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Gulzar’s ‘Triveni’: A Confluence of Poetry and Meaning

Explore the world of poetic creation with Gulzar as he brings forth his latest masterpiece, Triveni. Just like the meeting point of three rivers reveals hidden secrets, his Triveni poems bring a twist to each couplet, making it a captivating journey. But that’s not all – discover Neha R. Krishna‘s unique attempt to transform Triveni into Japanese Tanka poetry.

Get ready to be spellbound!

 

Triveni
Triveni || Gulzar, Neha R. Krishna

***

Triveni

I was rowing in words and meters of poetry when I happened to invent the form of Triveni. It’s a short poem of three lines. The first two lines make a complete thought, like a couplet of a ghazal. But the third line adds an extra dimension, which is hidden or out of sight in the first two lines.

Triveni ends revealing the hidden thought, which changes the perspective or extends the thought of the couplet. The name Triveni refers to the confluence of three distinct streams or rivers at Prayag. The deep green water of Jamuna, meet the golden Ganga, and hidden from view is the mythical Sarswati, flowing quietly beneath.

‘Triveni’ is to reveal ‘Saraswati’, poetically.

देर तक आस्माँ पे उड़ते रहे
इक परिन्दे के बाल-व-पर सारे

बाज़ अपना शिकार ले के गया !

 

All the fur and feathers of a bird
Kept flying in the sky for a long time

The falcon swooped away with its prey!

Neha, a young competent poet, was rowing in Triveni. She wished to translate Triveni in a Japanese form of poetry called Tanka. I felt inquisitive. She has explained it in her translator’s note. I hope you too feel as inquisitive while reading it. I found it very interesting.

 -Gulzar

***

 

Translator’s Note

Tanka is a short lyric poem. Various poetic elements like mood, theme, nature, characters, etc., are posed in a particular structure that give Tanka its body and soul. With this concept note, I am addressing the fundamental techniques of writing a Tanka, this will also assist the readers to comprehend and appreciate the structure.

 

What Is Tanka?
Tanka is a lyrical poem, a short verse, a short song. It is one of the oldest forms, originating in Japan, in the seventh century. A traditional Japanese Tanka has thirty-one morae or sounds that follow a 5-7-5-7-7 sound structure.

 

The Difference between Traditional Tanka and Contemporary Tanka
Tanka in contemporary English is more flexible and does not adhere to the traditional 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic structure or the pattern of short/long/short/long/long line format.

 

Why Transcreating Triveni into Tanka?
The aesthetic sense, the grace of cadence and the rich imagery of Tanka appear inclined to Triveni. Even in Triveni, images are juxtaposed with the technique of link and shift. Just like any lyrical Tanka poem, Triveni can also be composed and sung. The length of images of Triveni fits well in Tanka as it gives more space to retain the multi-layered essence. Triveni’s L3 strongly adds to or changes the narration of L1 and L2. In the same way, Tanka has a very strong and unexpected L5.
There is musicality in these short poems even though they never rhyme, which allows them to be enriched with a rustic edge, conjuring up a magical and musical image.

***

उड़ के जाते हुए पंछी ने बस इतना देखा
देर तक हाथ हिलाती रही वह शाख़ फ़िज़ा में

अलविदा कहती थी या पास बुलाती थी उसे?

 

bird leaves
while the branch sways
in the wind—
urging it to come back
or bidding a goodbye?

***

साँवले साहिल पे गुलमोहर का पेड़
जैसे लैला की माँग में सिन्दूर

धरम बदल गया बेचारी का

 

a gulmohar tree
at dusk—
as Laila wears vermilion
her religion
allegedly changes

***

सब पे आती है, सब की बारी है
मौत मुनसिफ़ है, कम-ओ-बेश नहीं

ज़िन्दगी सब पे क्यों नही क्यों आती?

 

to all it comes
everyone has their turn,
death is just
neither less nor more—
why doesn’t life happen to all?

***

काश आये कोई शायर की सुने
शे’र के दर्द से मर जायेगा यह

चाँदनी फाँक रहा था शब भर!

