About FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA (Cedar Books, New Delhi); By Nabina Das
Friday, December 18, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Well then, rush off to Danse Macabre literary journal to read about this wonderful collaboration between several poets to write along the themes in those 24 pieces.
The themes on which I wrote 3 poems were (harking back to my dear man-river Brahmaputra in Assam; my first snowy winter in the US, and an interesting look at ravens/crows that behave absolutely the same way anywhere in the world... !):
-- Auf dem Flusse (On the Stream)
The river, usually busy and bubbling, is locked in frozen darkness and lies drearily spread out under the ice. He will write her name, and the date of their first meeting, in the ice with a sharp stone. The river is a likeness of his heart: it beats and swells under the hard frozen surface.
The River on a Pyre
Eyeing the Brahmaputra flowing with its whale-body
and the faraway banks smoking
she thought death stood quiet
quietly performing the ritual
of mouth-fire for her own,
the bodies that once talked
laughed and spread guile.
Eyeing the strong-arm river’s sweep of red ripples
carrying unsuspecting dolphins
and last night’s smoky limbs
from the pyres she watched
across her verandah over the
winter’s damp dribble.
She searched out the smell –
ashes in the wind stuck like the stunned river’s pride
the look of a living face smoke-screened in the twilight.
-- Einsamkeit (Loneliness/Solitude)
He wanders along the busy road ungreeted. Why is the sky so calm and the world so bright? Even in the tempest he was not so lonely as this.
First a feather floats in
does a swirling dance around the lawn
then it drops, softly in my foreign home
one by one
they come to invade
the throbbing serenity
around the little playground, swings and all
knowing kids are asleep, dreaming of riding over white slopes
And they tiptoe, little elves
remind me of the lanky cotton thrashing man who
traversed our hometown streets in summer’s white heat
when called, he set up
a white storm with
cotton for quilts
We loved the magician’s ruse
soft downy puffs flew out
helter-skelter from his old brown gunny bag
with musical whippings he caught hold of each –
one by one
then they swirled and swept
his veined swarthy hands twanged on
The rhythm sang an ode to the floral dance
white and careless, while they dropped
kittens on the loose, all over
the roof, a fidgety fleet
now outside my
lonely doorstep it is all fluffy, full and laden
Wait, the next eager batch rushes in
around the porch, driveway, my little garden seat
they take over the yard
beckon me in this cool shale-
where the only music is their descent
they drop float fly
one by one.
-- Die Krähe (The Crow)
A crow has followed him all along the way from the town. Is it waiting for him to die, so that it can eat him? It won't be long, let it keep him company to the end.
Ravens talking in earnest is wondrous
The way they don’t want to share food
And are hyperbolic about their flights
Across fallow farmlands, brown fields
Of spent ammonia, and gassy old bogs.
They have compass heads, curt motions
When they talk, ignoring the mauve sky
Of the thunder-bound clouds over a lawn.
Ravens like a drink or two with a peck
Here and there while the light dances
On their twisty heads, darkening against
A screen of sunset silk with no outlets
For ravens to fly out. So they just spar over
How many worms each of them clinched
Or how long then can keep me company
The ravens talk through my unvoiced gaze.
A familiar sight, but who’ll question them
About melting as silhouettes on our eves –
Not a good thing confronting those beaks.
Ravens herald guests. So for my granny’s sake
I have to wait and watch, although all I see
Them dropping from their mouth’s corners
Is rotten stuff in their callous cawing prose.
Read my friend Priti Aisola's X-mas essay in Danse Macabre here.
And NEWS! I am to be Editor (India) at Danse Macabre, and work to promote the journal's broad international appeal.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The five titles are:
"Sukanta" harks to the poet from Bengal I devoured as a teenager. For a hugely talented writer who passed away at 21, just a few months before India gained Independence in 1947, Sukanta Bhattacharya's voice was a clarion call to arrest imperialism, capitalism and warmongering (I use this word in my poem to a slight objection from poet and friend Nikesh Murali, but he said the poem was otherwise fantastic!).
Last but not the least, "History Lessons..." is almost personal history. My father was a young 'political prisoner' in Rajshahi Central Jail (in the erstwhile East Pakistan) for Leftwing activities. A firing was ordered on April 24, 1950, to quell unrest among the inmates. Seven died and several were injured in that tragedy, among them my father. Read the account in his post "Twentyfourth April". He blogs at Old Man River.
In a salute to my twin legacies I'm posting these two poems out of the five here:
From rag-wearing villages
of Bengal, they crossed mustard fields, dark
swamps, small rivers in crowded
ferries with a bit of Mars attached
to bodies, a crater from that 1950’s day
of becoming history books
when they rattled
metal bowls & glasses
told the masters there won’t
be any compromise.
all rights to be restored
to dialogue, to be heard
they spoke & they smirked
handholding their tiny fates.
