Tag Archives: india

Poetry in the News

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Unthinkable: What’s the use of poetry?

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/unthinkable-what-s-the-use-of-poetry-1.2195306

William Faulkner Makes Us Wonder: What’s So Great About Poetry, Anyhow?

http://www.npr.org/2015/04/30/402852491/william-faulkner-makes-us-wonder-whats-so-great-about-poetry-anyhow

When Poetry Went Viral In Medieval India

http://swarajyamag.com/columns/when-poetry-went-viral-in-medieval-india/

This is the way poetry ends

http://www.columbiatribune.com/arts_life/ovation/this-is-the-way-poetry-ends/article_46272116-72d3-5c74-8116-bb049be1b61e.html

Gass: Put poetry back in the classroom

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20150503/

OPINION/150508982/1007/OPINION 

Why some people dislike poetry

http://michiganradio.org/post/why-some-people-dislike-poetry

Thirteen Thoughts on Poetry in the Digital Age

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mandy-kahn/thirteen-thoughts-on-poet_b_7102384.html

 

 

 

 

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A Door Somewhere by Jaydeep Sarangi

a doorPaperback: 69 pages

Publisher: Cyberwit.net (April 19, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 8182534909

ISBN-13: 978-8182534902

Review by P C K Prem
 
 Jaydeep Sarangi with four volumes of poems is widely anthologized in different continents. Latest collection of poems ‘A Door-somewhere’ was released at Rzeszow University, Poland when he visited the country as a visiting Professor in 2014. Fifth collection of verses The Wall and Other Poems is likely to be released in Norwich, UK in June 2015.
            Jaydeep Sarangi is perceptive and each moment makes an impression upon his gentle heart. As a man of emotions and delicate poetic thoughts, he tries to reach out to relations with warmness.  In prayers, he strengthens relations. A mother is a deity for the poet, for she acts as a refuge. Nostalgically, he goes back to ma so that she listens to what innocent breathings tell. Innocuously, he takes everyone to the lap of mother to seek relief when one fails to get succor outside, for the world looks callous and apathetic. Images continue to assault incessantly and the poet struggles hard to dispel darkness, ambiguities create.  In a single moment, he travels a long distance in experiences, thoughts and emotions. 
At times, innocent hearts carry a man to a land of mystery, and teach  lessons of life when a man is a simple visitor and looks out for a little divine and everything that takes place around puts a question mark, for in imagery you unearth many meanings and yet you understand nothing. Unlocking of past is a puzzling suggestion because it carries to eerie happenings where fairies, ghosts and strangers scare but excite.
            Experiences appear awe-inspiring as one remembers magnificent days as life moves and hints at a strange merger of ancient times with contemporary ordeals life faces and here, life seems hectic, and rotates around ‘tube and tyre’ 17, a monotonous innuendo to a dreamy sequence. 
Poet’s obsession with relations (?) extends to philosophic borders when he deliberates upon the land of birth. Everything gets life and confronts a sensitive heart and then, suddenly he connects heart and intellect to modern agony where –
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A roti for the hungry
A stick for an old man
In an alien shore
Ushering green plague
For the survival
Words written with embossed paper. 18
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The thought reemerges in “Mystery of the Land” and gets identity personified, for going back to past and land of birth grants peace, a truth many would accept and to this extent, the poet speaks for men, who love and value land, its people and relations.
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You illumine
My inroads
With blazing light from all sides.  23
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  A man gets relief, safe haven, light and wisdom as darkness diffuses and liquefies. Social realities disturb as insightful intellect tries to find solutions, which prove mirages –a genuine obstruction elite face, and at another moment, a door symbolically takes him to fresh vistas of fulfillment and delight that continue to linger on a stage of fantasy. Possibly, door signals openness, a life of anticipation and joy, of probable hurdles leading to ultimate enchantment though transitory but the poet refuses to confess. Door enshrines mysteries. One lives, for one believes life beyond death. Life is relaxed if a man lives in thoughts of gratifying indefinite. Man must open doors to knowledge and joy, and possible indeterminable salvation (?) if he seeks meaning. Surprisingly, the poet turns to the hard life some people live.