 

wishing . . . someone
to come listen to the poet
he will die
from the pain of a couplet—
all night was grazing moonlight

***

रात, परेशां सड़को पर इक डोलत  साया
खम् से टकर बे ा के गिरा और फ़ौत हुआ

अंधेरे की नाजायज़ औलाद थी कोई!

 

a wiggly shadow
upset on the street at night
hits a pole, falls and dies—
must be an illicit
offspring of the darkness

***

Get your copy of Triveni by Gulzar wherever books are sold

Our Handpicked Recommendations for World Poetry Day

Poetry is a unique art form that has the power to transport us to different worlds, evoke deep emotions, and connect us with the human experience in profound ways. Whether you are a seasoned poetry lover or just starting to explore this beautiful art form, there is something for everyone in the world of poetry.

Check out this curated list to find out your read for today that you’re sure to cherish forever.

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Unsung by Arunoday Singh

Unsung
Unsung || Arunoday Singh

Unsung, Arunoday Singh’s first volume of poetry, presents a collection of his most popular work alongside new material, where he delves inwards and probes questions of love, loss, longing-everything that ails the human heart.
He has amassed a large, involved following on Instagram, where he shares his poetry in handwritten calligraphy under the handle @sufisoul. The poems are deceptively simple and intensely piercing. They are divided into four sections that explore the themes of the self, the elements, breaking and healing, the search for divinity, and the light and darkness of the spirit.

 

The Penguin Book of Indian Poets

The Penguin Book of Indian Poets
The Penguin Book of Indian Poets

Jeet Thayil has compiled the definitive anthology of Indian poetry in English. This monumental undertaking, two decades in the making, brings together writers from across the world, a wealth of voices–in dialogue, in soliloquy, in rhetoric, and in play–to present an expansive, encompassing idea of what makes an ‘Indian’ poet. Included are lost, uncollected, or out of print poems by major poets, essays that place entire bodies of work into their precise cultural contexts, and a collection of classic black and white portraits by Madhu Kapparath. These images, taken over a period of thirty years, form an archive of breathtaking historical scope. They offer the viewer unparalleled intimacy and access to the lives of some of India’s greatest poets.

 

Annus Horribilis by Avinab Datta-Areng

Annus Horribilis
Annus Horribilis || Avinab Datta-Areng

Annus Horribilis is concerned with the violence of thinking, alone. The voices in these poems move through relationships, family, friendship, external disintegration, the labour of loving, being loved and of caring, where they are constantly confronted with the familiar turning foreign, the quotidian becoming a scene of absolute hostility, and where a word otherwise spoken easily becomes incommunicable. The book grapples with a (habitually futile) desire to communicate what should only be communicable-looking for some friend in language-that won’t lead to misunderstanding or, worse, silence. It searches for a language in which thought might survive and perhaps even reach out towards others.

 

To the Bravest Person I Know by Ayesha Chenoy

To the Bravest Person I Know
To the Bravest Person I Know || Ayesha Chenoy

From growing up with dysfunctional families to coming of age, from dealing with heartbreak, pain and grief to learning to accept and forgive, To, the Bravest Person I Know is your guide through every difficult situation. It is modern therapy delivered to you through a series of poems and a letter in verse that runs as a footnote from the beginning to the end of the book.

The poems explore the whole construct of ‘normal’, of that which was created to make people feel less normal if they don’t fit in, to make them feel ‘abnormal’. The book tells us that depression is normal, as is fear; feeling insecure is normal, as is hurting people. And bravery is about facing all of this-it’s about facing everything life
throws at you every day.

To, the Bravest Person I Know cuts through rainbows and self-righteous dross to provide a vaccine of truth, liberating and reminding us that we are all in a tunnel, and that it’s normal to feel like we may never get out. But there is light at the end of it.

 

Singing in the Dark by K. SatchidanandanNishi Chawla

Singing in the Dark
Singing in the Dark || K. Satchidanandan, Nishi Chawla

Singing in the Dark brings together the finest of poetic responses to the coronavirus pandemic. More than a hundred of the world’s most esteemed poets reflect upon a crisis that has dramatically altered our lives, and laid bare our vulnerabilities. The poems capture all its dimensions: the trauma of solitude, the unexpected transformation in the expression of interpersonal relationships, the even sharper visibility of the class divide, the marvellous revival of nature and the profound realization of the transience of human existence. The moods vary from quiet contemplation and choking anguish to suppressed rage and cautious celebration in an anthology that serves as an aesthetic archive of a strange era in human history.