They stood behind iron bars
with backs to a faded
wall uninvaded. Stood in a
Eight by eight
Feet cell, angry
Tired as hell
That was when, his cheeks
smelled of fresh lime leaves
the beard on his chin grew hard
like lotus stalk the soldiers knew
from childhood (they swam with
them in lotus ponds), yet
they fired. Left uprooted trees,
piles of jellyfish drying on a deserted
seashore. The molten moon falling in
a swift swipe, between porous
pebble & muck, he saw
the inside of his thigh a Martian
blotch. A bullet. A red-hot cave of
history lessons the land still hides.
(From my father’s recounting of the 1950 Rajshahi Jail Uprising in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, where he was one of the participants)
Dead River Longings
That was a poet who pined for a sickle-curved river
Golden perhaps or emitting a glitter through its ripples
The river name evoked glinted crop crowns; he wrote about
Jade paddy fields sliced by crow yells and bloodied streams.
That was a poet who walked the morose city streets alone
Uttering words usually unspeaking, like flow and tide;
In stumps of concrete habitats he did graffiti of a rising sea.
In such forgetfulness, some say drunken stupor, he died
Cut by a car when street cleaners came dusting the morning.
Or was he beaten unconscious and thrown by the police?
Out on the dirt, because the bugger wouldn’t stop chanting
About his mist-shadowed river of dying ivory dolphins
That buried incoherent songs in soft mud made softer by
Human waste. What haste hides is that he came back after
Moon’s wane, on his lips: that river, ujani, is still my bride.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Here's a sneak peek:
"PART I: SIDEWALKING
The Notre Dame looks proudly clean in the summer sun of 2006. The rose window stares at us with a Da Vinci Code wink.
We have just finished learning how to make a baguette inside one of the tents that dot the precincts. This is the Notre Dame fair, unleashing midway on and has kids and adults yelling at each other in French. Of course, this is Paris. A
two-toned pavement, the city elongates and vagabonds with our bohemian tastes.
My partner counts the concrete blocks, I mentally color those that seem plain.
An hour ago, while I rolled the dough, the baguette-master (that’s what I name
him) urged me to fist the plump white elastic form hard, even harder. His
rambunctious “Allez-y” had already allayed my fear that I would remain
forever uneducated in bread-making skills, especially, of this kind."
"PART II: EMPARKED
I tell her goodbye at the turn of Canon de la Nation. Folks still eat there at 11.30 p.m. Mint tea pours to tingles and trickles. Granny’s golden-white hair and the pup’s coat match, tells the light.
“Say ‘bye’, come on, say it Kiki! Give her your bises!”
The whiskered one doesn’t, instead she whimpers. It is too late for her on the road, so what we remain night walkers. It is another night that has crescented over the road."
As far as writing is concerned, the essays came up rather fast but they had been cooking inside my head for a very long time. I have written a few "Delhi" and "Upstate" essays under my proposed CITY series. "Paris" was a pretty logical punctuation in that bunch. So far, two parts. More might be added later, we'll see.
Images from my Paris album: Notre Dame cathedral fair; SIDA rally at Bastille; at Cafe Kleber in Bir Hakeim
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Sukrita Paul Kumar, the editor of this special section, writes:
"…Thus the focus on Hindi-Urdu in this issue of Muse India. The continuum of the beautiful attraction between the two justifies the ongoing debate on the kind of relatedness Hindi and Urdu have. Their origin and development, the quarrels between them as much as their marriage engage the attention of many a scholar. In this issue therefore, we chose to offer also a glimpse of this debate. Writers, translators and scholars working in these languages often discuss this ever-engaging subject.
And, Nabina Das is motivated to write poetry thanks to her reading of Hindi and Urdu poetry. Bollywood plays a big role in popularizing the Hindi-Urdu-Hindustani language across the country and abroad. Don't we, the people, speak in reality that very language, and not Sanskritized high Hindi or highly Persianized Urdu?"
Well, now, if you still haven't read the new poem here it is:
(From a series inspired by Hindi/Urdu poetry and 'Bollywood' movie songs.)
The Message Tree
You'd passed on some words to me that
quickly got splayed on sunny clotheslines
washed crispy clean like new handkerchiefs
stiff at first, starchy, then sudden wind floats
kites that were eyes, your eyes.