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I have seen the tears of the oppressed.
I know my weaknesses.
I don’t know his tomorrow, behind the door
Can’t predict anything beyond now
Of a tree of forbidden fruits… 25
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 The thought evokes finer sensibilities again in “Hunger” with a poignant message.  He eulogizes important people but one hardly notices 21, and like any other poet, he speaks for humanity as age knocks down body and intellect.  Life turns frenzied with chaotic undertones as one arranges inner formation in a disturbed contemporary living while making genuine efforts to find truth of self-image. (31)
In the reckless current chase, man is insensitive and crude, he points out, “Blood is sold at low price, all can buy it. /May be with a discount /One bottle free, if you buy one.” (41) It is philosophic and yet simple thoughts make life consequential. One looks beyond horizons of imaginings and illusions, returns to everyday surroundings, and picks up themes emerging out of ‘the living and the dead’, for in each, one finds relationship, and it is poetic strength beyond evaluation.  He observes-
I have written over generations
I save my ancestors as you save your missing links.
 When the crows fly over, your brother listen… 35
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 Life is enjoyable if one tries to find approbation even in indistinguishable relations, “Life’s acts are shadows of the past /Shadows are residue /Of light and lighted trajectory.” (39)
In life, words transform to images and fantasize living, and a man reflects over the impossibilities. He knows variations in little shades life offers because meaning in confusing situations has a different objective. In images, he tries to find undertones of mystery life contains but he understands life is not a dream but reality and to anchor it strongly, struggle must continue, for it sustains life.
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Causing oppression to the powerless,
But will turn again to re-establish
A just society
With a different key 47
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Sarangi plays with words even if the words create intended gaps in understanding the true import, and so connects incoherent tiny incident of life with images and still does not run away from bonds he wants to continue, “I waited till I could meet someone near the doorway /Of my dream /Wet trees looked at me in amazement.”  Personal agonies and wounds are much taller than one can imagine and here, the lyricist appears pathetic without knowing it. (48)
Poet’s lyrical journey to past and present and again to past, remains paranormal, and human ties carry the burden of delicate little thoughts and emotions tentative. He thinks of mother, land and a few relations when questions of earning livelihood engage. He wants to express, collects words but fumbles for a fulcrum, “She allows me to see the world /Through fissures in the dreamy wall /A matchless majesty fills my heart. / I demand to speak with God /I have business with him,” for he has yet to find answers to mystic questions about life that haunt and finally, when he returns, even the ancient path he left long ago, assists him in finding destination unspecified. He is hopeful, for ‘Each time I read history / I find a door somewhere’ and adds, “It’s a door between the self and the world, /Despair dances in Hope.” and that offers definite meaning to life.
A Door Somewhere offers enjoyable lines, for living in a world of fresh and exciting images is an experience. Transmitting sensory experiences in fine and definite word-pictures is an art and in this little lyrical book of images, one moves from nowhere to somewhere with a certain purpose where one finds life challenging, worth living and meaningful. 
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pck -An author of more than forty-five books in English and Hindi, P C K Prem (p c katoch) a post-graduated in English literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh   has  nine volumes of poetry besides books on criticism in Hindi and English.  Katoch Prem is a poet, novelist, short story writer and critic in English from Himachal Pradesh, India