 

Anthology of Humorous Sanskrit Verses by A.N.D. Haksar

Anthology of Humorous Sanskrit Verses
Anthology of Humorous Sanskrit Verses || A.N.D. Haksar

In recent times, whenever ancient Sanskrit works are discussed or translated into English, the focus is usually on the lofty, religious and dramatic works. Due to the interest created by Western audiences, the Kama Sutra and love poetry has also been in the limelight. But, even though the Hasya Rasa or the humorous sentiment has always been an integral part of our ancient Sanskrit literature, it is little known today.

Anthology of Humorous Sanskrit Verses is a collection of about 200 verse translations drawn from various Sanskrit works or anthologies compiled more than 500 years ago. Several such anthologies are well-known although none of them focus exclusively on humor. A.N.D. Haksar’s translation of these verses is full of wit, earthy humor and cynical satire, and an excellent addition of the canon of Sanskrit literature.

 

Girl to Goddess by Nishi

Girl to Goddess
Girl to Goddess || Nishi

Girl to Goddess is a book of poetry written by popular Instagram poet Nishi. The poems in the book are deeply personal, touching on universal themes of struggle, pain and healing. Nishi writes candidly about her own struggles with finding happiness, dealing with relationships and the challenges she faced on her journey towards self-acceptance and self-love. She explores the idea of finding the inner divinity, or the goddess within, and how listening to this voice helped her find a sense of peace and purpose. She shares her personal journey of self-discovery and growth.

Through this collection of insightful poems, Nishi takes the reader on a journey of mistakes, failures, fears, lessons, perspectives and realizations about life, love and everything in between. She shares her vulnerabilities and opens up about her deepest emotions. Her words inspire readers to look inwards and embrace their own inner divinity, encouraging them to find their own path towards healing and self-love.

A whisper of the eternal echoes

Sadhguru, the yogi, mystic and visionary, is a spiritual master with a difference. He has smitten the world not only in spiritual matters but with his business, environmental and international affairs along with his ability to open a new door on all that he touches. After having founded the Isha Foundation and penning down various books on spirituality and wellness, he has now brought out a poetry book called Eternal Echoes.

Eternal Echoes is a compilation of poems by Sadhguru written between the time period of 1994 and 2021. These poems cover every aspect of his life and travels ranging from nature, environment, human nature and the resonances he has felt during three decades and more. Seemingly simple at first, one begins to understand the hidden layers within these poems slowly and the meanings linger on.

 

Here is an exclusive excerpt, the introductory note to the poems in his book, where Sadhguru explains what made him turn to poetry:

*

Poetry is an in-between land between logic and magic. A terrain which allows you to explore and make meaning of the magical, but still have some kind of footing in the logic.

When people experience something beautiful within themselves, the first urge is to burst forth into poetry. If you fall in love with someone, you start writing poetry because if you wrote in prose, it would feel stupid. You can only say logical things in prose, but you can say illogical things in poetry. To express all those dimensions of life which are beyong the logical, poetry is the only succor, as it is the language which allows you to go beyond the limitations of logic.

Eternal Echoes by Sadhguru
Eternal Echoes || Sadhguru

As a child and youth, my mind was so unstructured and untrained that I could never find a proper, logical, prose expression. Naturally, poetry became so much a part of my life.

My poetry first found a big spurt when I decided to start a farm. My farm was a very remote place, far from the city. I lived there alone for days, and sometimes weeks, on end without any contact with other human beings. At this time, I started writing poetry about pebbles, grasshoppers, blades of grass- just about anything. I found each one of them was a substantial subject to write about.

There was no power in the farm and around six o’clock in the evening it would get dark. I would stay awake till midnight, in almost six hours of total darkness. Somehow, I always found when your visual faculties are closed off, you naturally turn poetic. Maybe that is why we have heard of so many blind poets in the world. I am not saying that having sight should not evoke poetry- it has. But the nature of the human perception is such that is sees much more when the eyes do not see.

