Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Sharanya Manivannan


SHARANYA MANIVANNAN was born in Madras, India in 1985, and grew up in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Her first book of poems was Witchcraft (2008), which was lauded in The Straits Times as being “sensuous and spiritual, delicate and dangerous and as full as the moon reflected in a knife”. She is currently working on a book of stories (The High Priestess Never Marries), a novel (Constellation of Scars), as well as two manuscripts of new poems (Bulletproof Offering and Cadaver Exquisito).

A Pushcart Prize nominee (for “I Will Come Bearing Mangoes”, Rougarou, Fall 2011), her poetry, essays and fiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Drunken Boat, Killing the Buddha, Superstition Review, Dark Sky Magazine, Softblow and Pratilipi. A journalist and columnist, she wrote a personal column, “The Venus Flytrap”, for The New Indian Express from 2008 to 2011.

Her first book of poems was Witchcraft (2008), which The Straits Times described as sensuous and spiritual, delicate and dangerous and as full as the moon reflected in a knife. Her poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in several journals and anthologies, including Drunken Boat, Softblow, Killing The Buddha, Full of Crow and Pratilipi; a personal column, "The Venus Flytrap, appears in The New Indian Express. She was the recipient of the Lavanya Sankaran Fellowship for 2008-2009.

Sharanya is noted in particular for her unusual onstage charisma, and she has read her work extensively since 2001 at venues as diverse as colleges, bars, bookstores, embassies, an abandoned pier, a cemetery, the 11th century Borobudur temple and while sitting in an autorickshaw.
She has lived in Chennai since 2007.

Some of her poems
Distant Star
You slid a pin into my body and
brooched me at a distance, a dwarf
star snared against a night on the
other side of the universe, imagining
yourself a lapidary, setting diamond
upon obsidian, holding your tongue
so that the hooks in your mouth
would not fall. You believe you sleep
the sleep of the guiltless, but it is only
the sleep of the damned, and on the
day when you wake to the sight of me,
ascending before dawn, a planet blue-
burning and beautiful, it is the stones
of your eyes that will sear you, it is your
pins you will swallow, javelined by the
serration of every word you left unsaid.

Lightning Over Dindivanam Highway

Somewhere along this trail is
the place where you lost me, and the part
   of me that did not outlive that burial.
Even in rear view, I can no more calculate your
   movements than I can fathom
the distance at which you have held me.
The stars small mirrors through gauze,
   giving away nothing -
in my head, memory
   a many-winged wildness.
Wherever you are tonight, perhaps it runs
through you also,     the thing that
   runs through me when I throw open the door
    and step into the storm, the wet of the world
upon my body's own electricity. Perhaps
    it blinds you for a moment too, splinters
down to your bones     perhaps it floods
you with a certain, anamnestic shock.
During the eclipse, it was rumored
that the wildfire in your belly was
the only known source of light
in the universe.
The darkness you found me in
was only the penumbra of the
darkness you would
plunge into me.
What gravity you wielded then.
I came to you not knowing that
the light you held
within yourself was also
the light you withheld
from the world.
There was already darkness in me.
And if not light itself, then
afterglow, and though scorched
forever with the analemma
of your passage,
in the cosmos of my body,
always room for
another sun.

Keeping The Change
In the French Quarter I wrote you
love poems in yellow ochre,
unscrolled them like a trellis
    of bougainvillea, paper
petals too intense to abandon,
too fragile to keep. How many
shots of thirty rupee citrus vodka
    could we get for a ten dollar
bill? Everywhere we went you
told them to keep the change,
placing it palm-down back on
the table, so when I picked up
your hand to kiss it after, I
smelt metal on your skin.
I don't know what you came
    here looking for, but it
wasn't in the cobblestone,
    or in the rock-bordered
coastline, it wasn't in the
prayer-dome or in anything
you filled those palms
with when I lifted those
dresses I bought on those
streets over my head,
needing you the way a vine
of thorns needs a spine.
    And this much later, a
coffer in my memory still
rattles - your coins too
cheap to care for, too heavy
    to carry.
But I have a weakness
for copper and weight, and
I have collected them all,
handfuls of ore and residue.
They function like paperweights,
   burdening the wisps of things,
their threats to drift away.

Nissim Ezekiel

                                               Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004)

 Nissim Ezekiel, who has been called "the father of post-independence Indian verse in English",  is the foremost among the Indian-English poets. He is the pioneer of modernity in Indian-English poetry. 
The Age of Ezekiel in Indian-English poetry started with his creative oeuvre. He was also an art-critic and playwright. In 1952, Fortune press (London) published his first collection of poetry, A Time to Change.