10 Questions for Vinita Agrawal

va 1Born in Bikaner, India, on August 18th 1965, Vinita Agrawal did her schooling in Kalimpong and Kolkata and college from Baroda. She was is a Gold Medallist in M.A. Political Science from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and earned the UGC scholarship in College. She has worked freelance as a writer and researcher ever since but has remained a poet at heart. Her poetry has been published in print and online journals on countless different occasions so far, the prominent publications among them being Asiancha, Constellations, raedleafpoetry, The Fox Chase Review, Spark, The Taj Mahal Review, Open Road Review, CLRI, Kritya.org, Touch- The Journal of healing, Museindia, Everydaypoets.com, Mahmag World Literature, The Criterion, The Brown Critique, Twenty20journal.com, Sketchbook, Poetry 24, Mandala and others which include several international anthologies. Her poem was nominated for the Best of the Net Awards 2011 by CLRI. She received a prize from MuseIndia in 2010. Her poem Thoughts won a prize in the Wordweavers Contest 2013. Her debut collection of poems titled Words Not Spoken published by Sampark/Brown Critique was released in November 2013. http://www.vinitawords.com/

Interview with g emil reutter

The Interview 

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GER: You are a writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. What draws you to each of these forms?

VA: I am first and foremost a writer of poetry. I write so much of it that sometimes I think it’s a malaise with me. It’s my first love across all genres of writing. I write fiction occasionally – because some ideas simply cannot be expressed as a poem. They need a longer narrative and only prose will suffice to portray them adequately. Compared to fiction, I enjoy writing non-fiction more. I enjoy writing about spirituality, culture and travel, enjoy researching my subject and creating something that throws more light on it. That gives me great satisfaction.

GER: How did you come to being a poet?

VA: I’ve been writing poems since I was very young – as far back as five. I think my dad has some of my childhood verses saved up somewhere. I was good at English literature in school and received awards regularly in the subject. I contributed to school and college journals and other in house publications. But most of the poetry that I wrote till my early twenties was an outpouring of the angst of growing up and about teenage crushes. It had no literary worth at all. I made a bonfire of those diaries when I re read them at a later stage in life and realized how atrocious they were. 

Then there was a long phase of remaining a closet poet. I wrote regularly but what I considered as reasonably good poetry was rejected by editors as worthless. It was then I realized writing poetry was not merely the outpouring of emotions, rather it was a serious art of conveying the deepest meanings of life and portraying its most profound perspectives using the bare minimum of words. Because of this realization, I started reading poetry seriously. I concluded that if you didn’t know what the art was all about, how were you going to experiment with it? 

I read the classical poets like Byron, Keats, Wordsworth, Whitman and Eliot. I read works of the newer poets like Neruda, Paz and contemporary Indian poets like Jayanta Mahapatra, Nissim Ezekiel and Kamala Das. I have to confess that Neruda and Mahapatra blew me away! ” God!,” I told myself, “That is how I want to write!” I was officially bitten by the bug; writing poetry became a compulsion, an obsession…a desperate need. For me personally, it took the lid off the pressures of existence.

va 3GER: What poets have had an influence on your writing?

VA: As I mentioned in my previous reply, I’ve been majorly influenced by most great poets. There’s something to learn from each one of them. I learnt extravagance of imagery and emotions from Neruda, learnt pinpointed poignant succinctness from Mahapatra and the art of making guileless womanly confessions from Kamala Das.  I’ve also been very inspired by the works of RUMI, Vikram Seth, Jane Hirshfield and Seamus Heaney. 

I must also acknowledge the vast and varied influence that every good poet has on me. Sometimes I read a great piece of contemporary poetry and I don’t even know who’s written it but I want to treasure the experience of reading it.

Rather than a poet in totality, a poem per se has a greater impact on me. In that sense I get influenced by all good work. Reading a well written poem makes me write something worthwhile too. You could say that epiphany is my taskmaster!.

Words-Not-Spoken-by-Vinita-Agrawal

GER: Tell us about Words Not Spoken and how the collection came about?

VA:  Words Not Spoken is my first collection of poems. It is published by Brown Critique/Sampark  India and was released in November 2013. 

The book is a potpourri of poems written over a considerable stretch of time. Some poems go back as far as 1997. I decided to include them in this collection because I could still relate to them emotionally. Besides, this being my first published collection, I did not want to miss any step of my poetic journey. 

The poems represent my perceptions of life with all its highs and lows, troughs and crests… They trace experiences of loss and grief, pride and joy, betrayal and pain from a very personal perspective. Some poems express my awareness of the injustices I see around me but mostly they centre around the intensely peculiar dimensions of womanhood –  its sentimental treasures and curious travails.  

Over the years I have discovered that pain has a penumbra of numbness attached to it. And that sooner or later, we choose this numbness to the acuteness. It is this invisible fine shift towards a state of stillness that inspires me to write. Endurance, in any form, is at the core of my writing.

GER: Please tell us about your work as a freelance writer and researcher?

vinita01VA:  Yes…I’ve changed many cities in the course of my life and therefore was unable to take up a regular job. So I decided to work freelance and work from home. Writing is a profession that allows you that freedom. I relish being able spend time at home and yet be fruitfully engaged with writing. It has its limitations of course but if you’re seeking to balance your personal and professional life than it really is the best option.

As freelance writer I’ve written development based articles, features on gender issues, penned middles for newspapers, written passionately about the Tibet issue, done interviews with prominent personalities in the spiritual/academic field like Robert Thurman, the Official Oracle of the Dalai Lama and even top Defence personnel! God knows how that happened! 