In about four months, during this dark period of the night in my farm, I wrote over 1600 poems. Unfortunately, none of these poems are with us today. I had written them on small sheets of paper that I found all over the place. I had kept a whole bunch in my car. Then there was a small fire accident where my car burned down and those poems got burnt.

The poems in this book are only what I have written in the last thirty years, since we moved to the Isha Yoga Center. I hope they find some resonance with you.

A poem is a piece of one’s Heart, hope your heart beats with it and knows the rhythm of mine.

Much Love & Blessings,

Sadhguru

*

This note by Sadhguru would surely entice you to pick Eternal Echoes and join him on his soulful journey, also serving as a keepsake which has a short poem for every day and every feeling you’re feeling.

 

Poetry for a broken world

In times of darkness, there has and will always be poetry. Ranjit Hoskote’s Hunchprose is an intimate crafting of vulnerability, beauty, and the feeling of estrangement that accompanies long durations of social anxiety. Here is an excerpt from the eponymous poem, and a few others:

 

Hunchprose

He calls me Hunchprose but what’s a word

between murderous rivals?
Across from me he strops his fine blade

smooth talker barefaced liar pissfart

teller of tall tales who wraps you up
in his flying carpet serves you snake oil
carries off the princess every time.
And I what can I offer you except
fraying knots coiled riddles scrolled bones
keys to doors that were carted away by raiders

betrayed by splayed light and early snow.
Lost doors I could have opened with my breath.
Call me Hunchpraise. I bend over my inkdrift words.

And when I spring back up I sting.

 

Sidi Mubarak Bombay
(1820–1885)

I should go home now, but I forget where that is.

 

A child, I was sold for a length of cotton and hammered into a link in a

chain of caravans. Taken across the sea in a dhow. The Arab slavers had

been generous with the whip. The Gujarati merchant who bought me

had a sense of humour. He called me Mubarak, Blessed.

 

Many years I worked for him in Bombay. City of opium warehouses.

City of cotton godowns. City of spice stores. City of jahazis, munshis,

khalasis, sarafs, bhishtis, sepoys that was the only family I knew. So I

called myself Bombay.

 

My seth died, leaving instructions that I was to be freed. I went back

to Zanzibar and built a house. In Bombay I was a Sidi, a man from

the Zanj, a man the colour of night. In Zanzibar I spoke Gujarati,

Hindustani, two words of English. Stuttered in Kiswahili. But this

new–old country spoke to me in rhymes of soil, sand, river, jungle. It

brought me gold. Coral. Also pearls.

 

Speke Sahib, Bwana Speke, wanted me to be his guide. Then Burton

Front cover Hunchprose
Hunchprose||Ranjit Hoskote

Sahib came. Bwana Burton. Then Bwana Stanley. Bwana Speke was

looking for the source of the Nile. So were they all. I was their compass

and their sextant. With them, I looked for the source of the Nile.

 

Once, we nearly died. As if the journey was cursed. Burton Sahib

vomiting all the time. Bwana Speke going blind, his eyes gummy and

swollen with too much dreaming. At last, Ujiji. The lake rippled from

one end of the world to the other. Wide as a sea cradled in a giant’s

palm. God forgive us, we tried to cross it. Bwana Speke lost his hearing.

A beetle had crawled into his ear. What afrit possessed him I don’t

know, but he tried to get it out with a knife. No boats large enough to

cross that lake. Later, I crossed Africa from coast to coast. Walked more

than any other man alive. Logged six thousand miles, most of it on foot,

match that if you can. Sometimes donkeys.

 

Long after I left Bombay and went back to Zanzibar, its smells followed

me. Freshly chopped garlic, fenugreek, heeng, pepper, cinnamon,

bombil drying in a sharp wind. ‘Bombil,’ I would say to myself, sitting

on my stoop, looking across the sea, rolling the syllables in my mouth.

‘Bombil, surmai, bangda, rawas.’ The masala-thick pungency of one fish

after another after another would settle on my tongue. My neighbours

must have thought I was chanting spells.

 

Voice

I’d snatched at every straw
and thought you’d got it right at last:

                swallowing swords
when you could so easily have been

                    sewing buttons

I should have told myself:

                  Be careful what you wish for

before you stropped yourself

into a voice

            that could call down rain
rap out commandments

            needle the air with prophecies

            or draw it into a bowstring

            snatch breath away

 

Why did you call down
this darkness on yourself?