I tied words around your wrist, threads from
archaic ceremonies, unknowing how I tied
up nerves in jasmine bunches hanging over
our garden shades as you casually chewed
sugarcane sticks taking back lost letters or
words that meant a new beginning for us
Our love story was like growing up in a
house with no telephones just soft knocks
true, I had a home like that far away from
glossy shop magazines, no sudden ringing
tones of familiarity that jolted my listless-
ness when I rested under a pool of sleep
tasting sweat with my swoon.
Look, I've grown branches now like it
happened in a Bollywood tale once upon
a time! I'm a message tree, my twigs just
hang where white post-its make a beeline
at the showroom flat-screen that belches out a
song and we dance around the message
tree talking in un-said tones.
Image from the Internet: movie poster of IJAAZAT (permission)
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Raised stiff, suitably elegant and intellectual
Photo-framed on the freedom-sky-blue wall
Lacquer bowls, Russian, with puckered faces not
Able to see their own paint-smeared smooth bellies
In a melee of scores of seashells nestling in them
Short changes from long-ago family holidays
An office union calendar, don’t know who got it
Hangs urgent and fluttery in the semi-spring breeze
Mondays, Sundays, paydays, all days organized well
As in a spreadsheet, boxy dates to enable scribbles
About meetings, reviews and occasional lockouts
My parents did not have the heart to change the TV
The color tube’s a bit busted, spills green more
But the screen beams in Nat Geo & History they watch
In a silent slump from re-painted couches of Assam cane
The brass xorai is not for praying. "True is it, your dad’s a
Red?" A neighborhood uncle had asked me, "doesn’t pray."
Do I know? I also know dad waited with us for prasad
From mom’s puja evenings of camphor, Lakshmi’s calm
That’s her favorite chair, those his books, cobweb
Under curtains long unwashed, my embroidered
Dancers, brother’s rickety racket, the portly phone
Awaiting the ring of our brawls. Where will it all go?
We all laughed, sang, ate and told each other stories here
Monday, October 12, 2009
Was Russet to live her life between the legs of horses? She could get kicked sometime, although I’m sure Russet never expected that. It’s a job she had for a long time. Russet had big hands. Her hair cut like a duckling’s tail caught in a twister. She was a farrier. With an uncommon but musical name – Russet. That’s what she told me.
We spoke while rummaging through old books on sale downtown where they’d let us take a bagful for a dollar. Shivering in the line outside on the cold concrete, for it was late November in this little Upstate New York town, I rubbed my bristly palms inside fleece gloves to a frigid drop falling from above, listening to the drone of a man explaining to someone the intricacies of a Russian fireplace. Once inside, we rummaged and I saw she held this Alberto Moravia I wanted, Two Women. Like a predatory animal I eyed her. Silently pointed towards the Moravia. She eye-browed towards the flat thin book I was holding.
“Horses.” She said. “You like horses?”
“I don’t mind them.” I said. Why talk of horses? This isn’t a farm fest. It’s a book sale.
“You’ve a horse here,” she said, leaning over and touching the book I was holding. Tock tock. She knocked on the cover twice.
The flat thin cover indeed had a horse snorting in a yellow-green cornfield. I had no idea if horses liked corn. Suddenly it hit me why horses were the topic.
“Okay,” I said, sheepishly. She handed my book to me. “This is about women,” I explained.
“You like women?” She asked the same way she had asked if I liked horses.
Yes. No. What do I say? I’m a man! I nodded. I liked women only because they are there, all around. Not in the same way I’d adore a race car. It was tough to explain.
“He’s a European writer, this Moravia. He must like women a lot … he writes a lot about them,” I said.
“In Europe they make cheese at home,” she said tilting her funny looking head to one side. “They also name their women Nana.”
“No, that’s Zola.” I said, trying to be polite, adding, “A writer by the name Zola called his heroine Nana. In fact, his book is called Nana.”
At that point she abruptly announced that she was a farrier.
“What’s that?” I was sure I had heard the word but I’d never met a farrier before.
I noticed she had big hands, a bizarre hairstyle, plus she walked with webbed gait and the stolid expression of a bored farm animal.
“Russet,” she said, holding out her right hand.
I thought she was talking about the evening sky, which we couldn’t see it from inside this book-filled musty hall.
“Fall evenings are great, especially evenings,” I said. “Do you take walks with your horses on russet evenings?”
She looked at me as if I were a silverfish worm who eats away old book pages. Tiny slithering insects you want to thrash whack whack whack, until you’re satisfied not a single one exists among your priceless collection.
“I spend most evenings working with horses,” she said. “And my name’s Russet.”
I squirmed like that silverfish worm. Oh, that was her name.