As a researcher, I presented two papers on Buddhism at international conferences in Sri Lanka and Vaishali under the Sakyadhita Banner. I have karmic leanings towards the Buddha and his teachings and have taken up researching his life and thoughts independently but with expert guidance from Geshes and scholars. I have to confess though, that I’m very slow with all this work that I’m doing. It’s born out of passion and an academic thirst. It has no deadlines or consolidate demands for being in the market so I take things easy with this aspect of my work.

The good thing that I see in doing it at all, apart from the fact them I read voraciously because of it, is that it puts me in touch with wonderful people and brilliant scholars. I enjoy interacting with them a lot. Sometimes I get to visit awesome ancient places in the course of my self-sponsored research. Anuradhapura, Vaishali and Sarnath are two places that come to my mind in particular.

va 4GER: What are the benefits of meditation to managing stress?

VA: Scientific case studies carried out at the Emory University, USA, indicate that compassionate meditation enhances our mental and physical well-being. It creates greater connectedness amongst members of the society and thereby reduces the stress levels. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Lobsang Tenzin Negi, director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership at the university when he was on a visit to Delhi. He pointed out that meditation is an antidote to stress. It does the exact opposite of what stress does to your body. Stress aggravates your adrenalin levels, meditation brings it down, stress shoots up your blood pressure, meditation controls it, stress stretches your nerves and meditation calms them. 

Meditating on compassion that is, love for all, is enormously beneficial in fighting stress.

Indeed compassion is a basic human value and need not be practiced in the context of any particular religion. Meditation helps us to develop this positive emotion within ourselves

All these positive emotions, reared through regular meditation, have great beneficial impact on our health. Becoming kind from within changes our behavior towards others and this in turn makes others around us kinder in return.

GER: You wrote a piece, Women on the Path: The Transnational Sangha’, Awakening Buddhist Women, share with us your thoughts on the awakening? VA: 

“Free am I, oh so free am I
Being freed
By means of the three crooked things:
The mortar, pestle, and my crooked husband! “
                                                Therigatha 11
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This is one of the verses written by a female disciple of the Buddha more than 2500 years ago. The lines epitomize the sense of freedom which spiritual awakening brings into women’s lives who otherwise find themselves in the suffocating grind of domestic life 24×7. The message is as relevant today as it was all those years ago because basically, nothing has changed.
 
In the quest for enlightenment, men and women are equal. Emancipation is a matter of the heartso why should it matter whether the individual who seeks it is a man or a woman? In reality however, women face many obstacles in their endeavors towards self-realizationmore, perhaps, than in any other area of their lives.
 
 
My paper on Awakening Buddhist Women took an in-depth view of the worldwide efforts being made by women to seek a quality space for themselves. It included case studies of women on the spiritual path from different socio-economic, cultural and geographical backgrounds.
va 5

GER: Tell us about the poetry scene in your home town and in India at this point in time?

VA: Oh it’s rife with creativity and inspired writing! Of course you have the section of bad poets who write mediocre stuff and pass it off as art! But India does have its share of brilliant poets who’ve been published internationally, whose work has been evaluated by editors of world class journals accepted, published and occasionally even glorified.

That is very heartening to all aspiring and upcoming poets! It sets a benchmark of good writing standards and chisels ambitions to a fine tip. 

Most cities organize poetry readings and literary festivals that provide a good platform for poetic interactions and also a good exposure for one’s writing. So many literary journals have mushroomed in the country! I just wish that the better ones amongst them continue to maintain a good standard of writing. 

I must also mention here the amazing strength and depth of regional literature in India. My country has over 700 languages! So you can imagine the range of literature that sprouts from different corners of the country. It’s quite fascinating.

GER: Do you perform your poetry and if so what are the benefits to reading in front of a live audience?

SAARC Literature Festival at DelhiVA: Yes I do. In fact I love doing live readings. It gives you an opportunity to connect with the pulse of your readers. Gives you instant feedback about your work and the joy of seeing your words settle in people’s hearts. The experience is quite matchless!

I’ve had youngsters approach me with endearing trepidation after my readings asking if they could keep in touch with me…I’ve had older, established poets come forth and comment on what they see as strengths in my poetry. These are all the delightful fall outs of live readings!

Also, when you read live, you portray not just your work but the entire ethos to which you belong. The way you dress, the way you carry yourself and the way you interact with fellow poets also helps to convey your sensibilities as a poet. It’s a wholesome experience that goes beyond the scope of mere words.