Where
in this garden of unsealed tombs

                                         did we lose our serenades?

 

Poetry in the times of things falling apart

Perhaps one of the most cited lines from Theodore Adorno’s Cultural Criticism and Society is “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”. Often decontextualized, it is misunderstood as a call to silence poets and artists after the events of the Holocaust. In actuality, Adorno’s reference was in fact to the very opposite – that to write poetry after the Holocaust without addressing the event, without trying to grapple with the unthinkable, was barbaric. His contestation was that art should be able (and arguably has a responsibility) to respond to its times. Poetry, before and after Auschwitz, has continued to change and save lives. Whether through the works of poets like W.H. Auden and Paul Celan who created unsettling and indelible imagery of the horrors of Nazi Germany, or Amiri Baraka and Langston Hughes’s rousing work about black identity and culture, poetry has often addressed the very impossibility of addressing some experiences. Poets have, time and again, through joys and disasters, immortalised events and the subjective experience of being alive in times of unprecedented grief or disaster.

 

Poetry has the tremendous capacity to shed light on the ineffable experiences to the reader. The collection Singing in The Dark is one such vehicle of experience, a composite body that speaks to and about a time that perhaps nobody anticipated. The pandemic crept upon us, unexpected, and it has altered irreversibly the dynamics of human interaction, and the relationships we share with each other, and most importantly, with nature. Over the past few years, we have seen various environmental and engineered crises, from the protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Amazon fire to the cyclone Amphan and the Australian bushfires among several others. The planet seems to have become a battle zone between indigenous people who seek to preserve the lands they live on and corporations who believe anything can be bought on the clout of money.

Front cover singing in the dark
Singing in the Dark||K. Satchidanandan, Nishi Chawla

 

Editors Nishi Chawla and K. Satchidanandan write, ‘The anthology will well serve the purpose of capturing the anguish and the trauma, the anger and the befuddlement, as well as the hope for returning to the certainty of the world order that the pandemic has destroyed or the movement towards a more just and egalitarian world.’ As an array of poets from across the world find their works together in this anthology, perhaps the only common thread is the experience of living through a global disaster. Tragedy unites, and the pandemic has been tragic in an unimaginable number of ways. The impact of the coronavirus has been different for the privileged and non-privileged, and it has denuded the fault lines of our social fabric more starkly than ever. It remains up to us of course, to acknowledge the fact that there needs to be a radical change in the structures of the world, and that systems needs to be cleaned from the inside. Any fight for an egalitarian world will remain only theoretical unless the mantle of responsibility is picked up, and things are unstitched and restitched.

 

Singing in The Dark is an amalgamation of vulnerability and hope, of the dream of a world that can be better, and people who can do better, despite overwhelming evidence of the contrary. There is anger and befuddlement, and anguish and trauma. These will remain for some time, possibly even indefinitely. But poetry and art give us the opportunity to reflect on these, and on our own location within the grander scheme of the world. It pushes us to reconsider the experiential boundaries of our lives, and to reorient our understanding of how the world treats different lives differently. The pandemic forced us to confront the fact that human lives are entangled, that one person’s actions affect others in incomputable ways. Singing in The Dark too, is evidence that despite differences, human beings are not separated from each other, and cannot live insulated and isolated lives. In our experiences, in our fears, hopes, vulnerabilities, frailties and anger, there is an unbreachable commonality; maybe the idea of community is much more far-reaching than commonly believed, surpassing geopolitical boundaries, going into the heart of the very fact of being human and being alive at a time when everything seems to be falling apart.

Poems to keep us going

‘Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.’

