Poetry Wire Literary Review

Furies, sufferings and love

Pablo Neruda wrote a wonderful epigraph to his own poem ‘Las furias y las penas’ (‘Furies and Sufferings’). “This poem was written in 1934. How much has happened since then! Spain, where I wrote it, is a belt of ruins. Ah! If we could only placate the world’s rage with a drop of poetry or of love — but only the struggle and the daring heart are capable of that.” This is especially relevant today when we have such political clamour to deal with — students charged with sedition, state governments being thrown out, leaders threatening those who won’t shout a slogan with exile.

There is bad news and good, and the bad better wait. The good news: Aishwarya Iyer won the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize this year. Rayaprol was a fine poet and I must salute his daughter Aparna for keeping his memory alive and Jeet Thayil for resurrecting his poetry in his anthology. Don’t try the Internet to find out about Iyer for all you’ll get is the stunning Aishwarya Rai, and wasted hours, transfixed by her photographs. Iyer studied literature at universities of Bombay, Jadavpur and Pennsylvania from where she got a Masters in Comparative literature. It shows. Here’s one of her fine winning poems, ‘The Tide of Two Bodies’ (After Octavio Paz).

A thrust, a lip, a shield

A floundering as if unto the neatness of sky

No distances pleasantly measured

The tide of two bodies before they become one,

Is a hole dug into night, where flames go to die

I must pour gravel into my voice before I can speak

For your body has an iron shade

My voice takes hours to rise, and it leaves

Your voice is a curdling in the flesh, it needn’t speak

All these moments that rush open upon meeting

Have begun their daily exile

We wrestle as if from weight to heaviness

The eye of night stays open

That’s a fine poem by someone who has yet to publish a book. I wish her luck. Since we are dealing with love poetry, what happens to a lady poet when she encounters a fop? Here is Kalyanee Rajan’s poem, ‘The Writer’s Block’. Rajan teaches at Bhagat Singh College, Delhi.

Why should you always write about love

You ask me, rather nonchalantly

My talent for everything else

Is wrapped around your black Louise Philippe coat

Stays captive in the starched collar of your blue Zodiac shirt,

Hangs listlessly from the bow of your trendy striped tie

And lies tightened around your shapely waist

Knotted by the glittering buckle of your brown rexine belt

My thoughts bounce off randomly, thanks to your glossy patent leather shoes.

You will have to

(un)dress, more casually,

for ‘Me’ to be unravelled gradually

and for us to begin naturally.

Even though unimpressed with the rhymes (casually, gradually, naturally) in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the poem.

Poets often have to take liberties with language, imagery, logic itself, the connecting rope that ties two disparate objects, images, themes. If you go about your job in a pedestrian manner, you may as well write prose. No Waiting for like Departure is a book of travel poems by Debasish Lahiri who teaches English with flair in Kolkata. Visits to Manchester have resulted in his second poetry volume. He has tried to turn travel into some sort of mythic metaphor and I am unsure if he has succeeded.

Travel poems are necessarily snapshots. Lahiri turns the camera into his heart. Hence object and response strike us like a simultaneous event.

Take the poem ‘Train to Preston’. Stranded/ like a poet on a railway station/ From where/ No train would go, The train stood/ memorizing its forgotten places,/ in fear/ of its destination. Poet and train become one. Lahiri places his own hesitations into the so-called mind of the locomotive. Another example is from ‘Sky Walk: Manchester Airport’: I bore the burden/ of my travels/ like an empty heart/ Does its memory of blood.

He becomes emotional: The ground you walk on/ like an absent foothold in the sky/ is not responsive to footsteps. It is tough enough to have a foothold on the ground these days. He is good with images — the comb of wind in my hair — and at the Cellular Jail in the Andamans, he writes, I ducked under the bats/ Let loose/ By two centuries of confinement/ of hope.

The bad news now: Suresh Kohli, poet, filmmaker, film critic, friend, died March-end. His was a life devoted to literature and films. His documentaries on Kamala Das, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and others will be remembered. So will his poetry. Sample his lines on death:

I dislike the word death,

so when I relinquish charge,

and depart,

remember me through my absences,

and what the presence meant to you,

if it meant anything at all.

Keki N. Daruwalla is a poet and short story writer.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 12:35:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/keki-n-daruwalla-on-furies-sufferings-and-love/article8451164.ece

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