GER: What projects are you currently working on?

VA: As a poet, I have two manuscripts ready for publication. A couple of publishers have approached me but I am yet to make up my mind about how to go about it. I also want to bring out my collection of very short poems. You will probably see a lot of me in 2015 – I hope that’s a good thing! 

I’m also helping one of my very dear colleagues to organize a top quality literary fest in the spring of 2015. Hopefully it will turn out to be one of its kind! 

On the research front, I’m in the process of writing a book about Buddha’s journey from Bodh Gaya to Sarnath i.e. from his place of enlightenment to the place where he gave his very first sermon. The book is titled Two Full Moons. But it’s in its nascent stages as of now because it requires immense and intense research and my avenues are limited. 

In general, poetry keeps me in its grip all the time. Like I said earlier, it’s a malaise…but with a sweet, dervish-like sting to it.

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You can read the poetry of Vinita Agrawal in The Fox Chase Review at these links: http://www.foxchasereview.org/12AW/VinitaAgrawal.html http://www.thefoxchasereview.org/s14vagrawal.html

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2nd-saturday-poets-1-21-12-guarnieri-reutter-readiing-017-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) https://gereutter.wordpress.com/

Wordweavers Short List in Poetry

wordweavers

Wordweavers, magazine, based in India, has announced its 2014 short list for a prize in poetry. The winners will be announced on November 1st. You can read the nominated poems here:

Prize in Poetry: http://wordweavers.in/2014_poetry_shortlist.html

Red Seeps – Droplets of Doubt, Destiny and Devotion in Verse by Sadia Riaz Sehole

a16284Publisher:    Authorspress, New Delhi, India
Language: English
ISBN- 978-81-7273-932-4
 
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Reviewed by Shernaz Wadia
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Here I am, getting acquainted with Sadia Riaz Sehole’s maiden book of poems Red Seeps, Droplets of Doubt, Destiny and Devotion in Verse. The airy blue of the cover, with the title oozing red, belies the monochromatic visuals on the inside, both, together with the layout by Geetali Baruah. Striking! Will the 3Ds (Doubt, Destiny and Devotion) turn the readers into oysters that will nurture the pearl shown on the cover page? To find the answer, I obviously had to read the poems. 
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Poetry, to be good, should blend craft and magic; it should flow from the union of head and heart. All emotions can make a poem mushy…only hard-headed thoughts, without the mellowing edges of feeling and a poem can sound harsh and abrasive. 
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The back cover says, “For Sadia, writing is an outlet for a plethora of feelings, agony, dilemmas, chaos, evens and odds in life.” 
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Here’s what I found in Red Seeps.
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The poems are short, some of only four lines and simply crafted. They spew angst, screams, dumbed-down dreams, smothered passions, hidden trauma –   the exploration and revelation of the trajectory of a tempestuous emotional journey. A raw vein aches and pulsates through the book, interjected here and there by hope, prayer and courage. These try to balance the unnerving, unexpected harshness of the world with mature thinking. Each black and white image too is startlingly perfect…a stark reflection of the poem it illustrates, one complementing the other and making the book a visual delight despite its disturbing darkness.
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One could easily say the poems are ‘I-centric’ because almost every verse is in the first person but that would be over-simplifying and undermining their universal impact.  Though she is a woman and I can identify with her, let me clarify here that this is by no means a diatribe against men. Nor does Sadia whine in self-pity. Her quiet words give voice to all silent sufferers – male or female.
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One poem that haunts is ‘Silent Screams’.  
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“Alone and exiled/Disdained and assailed…..
…Soundless ache like boundless sands/and emptiness all around/Simply because I am too big to cry.”
That last line is a forceful lamentation on society’s collective conditioning where often we don’t let even children cry saying ‘Grown up boys/girls don’t cry.’
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‘Lament’ is another very relatable poem.
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“Mourning for the long-since-washed-away/Sand castles I had built on the beach/Eternally ephemeral/Evanescent/Ever-ending”
Hope, courage and self respect peep through ‘Torn Yet Not Worn’.
Yet little by little/A brave, relentless struggle/Regaining my pride/Carving my way…”.
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and again in ‘Courage’.
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The title poem ‘Red Seeps’ is about the cathartic value of writing – Inconsolable and insane/I picked up the pen/And here red seeps….
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Yes, the red of welts on the spirit, the red of passion, the red of open wounds and suppressed anger seeps on the pages of this anthology but there is also the incandescent colour of faith and devotion – “To the One and Only Invisible Being”, “Glory Unto You God, The Gracious”; if there is the blue of gloom there is also the glowing crimson of love – “Paean To My Parents”, “That’s What I’ll Be Without You”, “Dear Unseen Friend Across The Border”, “Brother, Brother, Oh My Brother”, “A Friend Like You”, “Nectar if Love”, “Absent”. 
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We also see the grey of doubt “Bewildered”; and the ambiguous hue of fatalism – “Me”, “I Wish To Die”, “This World”, “Time Ticks”.
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There are many more tinges and colours here, splashed from the spectrum that is life. I feel tempted to reveal them but I think it is only fair that I leave it to the readers to find those that blend/merge with/clash against the colours on their individual palettes, trickling through the vignettes of their life experiences.
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This is a fare bridled with the complexities and paradoxes of life. It is not so much Freud’s ‘play of childhood’ flowing into her creativity; it is the angst of youth. As Sadia weighs and processes her experiences and feelings we get glimpses into the twilight of a tormented soul; we see the ferret of fear gnawing; with her we also realise that there is hope – In my lonely world/Yet dawns a hope benign/An oyster may come/And make me its pearls. This is the complete   poem titled ‘Ray’.
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The preface by Vinita Agarwal is very sensitively discerning.
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A little more tightness of editing would not have left those hardly noticeable blemishes in an otherwise beautifully published work. Kudos to the publishers – Authorspress
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Before I end, a little about Sadia Riaz Sehole. She is a teacher and researcher, born and brought up in Lahore, Pakistan. After an early education in Science, she pursued Literature and is currently working on her PhD dissertation..
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Now  try and get to know her better, through her impressive book. 
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Shernaz-Wadia3– Shernaz Wadia, a retired teacher, lives in Pune, India. A free-lance writer, her articles, short stories and poems have been published in many online journals and literary magazines like Muse India, Boloji, Kritya and The Enchanting Verses etc. Her poems have been anthologised in Poets International, Roots and Wings and Caring Moments. Shernaz is in the process of publishing her poems in a book titled Whispers of the Soul.. She has also co-authored a book of poems titled “Tapestry”, with Israeli poetess Avril Meallem. It is an innovative form of collaborative poetry writing developed by the two of them.
 