― Leonard Cohen

 

Time and again, in many known and unknown ways, poetry has saved the world. Singing in the Dark does the same. We want to share with you some poems that keep us going through the worst of days:

 

Dawn of Darkness – Ngugi wa Thiong’o

I know, I know,
It threatens the common gestures of human bonding
The handshake,
The hug
The shoulders we give each other to cry on
The neighborliness we take for granted
So much that we often beat our breasts
Crowing about rugged individualism,
Disdaining nature, pissing poison on it even, while
Claiming that property has all the legal rights of personhood

Murmuring gratitude for our shares in the gods of capital.
Oh how now I wish I could write poetry in English,
Or in any and every language you speak
So I can share with you, words that
Wanjikũ, my Gĩkũyũ mother, used to tell me:
Gũtirĩ ũtukũ ũtakĩa:
No night is so Dark that,
It will not end in Dawn,
Or simply put,
Every night ends with dawn.
Gũtirĩ ũtukũ ũtakĩa.
This darkness too will pass away
We shall meet again and again
And talk about Darkness and Dawn
Sing and laugh maybe even hug
Nature and nurture locked in a green embrace
Celebrating every pulsation of a common being
Rediscovered and cherished for real
In the light of the Darkness and the new Dawn.

 

Front cover singing in the dark
Singing in the Dark||Nishi Chawla, K. Satchidanandan

 

Apocalypse – Annie Zaidi

Waves do not come dashing against the noontide
They tiptoe in
and out with the smallest dose of pain
taken from the cabinet you left dusty
on purpose
so nobody guesses how much you hoard
The wretched manage to show up
across the shatterproof glass of time
to class office factory godown
boat ocean horizon end time
with a slouch and a glower of expectation
Your eyes are fleet
testing
weighing
catlike
on nights when the tide rises
and rises and the rain quietly falls,
as promised, it comes
It sits
gleaming on the roof
with creature eyes
offering no sign
no pause for breath
no cause or rules
about arks: no ones or twos
it offers no map
A thing
squealing its lack of defence
mouse like, it comes to nibble
the cheese of your world

It arches
head and back
now signals: here
I am
Take me at this flood
or there I go

~

Bumblebees – Amanda Bell

There was no need to fret about the bees—
their fragile nest, unlidded
as I pulled weeds beneath the apple tree,
their squirming larvae naked
to my gaze and to the sun.
They watched me from the border
while I hastily replaced the roof,
before returning to rethread
the fibres of their grassy home.
In the cleared weeds I see
their entrance and their exit,
how their flightpaths sweep
the garden in an arc, stitching up
the canvas of this space, as if
they could remake the world
which lies in shreds around us.
The dome moves, as I watch it,
the stretching of an inchoate form—
when morning comes
it glistens with white dew.

~

Singing in the dark is a beautiful anthology of poetry that comes at a time when we need poetry more than ever.

Dante-esque times indeed

Five ways in which And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again takes inspiration from Dante’s Divine Comedy

In this rich, eye-opening anthology, And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again , dozens of esteemed writers, poets, artists and translators from more than thirty countries offer a profound, kaleidoscopic portrait of lives transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

As COVID-19 has become the defining global experience of our time, writers transcend borders and genres to offer a powerful antidote to the fearful confines of isolation: a window onto corners of the world beyond our own.

The anthology harks back to one of the most famous works of ‘pandemic literature’ Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, especially the first part, the Inferno.  Read on to learn more about the fascinating intertextuality of And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again

 

  1. Just as Virgil in the Divine Comedy is the voice of both compassion, empathy and reason, thinkers, artists and authors are the ones we turn to for guidance and answers in difficult times.

The perspectives of scientists are indispensable, but we must also listen to philosophers, anthropologists, intellectuals, artists, and creators. . . Literature also experiences an inevitable renaissance in these times of collective fear: when we cannot understand what is happening around us, as a society we turn to books to see if they offer any answers.

 

 

  1. Pandemics seem to not only inspire creativity, but also a need within readers to seek meaningful insights into the more metaphysical aspects of illness, of death and the afterlife. Just as the first part of the Divine Comedy was written during the Black Death-the bubonic plague that ravaged Europe in the 14th century, it’s the Covid 19 pandemic that serves as the unlikely muse for this anthology.

Or, like religion tells us, is there a mythical divide between heaven for the good and hell for the bad, with our final destination decided by a whimsical god? Perhaps there is a different kind of afterlife altogether, one that remains undiscovered by philosophers, theologists, and scientists? The plague brings these questions to the fore, which in normal times are confined to the depths

of the human psyche, making them essential to the present moment.