Before I could say my name she spoke about the evenings she had spent under and between horses’ legs, shoeing them. This triggered some strange scenes in my mind. Horses’ legs were spindly and long. Not human-like. They even had hooves. Russet could get kicked. Between human legs it was different. Humans didn’t require shoeing. Still one could get kicked, even with humans.
“But of course,” she said. “I could get kicked even between human legs!”
I didn’t comment. We roamed the hall filling our plastic bags. I noted her choice of books about farming and automobiles. She told me she drove an old truck and managed a farm alone. I pictured this slightly Mohawk-haired woman on a farm, grime and mobile oil all around, the hay smelling of horseshit, and her banging thud thud thud on a horseshoe.
“You do that for a job?” I said. “Shoe horses?”
These were horses whose owners found them too old or useless, she explained. Farm horses that’d never again pull carts. Racehorses discarded after they got burnt out. Show horses whose mane grew coarse. Russet made them shoes to walk in and gallop and play and she didn’t mind as long as they didn’t roll on rain-soaked hay for her to clean too often. There were days when she drove to the city to browse shops. She wore her old work jacket because she had no dates these days. Her twister-caught hairstyle didn’t have to be trimmed because there was no one to appreciate. Coming to rummage book sales was the only thing she had permitted herself in a long time. Books made her put aside her grubby boots and stack away her ‘Fresh Corns’ sign at the roadside. Driving down the winding road, doing a casual fifty-five over the forty-five-mile per hour, swerving by blackened squirrels stuck on the yellow dividing line, she came down here for books. Meanwhile her horses lounged or dozed on fresh hay that had been spread out that morning while waiting to feel her big hands. They enjoyed sniffing her and responded in charged hee hee hees. While she worked between their spindly legs, hay stalks cut her fingers, mosquitoes bit her buttocks and ear lobes, and sawdust rose in little clouds due to hammering and hitting. And the horses neighed happily. What if the horses kicked her head or chest, I imagined, shuddering.
“I like it alone,” she said.
She had a man for six months. A man who preferred worn out camel leather gloves in winter and a lime-stained jacket smelling of wood rabbits. He didn’t like horses. “A farrier’s job doesn’t pay,” he grumbled. He wanted to sell horses, the cornfields and the truck to go do city jobs. He drank and fell asleep when she was off to town doing chores. The horses went hungry many times and the two fought bitterly.
“It had to be him or the horses,” she said. “I chose my horses.”
Her four-legged friends – brown and mustard and chestnut, a few velvety black, were joyous about that decision. Russet’s horse book reminded me of Le Cheval Blanc where the white horse looked painted green. Maybe Gauguin too had lived near a green cornfield.
“What’d your type of women do in this situation?” Russet asked me abruptly.
‘Your type’ sounded like she belonged to another world. This was my chance to tell her about my world, a college professor’s world. Well, my kind read made-up tales. Zola, Moravia. Normally, my type of women would want to keep a man. They’d try very hard. Shop for pretty dresses, colors for their cheeks and tiny shoes – human shoes – to please their man. For a man they’d re-do their entire life.
“Of course, they wouldn’t know the difference unless they kept horses for a few years,” I said. Quasi-apologetic.
She eyed my trimmed hair, my pleated professorial pants and my leather moccasins, my cheeks still fragrant from my morning shave. I knew she could smell my powdered chest – we stood so close– and feel my elbow brush her hard sides. Her eyes were wide realizing that a man like me, a reading and college-teaching type, was not someone she usually met. That hurt me. I pined to tell her I loved hay, but on a painted canvas. And horses were okay as long as I didn’t have to wash or shoe them. Le Cheval Blanc wasn’t to be touched and sullied.
“Yeah, it’s different elsewhere,” she said, as if farriers lived by a separate book.
I tried convincing her otherwise, this woman with big hands who could be made to feel good and wanted. A woman named Russet, like the fall evening. Our plastic bags were full and we’d part having spent only one dollar a bag. The conversation was several more bags full.
“Mind if I invite you?” She threw the words out of her mouth with the invisible stuff she was chewing. “Bring your Moravia book to my farm. Will ya?”
I stood on the wintry sidewalk not saying anything. Her truck spewed smoke in a volley of vroom vroom vroom.
She yelled: “Can I call you Vandyke, after one my horses?”
“My name’s Ludwig,” I yelled back and saw her gesture.
“Where did you get that? That’s a horse name too!”
Suddenly unspoken warmth surrounded me. Ah, she was joking. In a good way. All my life I thought my parents were silly to name me like that. As if they knew for sure I was gonna be a sad little professor.
The women in my life and in the books I read kept cats or dogs. Fluffy, silky creatures bathed in lavender shampoo. Coats combed to a perfect gloss, fancy ribbons tied round their necks. The women talked to them in foreign tongues – oh mon petit chou. Made love while their pets watched. None of them lived by a cornfield and heard neighs all night. Alone.