 

Meena Kumari the Poet : A Life Beyond Cinema- Translated by Noorul Hasan

meena-kumari-the-poet-book-reviewPublisher: Roli Books, New Delhi, India
Publication Date: 2014
Binding: Paperback
First Edition
ISBN 10: 8174369678 / ISBN 13: 9788174369673
 
Reviewed by: Ananya S Guha
 
 
I begin on a very personal note. Today I am in Jorhat in a posting for the university I work in. In the 1970s when I was a college student I first watched the movie ” Pakeezah ” in Sibsagar which is around 50-60 kilometres away from Jorhat. When I saw ” Pakeezah ” what struck me was the anguish of the heroine, and to my mind the real impinged upon the imaginary- what I mean to state is: in being absorbed in Meena Kumari‘s acting I felt that in reality she might have experienced the anguish of the protagonist, empathy or call it what you will. I remember snatches of the movie, but what I can recall is breathtakingly brilliant acting. Somewhere at the back of my mind was the Kamal Amrohi ‘ story ‘ and I was also aware of the fact that this intensely poetic movie was directed by him. Perhaps this was one of the most ‘ poetic ‘ movies I have seen in addition to say Satyajit Ray’s ” Charulata ”. 
 
In reading these translations one is not only transported into the world of ineffable poetry, but one is made aware of deeply felt sensitivities and questions such as life, death, love and relationships. This kind of poetry is ‘ opposed ‘ to the kind of clever, cerebral poetry we are witness to today. It is poetry of the heart and felt experience. 
 