 

 

  1. Some of the most iconic lines from the Divine Comedy serve to structure the anthology, as the titles of the five parts into which the fifty-two contributions are divided.

 Part I, “A Mighty Flame Follows a Tiny Spark,” focuses on the eruption of the plague; Part II, “The Path to Paradise Begins in Hell,” on the need for a road map; Part III, “I’m Not Alone in Misery,” on empathy; Part IV, “Faith Is the Substance of Things Hoped for,” on hope; and Part V, “Love Insists the Loved Loves Back,” is the door through which we might come outside again and see the stars.

 

  1. The pandemic itself seems to be an evocation of the seven circles of hell described in the Inferno, growing increasingly more frightening with progression

I’m afraid for myself and my family. I see lines in stores and people quarreling over basic goods at the cash registers. I see an administration that’s taking advantage of the opportunity and dismantling democracy even further. And big companies, untouchable in all this, who will soon be able to make all of us even more dependent on them. I see borders closing, the police using excessive force, and cruel looks from people on the streets.

 

.

  1. With its notes of positivity amidst the turmoil, the title of the anthology is inspired by the last line of Dante’s Inferno, in which the poet and Virgil emerge from their journey through hell to once again view the beauty of the heavens—‘Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.’

The day after the plague it will be summer, and finally we’ll be able to have a coffee at the corner cafe, go to the beach, and for a brief moment we’ll value our restored liberty.

 

Power of Poetry: Memorable Verses from Tamil Magnum Opus “Tiruvaymoli”

During this difficult time, we tend to turn to powers higher than us. The ancient poet-saint Nammalvar’s magnum opus “Tiruvaymoli”, or “Endless Song”, is a grand 1100-verse Tamil poem in praise of Tirumal—among the many names for Lord Vishnu. On the auspicious occasion of Ram Navami, here are some verses on the devotee’s love and longing for the supreme lord, in Archana Venkatesan’s dazzling translation, that will light you up from within.

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I.1.5 Each knows what they know,

each finds a different path

Each has their god

each reaches his feet

Each of these gods lacks nothing,

everyone is fated

to find their way to the great lord

who’s always there.

II.5.1 In that place he loved me

fused with my breath.

the lord who wears lovely garlands,

a crown conch disc thread jewels:

His large eyes like a pool of lotuses

his lips red lotuses, his feet too lotuses,

his red-gold body glows.

IV.3.8 You’ve entered my breath,

radiant light of wisdom

filling the seven beautiful worlds.

My breath is yours

Your breath is mine

I can’t describe how this is

I can’t describe the way you are.


 

Archana Venkatesan’s Endless Song is a dazzling translation of one of the most revered ancient Bhakti poems.

Ingeniously weaving a garland of words-where each beginning is also an ending-the poet traces his cyclical quest for union with the supreme lord, Visnu. In this magnificent translation, Archana Venkatesan transports the flavour and cadences of Tamil into English, capturing the different voices and range of emotions through which the poet expresses his enduring desire for release.

We are turning to poetry and its power to heal; are you?

Naveen Chourey on Poetry, His Engineering Background and His New Book

Bold, sharp and amazingly relevant, Naveen Chourey’s impassioned poetry-on mob lynching, Kashmir and the plight of out soldiers among others-will force you to think afresh on nationalism, patriotism and the state of our country.
Naveen’s youthful idealism, vision for an egalitarian world and progressive thoughts make Kohra Ghana Hai one of the most courageous works of our times.

Read on to know more about Naveen:

1. What drew you towards poetry?

It is hard to pin one event that drew me toward poetry. I moved towards it gradually and did not realize how much hold it had over me, till I was in too deep. But a few poets that played a significant role in pushing me towards it are Jagjeet Singh ji and Nukkad Natak.

2. Has your engineering background helped your artistic craft?

Yes, it’s helped me a lot! For me, engineering helped me find patterns in life. I think I can craft my poems with a fresh perspective due to my engineering background.

3. What does mukammal mean to you?

For me, Mukammal is the concept of an ideal human being. Something that I am walking and moving towards everyday. I wish to be that person before I die.

4. Which poem is the closest to your heart?

There are many. Bachchan Sahab’s ‘Us paar na Jaane kya hoga’, Javed Sahab’s ‘Waqt’ and ‘MahisasurMardini’ by Aadi Shankaracharya are few that come to mind.