 He published his book The Unfinished Man in 1960. He co-founded the literary monthly Imprint, in 1961. He functioned as art critic of The Times of India (1964-66) and edited Poetry India (1966-67). From 1961 to 1972, he headed the English Department of Mithibai College, Mumbai. The Exact Name, his fifth book of poetry, was published in 1965. During this period, he had short tenures as visiting professor at University of Leeds (1964) and University of Chicago (1967). 

 In 1969, Writers Workshop, Calcutta published his The Three Plays. A year later, he presented an art series of ten programs for Mumbai television. On the invitation of the US Government, he went on a month-long tour to the US in November, 1974. In 1975 he went as a Cultural Award Visitor to Australia. In 1976, he translated poetry from Marathi, and co-edited a fiction and poetry anthology. Ezekiel received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1983 and the Padma Shri in 1988. 

He was Professor of English at University of Mumbai during the 1990s. He functioned as the Secretary of the Indian branch of the international writers' organization PEN. After a prolonged battle with Alzheimer's disease, Nissim Ezekiel died in Mumbai, on 9 January 2004. His works include A Time To Change (1952), Sixty Poems (1953), The Third (1959), The Unfinished Man (1960), The Exact Name (1965), The Three Plays (1969) and Hymns in Darkness (1976).  When he began his creative course of life in the late 1940s, his adoption of formal English was controversial, given its association with colonialism. Yet he "naturalised the language to the Indian situation, and breathed life into the Indian English poetic tradition." Ezekiel's poetry describes love, loneliness, lust, creativity and political pomposity, human foibles and the "kindred clamour" of urban dissonance.

Over the course of his creative years, his attitude changed, too. The young man, "who shopped around for dreams", demanded truth and lambasted corruption. By the 1970s, he accepted "the ordinariness of most events"; laughed at "lofty expectations totally deflated"; and acknowledged that "The darkness has its secrets / Which light does not know." After 1965, he even began embracing India's English vernacular, and teased its idiosyncrasies in Poster Poems and in The Professor.  He acted as a mentor to many younger poets ---  Dom Moraes, Adil Jussawalla, Gieve Patel and several others. In the last few years of his life, he was deeply involved in helping younger poets, especially those based at Mumbai, his advice being forthright, but seldom blunt. 

Nissim Ezekiel is a poet of self-exploration. He carved out a poetic place for the smallness of the soul. The acute sense of this smallness, the sense of one’s irrelevance to the world, is an important motif in modernist Indian English poetry. In some poets it leads to a sort of self-pity. Not so in Nissim. His poems of a life time display persistent self-scrutiny. From the early works written in traditional metres to the later experimentative poems in ‘poster poems’, psalms, etc the theme spreads itself. It is therefore remarkable that a poet could write about one theme across a period of time so persistently

Not that Nissim wrote only about the theme of self-scrutiny. It colours most of his poems one or the other way. Like the horses in MF Hussain. The theme is cast differently in different poems. Generally the poet-speaker confronts a situation (internal or external), where he is required to learn. Thus the poem becomes a pedagogic process. Some of his poems which appear to have no connection to the ‘self’ motifs also indirectly present this pedagogic course. Take ‘Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher’.
To force the pace and never to be still
Is not the way of those who study birds
Or women. The best poets wait for words.
The hunt is not an exercise of will
But patient love relaxing on a hill
To note the movement of a timid wing;
Until the one who knows that she is loved
No longer waits but risks surrendering -
In this the poet finds his moral proved
Who never spoke before his spirit moved.
The slow movement seems, somehow, to say much more.
To watch the rarer birds, you have to go
Along deserted lanes and where the rivers flow
In silence near the source, or by a shore
Remote and thorny like the heart’s dark floor.
And there the women slowly turn around,
Not only flesh and bone but myths of light
With darkness at the core, and sense is found
But poets lost in crooked, restless flight,
The deaf can hear, the blind recover sight.
Some of his poems


Unsuitable for song as well as sense
the island flowers into slums
and skyscrapers, reflecting
precisely the growth of my mind.
I am here to find my way in it.
Sometimes I cry for help
But mostly keep my own counsel.
I hear distorted echoes
Of my own ambigious voice
and of dragons claiming to be human.
Bright and tempting breezes
Flow across the island,
Separating past from the future;
Then the air is still again
As I sleep the fragrance of ignorance.
How delight the soul with absolute
sense of salvation, how
hold to a single willed direction?
I cannot leave the island,
I was born here and belong.
Even now a host of miracles
hurries me a daily business,
minding the ways of the island
as a good native should,
taking calm and clamour in my stride


Some people are not having manners,
this I am always observing,
For example other day I find
I am needing soap
For ordinary washing myself purposes.
So I'm going to one small shop
nearby in my lane and I'm asking
for well-known brand soap.