Yet the motifs are many and varied: light, darkness, night to name a few. The obsession with night is a haunting reality and leitmotif in the poems. Bharati Mukherjee once said that a creative writer writes out of obsession. Meena Kumari’s obsessions with night, darkness and an intuitive feeling of death give to her poems a starkness. Yet hope in some way or the other does figure, but there is again and again, questioning and self questioning. Darkness and night are not synonymous here, while darkness is metaphorical, night signifies an end, or an open ended question which the poet is forever grappling with. These are sensuous poems, they echo perhaps Omar Khayam , but there is no hedonism. Yes there is celebration, that of life and poetry, life’s dualism, painful living, unrequited love which are some of the themes present here, themes in the context of the poems which are cataclysmic. Some poems have turn of phrases which are aphoristic. 
 
Yet if there is darkness, the antimony light is also present. See for example the poem ” The City Of Lights ”:
 
… The light of the ages 
    Have slunk away 
    To be part of some jubilation 
    Leaving all around
    A shivering, savage darkness.”
 
There is constant and recurring interplay of light, darkness and scalding nights! This gives to her poetry many dimensional aspects, at the same time making them lyrical and evocative. But it is always the pain that rings through clearly, The pain of irretrievable love, the pain of being a woman, the pain of the inner conflict having to ‘ live up ‘ to the celluloid image. In their excellent introduction Daisy Hasan and Philip Bounds assert that the poems can be viewed as a ‘ barbed critique ‘ of popular culture, the culture which Meena Kumari represented through her films, but which ironically and trenchantly took away her life. The poem ” The Empty Shop ” is perhaps a commentary on crass consumerism. The ” Shop Of Time ” she says is vacuous, gives nothing. In the poem ” Words ” there is juxtaposition of words, light and darkness. 
 
That a public figure is desperate to get away from this image and live more ‘ privately ‘ is something that can happen to ‘ celebrities ‘. The example of the Bengali actress Suchitra Sen is a case in pint. She shunned any public gathering for almost four decades! 
 
All that I have said above would not have been possible if one cold not read these cogent translations of Noorul Hasan. They are very well crafted and attempt to be as sincere as possible to the originals. Yet translators do take some liberty. This is the poetic license here. The translator has done painstaking work which is researched, and I am sure over quite a period of time. This shows the hard work and tenacity that have gone into these brilliant translations. 
 
Through these translations Noorul Hasan has made a contribution to the world of poetry, revealing Meena Kumari’s  true penchant for the pen.
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You can check out the book here:
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ananya-Ananya S Guha works at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) as a Senior Academic. His poems in English have been published in International / National Journals and e zines. He also writes for newspapers, does book reviews and writes on matters related to education.His recent works appeared in the Harper Collins Book of English Poetry edited by Sudeep Sen. He also writes book reviews, articles for newspapers and articles on education, distance education and vocational education.
 
 

Principles of Belonging by Joshua Gray

POB CoverPaperback: 116 pages

Publisher: Red Dashboard LLC (November 9, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1492993506

ISBN-13: 978-1492993506

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Review by Dennis Daly

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Audacity and ambition fused to a poetic temperament can get you a long way. Joshua Gray in his second book of poetry, Principles of Belonging, pushes the envelope in his artistic efforts to create a masterpiece of poetic unity. He nears a crescendo, but doesn’t quite get there. Yet he does give us a compelling narrative encompassing national tragedy, dysfunctional families, young love, and an overview of life’s ironies. That ain’t bad. Along the way Gray melds Sanskrit meter, Anglo Saxon verse, Welsh measures, blank verse, free verse (sometimes  rhymed), not to mention sonnets, other rhymed poems and a sympoe ( a strange poetic form invented by Gray).
 