From my own compositions, I enjoy performing the poem ‘Aham Brahmosmi’ ‘Pinjara’ and ‘Main, Wo aur Main’.

5. Why ‘Kohra Ghana Hai’?

When there is unrest, everything becomes confusing. Like the dense fog, you can see but can not make anything out of it. I felt this book will help people see through the dense fog of unrest and show people what is happening in our society.


Are you ready to go on this journey with Naveen and see through this fog with Kohra Ghana Hai?

Subh-e-Azadi, An Anguished Evocation of the Pain of Partition

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is widely regarded as the greatest Urdu poet of the twentieth century and the iconic voice of a generation. He is best remembered for his revolutionary verses that decried tyranny and called for justice. In his poem, Subh-e-Azadi, he expressed the anguish and disappointment of Partition and the cost that the Indian subcontinent paid for freedom from the British rule.
Subh‐e Azadi
Yeh daagh daagh ujaalaa, yeh shab gazidaa seher
Woh intezaar tha jiska, yeh woh seher to nahin
Yeh woh seher to nahin, jis ki aarzoo lekar
Chale the yaar ki mil jaayegi kahin na kahin
Falak ke dasht mein taaron ki aakhri manzil
Kahin to hogaa shab-e-sust mauj ka saahil
Kahin to jaa ke rukegaa safinaa-e-gham-e-dil
 
Jawaan lahu ki pur-asraar shahraahon se
Chale jo yaar to daaman pe kitne haath pade
Dayaar-e-husn ki besabr kwaabgaahon se
Pukaarti rahi baahein, badan bulaate rahe
Bahut aziz thi lekin rukh-e-seher ki lagan
Bahut qareen tha haseenaa-e-noor ka daaman
Subuk subuk thi tamanna, dabi dabi thi thakan
 
Suna hai, ho bhi chukaa hai firaaq-e-zulmat-o-noor
Suna hai, ho bhi chukaa hai wisaal-e-manzil-o-gaam
Badal chukaa hai bahut ehl-e-dard ka dastoor
Nishaat-e-wasl halaal, o azaab-e-hijr haraam
 
Jigar ki aag, nazar ki umang, dil ki jalan
Kisi pe chaaraa-e-hijraan ka kuch asar hi nahin
Kahaan se aayi nigaar-e-sabaa, kidhar ko gayi
Abhi charaag-e-sar-e-raah ko kuch khabar hi nahin
Abhi garaani-e-shab mein kami nahin aayi
Najaat-e-deedaa-o-dil ki ghadi nahin aayi
Chale chalo ki woh manzil abhi nahin aayi
 —Faiz Ahmed Faiz
 
The Dawn of Freedom, August 1947
 This light, smeared and spotted, this night‐bitten dawn
This isn’t surely the dawn we waited for so eagerly
This isn’t surely the dawn with whose desire cradled in our hearts
 
We had set out, friends all, hoping
We should somewhere find the final destination
Of the stars in the forests of heaven
The slow‐rolling night must have a shore somewhere
The boat of the afflicted heart’s grieving will drop anchor somewhere
When, from the mysterious paths of youth’s hot blood
The young fellows moved out
Numerous were the hands that rose to clutch
the hems of their garments,
Open arms called, bodies entreated
From the impatient bedchambers of beauty—
 
But the yearning for the dawn’s face was too dear
The hem of the radiant beauty’s garment was very close
The load of desire wasn’t too heavy
Exhaustion lay somewhere on the margin
 
It’s said the darkness has been cleft from light already
It’s said the journeying feet have found union
with the destination
The protocols of those who held the pain in their
hearts have changed now
Joy of union—yes; agony of separation—forbidden!
 
The burning of the liver, the eyes’ eagerness, the heart’s grief
Remain unaffected by this cure for disunion’s pain;
From where did the beloved, the morning breeze come?
Where did it go?
 
The street‐lamp at the edge of the road has no notion yet
The weight of the night hasn’t lifted yet
The moment for the emancipation of the eyes
and the heart hasn’t come yet
Let’s go on, we haven’t reached the destination yet
—Translated by Baran Farooqui
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