That shopman he's giving me soap
but I'm finding it defective version.
So I'm saying very politely — -
though in Hindi I'm saying it,
and my Hindi is not so good as my English,
Please to excuse me
but this is defective version of well-known brand soap.

That shopman is saying
and very rudely he is saying it,
What is wrong with soap?
Still I am keeping my temper
and repeating very smilingly
Please to note this defect in soap,
and still he is denying the truth.

So I'm getting very angry that time
and with loud voice I am saying
Now he is shouting
Come outside and I will show you
Then I am shouting
What you will show me
Which I haven't got already?
It is vulgar thing to say
but I am saying it.

Now small crowd is collecting
and shopman is much bigger than me,
and I am not caring so much
for small defect in well-known brand soap.
So I'm saying
Alright OK Alright OK
this time I will take
but not next time.

The Hill

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
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.
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.

The Patriot

I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,
I should say even 200% correct,
But modern generation is neglecting -
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.
Other day I'm reading newspaper
(Every day I'm reading Times of India
To improve my English Language)
How one goonda fellow
Threw stone at Indirabehn.
Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I am saying (to myself)
Lend me the ears.
Everything is coming -
Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.
Be patiently, brothers and sisters.
You want one glass lassi?
Very good for digestion.
With little salt, lovely drink,
Better than wine;
Not that I am ever tasting the wine.
I'm the total teetotaller, completely total,
But I say
Wine is for the drunkards only.
What you think of prospects of world peace?
Pakistan behaving like this,
China behaving like that,
It is making me really sad, I am telling you.
Really, most harassing me.
All men are brothers, no?
In India also
Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs
All brothers -
Though some are having funny habits.
Still, you tolerate me,
I tolerate you,
One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.
You are going?
But you will visit again
Any time, any day,
I am not believing in ceremony
Always I am enjoying your company.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Tishani Doshi

Tishani Doshi
Tishani Doshi
Born: Madras, 1975 – Welsh mother who met her Gujurati chemist father in Canada and followed him to India. Went to an avant garde school based in a palace, where she made her first appearance on stage age 3 in a dance production.Indian-born Tishani Doshi, 31, won the £5,000 best first collection prize for Countries of the Body.
Early career: Suffered reverse culture shock when aged 18 she went from her liberal home background to college in Charlotte, North Carolina to study American literature, where she also began to write poetry. Went on to do a Masters at Baltimore. Often visited London as a child; came to work for Harpers & Queen’s advertising department in 1999 for ten months until she realised she didn’t want to be ad exec. On her return to India began a career as a dancer after meeting choreographer Chandralekha.
Poetry in her own words: Poems about home and the idea of belonging, “the basics” of love and life. Writes long-hand when composing. “Impossible” for her dancing not to influence her poems – “there is almost a physicality you need for writing”.
Inspirations: Contemporary American poets like Mary Oliver, James Tate and Mark Strand
London life: Has lived in Lewisham, Wimbledon and Finchley Road. Comes back to London every year and finds a connection with a huge community of people all over the world who have also had a spell living in London. Feels she couldn’t live here, because of the weather and the cost
Things She likes about Chennai
1. The coastline, without which this city wouldn't be able to breathe.
2. The Theosophical Society, a haven of green in an otherwise concrete jungle.
3. The cuisine. Nothing makes me happier than paying Rs.7 for a plate of vishranti idlis.
Things She 'd like to change about it
I'd impose fines for bad mobile phone etiquette, extra-loud speaking, excessive horn usage and cars that make musical noises when they reverse.
2. Lessons in civic consciousness like no urinating in public or dumping garbage in your neighbour's property.
3. The roads, public transport,pathways for pedestrians. Plant more trees.And how about breathing life into our dead, sludgy rivers?
Some of her Poems:
 Impossible to imagine.
Buffaloes—a dream of them:
coats thick with rain,
bodies like continents.
A whole world thundering
through Indian laburnum.
Think of beginnings:
amusement parks at dawn,
pianos, bedrooms, gods.
Think of all the invisible
insurrections it takes
to wake a city from slumber.
In these woods, a single man
will do, armed with a stick
and a paltry collection of stones.
When I see buffaloes run
I think of love—how it is held
in the meaty, muscled pink
of the tongue; how quickly
it is beaten from us—
all that brute resolve
in the undergrowth