The Sanskrit lines, the rules of which were developed well before the Homeric Age, soothe you with their subject appropriateness. The lines or padas are four feet of four syllables each, making sixteen syllables on a line. Excessive syllables are sometimes okay, but are not counted. The syllables are considered light or heavy depending on the juxtaposition of consonants and vowels. The rules are really simple and elegant and, in narrative forms, almost prosy. Gray avoids numerical intricacies and high art sophistications, keeping the original rule-based simplicity in his English adaptations.  Keep in mind that virtually all Sanskrit, including law, science, and mathematics, was composed in verse. For those interested in further pursuits of this form I found a book by Charles Philip Brown written in 1869 entitled Sanskrit Prosody and Numerical Symbols Explained (London 1869). It appears to be part of an academic collection and is easily located on the internet.
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Here are two padyas (stanzas) from Gray’s poem Village detailing Hindu cultural differences between the sexes,
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So honey was kept hidden away. Gan thought of when the man,
the honeywala, left last year: Gan and his brother Jay had wanted
honey; they snuck about the kitchen, but their mother had seen them, grabbed
a log from the fire, then chased the boys around the house as they ran out.
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She knew full well the boys would not be back home until late; the law
states that women must not eat before the men (and boys); thus,
she and Devi, her teen daughter, must wait until the three men ate
before either of them could. The boys stayed out past the rise of the moon.
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In the poem West Bengal Gray outdoes himself with a haunting political and personal narrative. The poet, using his Sanskrit meter, begins his piece this way,
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The next morning the train stopped in some town and everybody got off.
Hindus who rode the train roofs now descended; further off a crowd
of Muslims waited to board the train traveling the other way.
A sole chai-wala called out as he walked, clay cups in hand, hot chai balanced.
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The Table of Contents in The Gathering Principle begins in 1947 and ends with an Epilogue in 1994. The poems order themselves around human relationships tracked over the years. Oddly, Gray also orders them by poetic forms. For instance, in a section identified both with a date (1961) and the title Cynghanedd, Gray gives us three poetic adaptations of medieval Welsh verse. Cynghanedd literally means harmony and is a system of assonance and alliterations. The poet ends his piece Wildflowers harmoniously,
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On school days she’d wait, anticipating
The weekend, go to the creek and quietly
Harvest the richest hues; sometimes Bluettes
Would even mindlessly find a new future.
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With her brothers or alone, her brothers fighting or stoning
Trunks, she plucked not meanly but fondly, green and gold
And white as Fern Hill. The air could be chilling
Or warmed by the sun, the wonderful flora could take her in winter.
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Elaborate and elegant both! Gerard Manley Hopkins used this form to great effect and Dylan Thomas was clearly influenced by it.
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The sonnets and rhymed poems in this collection are a mixed bag. Some work very well. Others less well. An untitled sonnet example on page 89 that works extremely well deals with childhood’s faulty memories and compensating emotions.  Rhymes fall naturally in place infusing the story with complexity. The poet asks,
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How does one tell when another’s truth is wrong
As well? If Devi’s lost her memory
Perhaps it’s mine where truth can truly be.
I will not dance to illusion’s crippling song.
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My parents stayed behind, or so I’m told,
And didn’t travel with us on the train.
So where did all that I recall take place?
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When Jay took off and left us in the cold,
To prevent myself
From being a child insane,
I must have placed my parents in that space.
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But even the poems that clank with obvious and sometimes forced rhymes need only a minor change or two. The last end rhyme of the poem entitled Rick sounds a little off, but the first thirteen lines are perfect. The poem ends this way,
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So I went and told her why myself, but she beat
Me to the story’s end and laughed out loud:
This lady of light refused to keep me proud.
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May I suggest that Gray needs to edit a few of the rhymed poems in this collection, perhaps with a second set of eyes; and what is clearly a very, very good and interesting collection of poems may turn into a game-changer of a book. Speaking of editorial work, my favorite poem in this terrific collection, Doris/Deb, is placed on the wrong page in the Table of Contents (I’m reviewing from an electronic version). It relates the story of two struggling mothers and it reads wonderfully. Consider these lines, the first half of the poem,
Determined mothers make their children’s clothes.
I find that poverty will likely breed
Necessity. When we could barely feed
Ourselves—our kids—I quickly learned to sew,
And walked a ways for fabric, rain or snow.
I sewed a costume once for Halloween;
The ‘S’ was crooked, the cape a little green.
And later, after Rick and I had split,
The thread and needle helped me quite a bit.
A single mother is often the one who knows;
Determined mothers make their children’s clothes.
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Just for its poetic nerve and intrinsic formalist interest this book gets an “A” as in audacious. With a nod to what this book may ultimately become, I celebrate its already significant accomplishments.
 

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You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Principles-Belonging-Joshua-Gray/dp/1492993506/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391856155&sr=1-1-fkmr2&keywords=Principles+of+Being+by+Joshua+Gray

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ddDennis Daly has been published in numerous poetry journals and magazines and recently nominated for a Pushcart prize.  Ibbetson Street Press published The Custom House, his first full length book of poetry in June, 2012. His second book, a verse translation of Sophocles’ Ajax, was published by Wilderness House Press in August, 2012. His third book of poems entitles Night Walking with Nathaniel has been accepted for publication by Dos Madres Press. A fourth book is nearing completion.