“So long Vandyke!” Russet sped up.
The pickup disappeared around the bend. A russet sun gobbled it up. Her hammer striking new metal, raw and chiming, the farrier would have a visitor soon.
Please download a high resolution print quality PDF file for only $2.50 at CSR April 2009 Edition
Image from the Internet
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Poetry in Our Times
1. Utterance from an Urn
Only when we looked around we saw
A subliminal longing, in an unaccustomed mouth
Birth of lettered rhymes.
2. "A Face Like Ours"
Poetry is a face inviting a peek
A thought that carves the Ajanta grace – a smile, a pause
Poetry’s guest. Liberated words.
3. "Doors vs. Darkness"
Silent waters upon those door frames
The choice is of clarity of shards, not darkness
The face splatters like meters. A welcome chant.
4. "Airborne, We Sing"
Our times is a kite for our hands
To say nothing of the birds. Alphabetic. Soaring
The face, this poetry, defy disbelief of metaphors.
Images: sketches in poster color by me, on paper and then scanned
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
My faith gave me shuddhi
My ritual of being awash
In ideas that cowered on
Some porches scared to be told
Don’t touch that, don’t sit there
Be a shadow of no one ever
My faith gave me shuddhi from
Thermal springs sprung from myths
Full moon dips in ammonia streams
Avoidance from our liquid beliefs
Of impurity and the five elements
I won’t drown like Ophelia for sure
For my faith poured clear shuddhi
The water from every living thing
As they lay dying in heavens’ corners
Wishing for a stream of reasons to
Reverse course, enter them unsullied.
"and I saw lotuses out of season"
with the rain that collected like eyes
over city roads of many vigils and wrangles
with long lines of handholding kids and adults
the line punctuated with buckets, pots, jerry cans
with monsoon’s bloom of festering holes that deceived
a splash or a sip and diluted rivers of freshness to flow clogged
I saw lotuses out of season ready to take on the clouds.
Image: Manorborn 09 cover
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
This is the initial B&W drawing:
Then I colored it with marker pen:
I thought the sun rising from the 'netherworlds' could be cropped for some effect!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
These are scanned images, hopefully clear. My handwriting is pathetic of course!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Activist and poet Dustin Brookshire's Project Verse gave us this assignment in the initial round -- "your first poet". This was my contribution, tell me about yours:
My Years With Rabindranath Tagore
Little Boy Courage. The Old Banyan tree.
You came to me Rabindranath
(tough name for a kid)
as playmate Rabi
On a horseback through our
childish woods of romance
mixing the monsoon rains with tunes
of leaf floats making off to the Seven Seas
between homework of grammar and spelling.
Here, Rabi, hold my hand
write that stanza
I’d read even years later
for every year the drummers are out
(still underpaid, they now sell
fake branded accessories)
teasing absent-minded autumn clouds.
Tall palm with winged-desire. Camelia my Girl.
So who said he wore a solemn beard?
Not on my book cover!
Duping the elders we must remain green –
exactly the way he called out:
My little greens, my little young shoots
and those lines are still the first to ring
the way it once did
candle-blowing sleepiness on
a power-outed summer night.
Reading Tagore in bed, living inside
the crumpled book leaves
I frolicked with my playmate Rabi
soared above static and din
(father loved Tchaikovsky
on old Radio Moscow)
also cried when
the Pilgrims drowned at sea.
Here, Rabi, take this line
let my first eyes remember that time
A drop of water. The leaf shivers.
Image from the Internet: Tagore and Einstein
Sunday, September 20, 2009
A poem from a set of 5 words -- "zany, velvet, debonair, limp, & exculpate". Activist and poet Dustin Brookshire's Project Verse, now reaching its end, is where I first wrote it. Here's mine, write yours!
inside the body of the verse
Bring, the velvet and the
Mousse of your hands, tell
My verse yes we are
In love with this body
Yours and mine, with our
Zany nights that jerked off
Emotions and plights
Hold, just hold tight on
To the limpness of rhymes
Before we arouse slowly again
This turn of flaccid limbs
Your flourish into the dawn
My frenzy hay-rolled just
As in old-fashioned silver-
Screen tales of our body
Our verse so debonair
Give, give me that strophe
Stroked by your lips and set afire
This song of Moulin Rouge
The body of phones in sweet pangs
Say, just whisper into my ears that
You exculpate this ecstasy spent, so
Free from glare, you and I can curl
Up in pleasure and love the words
Off pages growing on our chests.
