness)

makes for an interesting usage .

The other beautiful images are :”unmisted by love or dislike”(A mirror’s reflection is impaired by mist),”most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall(when there are no faces the mirror reflects the wall during the day and darkness at night),”in me she has drowned

a young girl(the lake or the mirror have seen the “death” of the

young girl and her transformation into an old woman),”like a terrible


fish (old age rises above the reflection in the lake as an ugly fish rises above the waters).


“There’s a certain slant of light ” by Emily Dickinson

December 28, 2006

There’s a certain slant of light, On winter afternoons, That oppresses, like the weight Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us; We can find no scar, But internal difference Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything, ‘Tis the seal, despair,- An imperial affliction Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens, Shadows hold their breath; When it goes, ‘t is like the distance

On the look of death.


The poem by Emily Dickinson talks about the somber mood of a winter afternoon which is oppressive and hangs like death. The cathedral tunes are heavy enough and like them the winter evening slant ,instead of flooding the place with orange light ,has filled it with gloom. The despondency is beyond amelioration as though it has come from the heavens and the seal seems irrevocably fixed.

While the poem is about death and is pretty gloomy, the imagery in the last stanza is brilliant. ‘When it comes, the landscape listens and shadows hold their breath “- is a pretty evocative image. The beauty of the image is achieved through humanizing abstract entities like “a certain slant of light”,” landscape”,” shadows”. The last line “it is like the distance/On the look of death” is another highly visual image referring to the blank stare of a dead person which appears focused on a far away thing.


Rilke’s letters to a young poet

December 28, 2006

In his 3 rd letter to the young poet Rilke talks about literary criticism. Read as little of criticism as possible, he advises the young man, because such opinions are partisan or petrified opinions devoid of life.

Works of art are of an infinite solitude and no means of approach is as useless as criticism .Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them.

The words are beautiful and ring so true. Criticism reduces a work of art to a lifeless entity capable of being dissected publicly for its merits and demerits. The appreciation of art can only be done through an exquisite sensibility born out of love and feeling, not through ratiocination. Wordsworth has defined poetry as the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings .Our response to poetry should therefore be guided by feelings and not by intellect.

Rilke advocates patience in fully arriving at the beauty of a work of art as no amount of intellect helps to guide us through the essential beauty of the work without a sensibility born of love and feeling:

Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must


come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating…”