The day we went to the sea
Mothers in Madras were mining
The Marina for missing children.
Thatch flew in the sky, prisoners
Ran free, houses danced like danger
In the wind. I saw a woman hold
The tattered edge of the world
In her hand, look past the temple
Which was still standing, as she was —
Miraculously whole in the debris of gaudy
South Indian sun. When she moved
Her other hand across her brow,
In a single arcing sweep of grace,
It was as if she alone could alter things,
Bring us to the wordless safety of our beds.
The sister here is telling my mother
How she came to collect children
Because they were crippled or dark or girls.
Found naked in the streets,
Covered in garbage, stuffed in bags,
Abandoned at their doorstep.
One of them was dug up by a dog,
Thinking the head barely poking above the ground
Was bone or wood, something to chew.
This is the one my mother will bring.
* * *
The parents wait at the gates.
They are American so they know about ceremony
And tradition, about doing things right.
They haven’t seen or touched her yet.
Don’t know of her fetish for plucking hair off hands,
Or how her mother tried to bury her.
But they are crying.
We couldn’t stop crying, my mother said,
Feeling the strangeness of her empty arms.
* * *
This girl grows up on video tapes,
Sees how she’s passed from woman
To woman. She returns to twilight corners.
To the day of her birth,
How it happens in some desolate hut
Outside village boundaries
Where mothers go to squeeze out life,
Watch body slither out from body,
Feel for penis or no penis,
Toss the baby to the heap of others,
Trudge home to lie down for their men again.
Rilke is following me everywhere
With his tailor-made suits
And vegetarian smile.
He says because I’m young,
I’m always beginning,
And cannot know love.
He sees how I’m a giant piece
Of glass again, trying
To catch the sun
In remote corners of rooms,
Mountain tops, uncertain
Places of light.
He speaks of the cruelty
Of hospitals, the stillness
Of cathedrals,
Takes me through bodies
And arms and legs
Of such extravagant size,
The ancient sky burrows in
With all the dead words
We carry and cannot use.
He holds up mirrors
From which our reflections fall —
Half-battered existences,
Where we lose ourselves
For the sake of the other,
And the others still to come.
My lover has failed to come to the trysting place,
It is perhaps that his mind is dazed,
Or perhaps that he went to another woman,
Or lured perhaps by festive folk, that he delays,
Or perhaps along the dark fringe
Of the forest he wanders lost
If we’d lived in another age,
I’d have been the kind of woman
who refused to cast down her eyes.
The kind of woman
the other maids in town despise
because she forgets to tie up the calves
and split the curds.
You know the kind ¾
with a tilt in her hips
and hair that slips
from her braids.
But since we live in a world
that’s just reflection,
mere illusions of the mind;
perhaps I can be her after all ¾
the one whose hips defeat the mountains
with their greatness,
whose breasts are heavy,
close and high –
who walks through moonless nights
with lotus skin and lotus feet
across forbidden boundaries.
I’ll be the kind who sallies out
to wait for love
with musk-kissed hair
and navel bared
in a thousand secret places –
past the cowsheds
and the balsam grove,
across the river,
to the garden of hibiscus.
And although the night be dark
and fierce enough to stir
the seven sleeping oceans,
I’ll deceive the forest
like a shadow,
slipping noiselessly past
evil eyes and serpent tongues
and the husband who lies inside
jealous of my devotion.
But if I should reach the river bank
and see you there ¾
combing another woman’s hair.
If I should see the girdle
loosen from her waist
while you string jasmine
round her supine face.
If you should drink the honeyed sweet
from the petals
of her crimsoned lips ¾
I won’t question this betrayal,
or ask who this other woman is.
I’ll simply walk
into the darkness
where every trunk
and branch and leaf
looks like you, feels like you,
speaks like you: deep-chested
rain-cloud blue.
And later, while the husband sleeps,
I’ll make my way
to the town’s cremation grounds.
I’ll strip away my clothes
and dance among the mounds of ash
to command the churning of a storm.
For I have been with you
since you were born
and will stay with you
till you return ¾
soaked with the lasting dawn.
                                                           ODE TO THE WALKING WOMAN
                                                               After Alberto Giacometti
                                                               Sit ¾
         you must be tired
       of walking,
       of losing yourself
        this way:
      a bronzed rib
      of exhaustion
       thinned out
      against the dark.
Sit ¾
there are still things
to believe in;
like civilizations
and birthing
and love.
And ancestors
who move
like silent tributaries
from red-earthed villages
with history cradled
in their mythical arms.
But listen,
what if they swell
through the gates
of your glistening city?
Will you walk down
to the water’s edge,
immerse your feet
so you can feel them
dancing underneath?
Mohenjodaro’s brassy girls
with bangled wrists
and cinnabar lips;
turbaned Harappan mothers
standing wide
on terracotta legs;
egg-breasted Artemis –
Inana, Isthar, Cybele,
clutching their bounteous hearts
in the unrepentant dark,
crying: Daughter,
where have the granaries
and great baths disappeared?
Won’t you resurrect yourself,
make love to the sky,
reclaim the world