Image from the Internet
Sunday, September 13, 2009
One such recent view was New York (2009).
1. Suddenly Bollywood's "overseas" interests have started including the 9/11 commentary, after these many years have passed. While New York seems incapable of any analyses about 9/11 as an event in history, the Naseeruddin Shah-directed "Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota (2006)" presented a deeper psychological insight into the people who might have unfortunately been caught in 9/11's turbulence. New York simply seems to be another chance to shoot in New York City, with the campus scenes resembling Chapel Hill (how quaint we never see such flora and fauna in a "state university" in New York) and the cobbled city streets incorporated from some Upstate town topography perhaps...!
2. In New York, Muslims take charge of their own "involvement" or "implication" in 9/11. This has become such a popular notion with the Hindu, upper-caste, middle-class majority (why blame the rightwing?), as pointed out by M. They should, it is argued eloquently, sort out their "own mess". Even a well-known newspaper editor went on to argue recently how secular, liberal Hindus can no longer defend the credentials of the Muslims. And so on and so forth for Dalits, Tribals, and the "others", following a similar logic. Reminds me of Martin Niemöller's lines!
Postscript: In the very last portion of New York, the 'self-absolved' Muslims (the government-appointed one who has helped terrorists see the path of nonviolence and 'we-are-globalized-type oneness' through his own experience of interrogation, torture, and killing, and the independent one who had probably seen the path, but couldn't quite get on to the globalization fast track fast enough because his girl was taken away, because he had to kill, etc.) keep fawning upon the orphan kid (the dead terrorist's child) as the "new Muslim" kid laden with virtues like love for eating pasta, excelling in American football, tolerance etc. Made me laugh. Where did Bollywood get the notion that this "breed" is breeding only NOW, after thorough 'self-absolving' by the older offenders? Talk about belief systems and a sense of historicity!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
NEW WORLDS is a new section to showcase writers from the "neo-antipodes and diasporas".
Editor Michelle Cahill writes in one e-mail:
"We are really delighted to be publishing your fine work in Mascara Literary Review. It will be as part of a section titled "New Worlds", featuring work from the states/northern hemisphere."
and in the other:
"Your poems are wonderful. Do keep in contact. You may wish to consider writing a review in future."
In the main Poetry section, there is my favorite Indian poet Keki N Daruwalla's poems and Sukrita Paul Kumar's work as well. Really feels good to be in Keki's company! My friend on Facebook, Anuradha Vijayakrishnan's excellent poetry is also there.
I love ALEPH and so let me reproduce it here too:
The first sound uttered is always forgotten
Possibly it is never even a word. Just
An interjection that derives from faraway
Fears or an anxious rhythm of speech.
The first sound can be heard quite clear
When groans and grunts are taken care
Of with mighty sweep of authorized
Hands that also stifle songs and smiles.
If you were a baby or a doddering pair
Of legs, your first word would be despair
Not a calligrapher’s delight in dusky ink
Blinking away in the heliotrope night.
In one little fable the first letter was
Meant to be the first word of wonder
But no one wrote it down and so later
The ocean took it with fish and dead matter.
Monday, September 7, 2009
So, entrée à Danse Macabre and read the review at Trek with the Buddha Bard or at Nabina DAS where you can also read my response poem "THE QUATAQUATANTANKUA" and enjoy the art by Tyson Schroeder, reproduced here.
You can find some of my other work that appeared in Danse Macabre earlier at DM 23 Une Nuit à l'Opéra.
The featured days were:
Day 1: Intro / Bio / Poem: "The First Apple Sings a Ruba’i"
Day 2: Poem: "Othello's Path" / Interview Question: "When did you first have an interest in poetry?"
Day 3: Poem: "Moonlore from the East" / Short Q&A
Day 4: Poem: "A Few Things of Consideration" / Short Q&A
Day 5: Poem: "Finding Foremothers" / Short Q&A
Day 6: Interview Questions for Nabina by Tim Buck
I enjoyed every bit of my exposure and interaction on Mnemosyne, made good friends and read wonderful writers. Check out *Mnemosyne* Literary Journal
Thursday, August 6, 2009
OTHER INDIA STORIES: Dalit Women's Venture and Deep Joshi's Magsaysay Award Trampled by Rakhi's Swayamvar and Other Enlightening Stuff
Now don't tell me you are from India and you haven't peeked a boo into that show even once! Shame on you, for, even some of my PINK UNDIE campaigner (The Pink Chaddi Campaign) friends have watched her brazen realism.
Newspaper run entirely by 'low-caste', rural women in Uttar Pradesh wins UNESCO literacy award
Writer and women’s activist Farah Naqvi, who has captured
the story in her book “Waves in the Hinterland, the journey of a newspaper”,
sums up the women’s story like this: “They have battled with their inner demons
and with the images thrust upon them by the world. Images which told them that
journalists are only educated men, demons that fed on fear and applauded and
laughed every time they failed. They have not only redefined the very male
notion of citizenship but turned the very notion of women in India on its
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Read (again!) :
THE UNFOLD PINNACLE by Basanta Kumar Kar – A review by Nabina Das
The Turbulent Top: Marginalized Women’s Voices from India
THE UNFOLD PINNACLE by Basanta Kumar Kar– A review by Nabina Das
Monday, July 27, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I was invited to come down to Guntur and read my work with several other poets from different corners of India, but couldn't do that owing to a lot mixed up things going on in my world right then. Would have been so exciting. But I am excited to learn from the editors and newspaper coverage that the festival was a success.
I'm still flipping through the collection and am yet to sample some engaging writing. Meanwhile, I post my second poem from that collection. You remember reading my other poem in the book here: "Finding Foremothers". Now this is:
"When Langston Hughes Visited My Home"
The name was strange and the book
Was shiny dark
Thin, freckled jacket, like my angry
On the table
The title kept calling in a
Jingle-jangle Assamese refrain
I kept saying it out loud:
“Hey Xurjo Uthi Aha”!
Why it exhorted the sun to rise
Accept the challenge of a new
Dream that flamed
Brighter and purer
And why the smaller typeface said:
Poems by a dark-limbed poet, a collection,
I had no idea then
Dark limbs were not seen
On our book covers
Only limbs were, but then
Krishna is just not a word
For a god, it dawned on me
But skins and cheeks and
Strong arms of poetic force
On my table
Also the end of crowing nights
When a poet came home
Inside the covers of a book, smiling:
"That day is past!"
Postscript: This poem generated an interesting discussion among my friends. My friend and editor of Mnemosyne poetry blog Jen Pezzo-Kerowyn Rose made a very pertinent observation. Read "Discussion Generated on My Poem 'Langston...': Writing about Skin Color". Tell me what your thoughts are!
Image from the Internet: Langston Hughes
Sunday, July 19, 2009
THE UNFOLD PINNACLE by Basanta Kumar Kar – A review by Nabina Das
Basanta Kumar Kar’s involvement in the Indian nonprofit sector for years has afforded him a close-up of the tribal societies, the backward classes and marginalized sections of that developing and diverse country. He practices with flourish the first-person voice of personas as varied as an under-aged girl with a history of abuse to a Gond or Maria tribal woman struggling against the onslaught of modern civilization to a mother-cum-sex worker reflecting on her fate in the ruthless city. As a professional in his poetic role, Kar brings alive the disillusionment and haplessness of India’s marginalized women, especially those from Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). He is involved in his subject’s plight and at the same time lets his subjectiveness to position himself as the keen observer. Kar shares the wealth of his experiences with his readers in the rather long 73-page collection.
The Wikipedia defines the SC/ST as ‘Indian population groupings that are explicitly recognized by the Constitution of India, previously called the "depressed classes" by the British, and otherwise known as untouchables. SCs/STs together comprise over 24% of India's population, with SC at over 16% and ST over 8% as per the 2001 census… Some Scheduled Castes in India are also known as Dalits. Some Scheduled Tribe people are also referred to as Adivasis.’ Commenting on the crisis of faith of these underprivileged communities, in the aptly titled “Faith First”, Kar writes:
swings of snow peep
hills draw lines, mesmerise
The actions embodied by the elements smoke, cloud, snow, hills etc. are swift and brutal, akin to the experience of his subject. Nature provides no succor. It is a constant reminder of bad fortune. In “…mesmerize/they butcher” this is particularly amplified. The short staccato sentences metaphorically and literally “work in tandem”. The cosmogony of the women Kar writes about, socially denied and deprived, and often under a double yoke of social stigma within their own communities, comprises of humanistic elements that surprise us with their animateness, the only source of comfort for the subjugated lot:
I understand my neighbours
tamarind tree, dates and nuts
pigs and chicken, ghosts and spirits
The weltanschauung of the women is stark yet conveys the environment they thrive in:
We are together
Sunday, July 5, 2009
This has a wood-scented flower-center bright like a
Peeping bird's eyes, awake
From floating gas fumes of the bus
Invading a space of always, ever, where like pure water
The mother goddess’
Pupils flow with a meadow-rust
And split the day like egg-shells -- A grass-bride giving off stillness to my
Moldy brown hands
That keep tracing
A path, again and again
Stuck like a Greek mythical hero gone to slay
When I tell this story to my friends
Awkwardness take over
Because we know we walk chakras at homes, jobs and road stops
Just as we inhale unheroic opposition
Of fate, weather
Wood-scented flicker of other eyes to emerge from shackles.
Contributing writers include: Tichaona Chinyelu, Nabina Das, Venus Jones, Farah Lawal, Omar Akbar, Anthony Spires, Amy Blondell, DJ Gaskin, Summayah Talibah, Maureen Mulima, Randy Gross, Margaux Delotte-Bennett, Serena Wills, and other notables. Visual art work by Turtel Onli, Marshetta Davis, Shan'ta Monroe and more.
Foreword by author Ananda Leeke.
Cover Art by Sharon Burton.
Friday, July 3, 2009
This is a day the family sits down
to a dinner for a festival remembering
ancestors they say hover disguised as
birds and animals – on the lawn, on garden boughs.
Is my grandma among the cows?
I knew she was feisty! Maybe
a crow then. And her own mother
was she there too with her broken
teeth and sad robes yellowed with
age in a photograph some gora had
clicked at her rich spouse’s gracious permission?
The sweetened tomato chutney on
my banana leaf plate seeps away like blood
dark dark red, blood of aunts, wives
who cooked and cleaned, sucked
blood from cuts, bore kids and bled till
they stopped; bled in their hearts when widowed and denied.
A few grains of paddy, holy water, forefathers still
flocked outside; on the television a woman wails.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
That line sure came across as challenging to me. I mean if this is what poet Bryant Voigt said about poetry, I do have a right to express my opinion before I die! The line is deep in its implications and provocative in its suppositions. And I felt adamant reading it.
This note, my own expression, a cover letter and a few unpublished poems were submitted as application material. Got to hear from Dustin that I am now one of the 10 short-listed competitors for the honors offered by Project Verse. And by the gods of poesy, isn’t this going to be one rigorous ride.
Dustin’s blogpost teases: ‘Can you write under pressure without breaking a sweat?’ Hell I can't! I’m mortally scared of competitions although well wishers say I perform well under pressure. Well, be that as it may, I think I do well only if Madame Pressure leaves me alone with my faithful laptop. Wouldn’t I be a Wall Street fatcat otherwise?
More about Dustin Brookshire: "In 2008, Dustin founded LIMP WRIST and Quarrel. He has been featured at poetry readings in Atlanta as well as Savannah, and his work has been published in numerous online magazines as well as in Atlanta's DAVID magazine. Besides writing poetry and 'cooking up' poetry projects, Dustin enjoys serving on the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival Committee, and keeping elected officials on their toes. Contact Dustin via email: email@example.com"
So get out the swords, sheaths and helmets. The rattle and the battle of Project Verse begins! Also, get some body sprays and room fresheners because I will be writing from the heat of Indian summer.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Anyway, my cash award for a 2nd prize awarded by the Open Space-HarperCollins-India Poetry Contest 2008 arrived. Some silver lining. Or is it?
She said prophecies would let their winding hands circle my fleshy roots, digging amply inside Apollo’s oracles, welcoming a change in spring’s sparkled honeyed light
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
My ties with Kolkata are old, very old. Right from the days of my families' ancestors. Some of them studied here, practised as lawyers, did politics, were even born here, etc. I am not too fond of the title City of Joy for Kolkata. There is too much pain, sweat and daily struggle here that I don't want to eulogize and much less endure myself if I have to live here. In the word of poet Nirendranath Chakravarti (b. 1924, http://india.poetryinternationalweb.org/piw_cms/cms/cms_module/index.php?obj_id=11156)
however, Kolkata has evoked rhythms in my heart every time I visited it, some times jarring and cacophonous and quite often, a raga melody hankering after the sweet sadness of losing something:
There’s moss a little below
the surface of the water,
you can see it if you lean just a
but she doesn’t care to, she’s sent
her gaze off
in search of the red rose.
I watch, from dawn to dusk I watch
how like estranged love and
longing it keeps moving endlessly,
the water moss. (read the rest from the link above...)
Having lived in the US for seven years now, was I surprised at the above incidents? Why do I then blog about this? No answer really, but something compelled me to record this. Red Communist flags of the ruling state administration and tricolor grass motifs of the recently victorious Trinamool (grassroots) Congress fluttered around shop tops made of sooty tarp or tin. But no one seemed interested in a party-based blame game really. All that was registered was protest. Peaceful and persuasive. Despite the summer heat and remnants of the furious cyclone strewn about.
What we, those alien to the system or a visitor after a long time, would categorize as madness had a method of human quotient that I would probably not witness in ordinary circumstances gone awry even in most countries I have visited in Europe or America.